Gryphon Knight Epic Review (PS4/Xbox One)
I've played a few side-scrolling shooters in the past, but I've never been particularly drawn to them. Gryphon Knight Epic was different. Cyber Rhino Studios' retro side-scrolling shooter immediately caught my interest, and I was itching to give the game a shot (...ahem). Forgettable gameplay and ridiculous spikes in difficulty, however, led to an overall mediocre experience.
A day in the life of a Gryphon Knight...
Gryphon Knight Epic's titular Knight, Sir Oliver, heads off to the market one day with his trusty Gryphon, Aquila. On the way, he runs into an evil specter that looks just like him and realizes he must save the day once again. The story is a bit more fleshed out than that, but I am going to avoid saying anything more since the story is, in my opinion, the most memorable part of this game. The writing is clever, and I genuinely did not see the ending coming. Despite not being the strongest one out there, Gryphon Knight Epic's story was on my mind for a few days following the credits.
Shoot. Take damage. Repeat.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the game itself. Nothing about the game is downright BAD — except for the difficulty, which I'll get to — it's all just very mediocre and, ultimately, forgettable. The shooting is fun for a little while, but it soon becomes less of a treat and more of a chore. I will say the boss battles are fun, due to the fact that there is some strategy involved in figuring out how to overcome each one — strategy that is, unfortunately, absent in the stages themselves.
After defeating a stage's main boss, you are awarded with his/her weapon, a concept Mega Man fans should be very familiar with. However, unlike Mega Man, I saw no reason to use these weapons other than out of curiosity. They provided no strategical advantage over enemies. They just looked cool. You can upgrade each weapon at the main menu screen as well as buy health potions or other consumables to help you in each level.
The lackluster presentation doesn't do much to help either. The 16-bit sprites look okay, the backgrounds are pretty bland, and the music is nothing to write home about. There isn't much incentive to replay the game either — there is one rune hidden in each level that the player can find, but nothing else that warrants a second play through. Like I said earlier... very forgettable... but not particularly BAD...
...except for the difficulty spikes. There are three difficulties: "Squire", "Knight", and "Epic". I prefer to label each as "easy", "way too hard", and "I'm going to snap my controller in half during the first level." If you are not familiar with side-scrolling shooters, there is typically a small area where the player can take damage called the hitbox. Everywhere else, you are essentially invincible. This helps make the incoming storm of bullets and projectiles a bit easier to manage. This is not the case with Gryphon Knight Epic. If any part of Sir Oliver gets hit, you take damage, which can make the game so difficult it's borderline unplayable. I understand most bullet hell games or side-scrolling shooters are meant to be hard, but the lack of a hitbox makes the game far too difficult, far too often.
I can think of a lot of shooters that are worse than Gryphon Knight Epic. With each one I come up with, however, I soon think of two more that are much better than GKE. If you are a fan of retro side-scrolling shooters, I'm sure you'll find some enjoyment playing GKE. If you aren't a fan, GKE won't come close to changing your mind.