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 Post subject: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:23 pm 


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Joined: 30 Apr 2009
Posts: 864
Location: Germany (Dresden)
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Update history
different dates up to July 18th, 2011 - some small improvements, first bits from boss walkthroughs (stage 6)
March 16th, 2010 - Completed numbers 1 through 6, made some entries for Tips and Tricks and cleaned up a bit.
December 27th, 2009 - Some smaller edits and additions.
November 9th, 2009 - Shmups treatise created. Filled Introduction, The Helicopters and Unlockables.

Related links
High Score thread
Superplay 2-All - Hokum 2.8 million points by Rob (only 2nd loop)
Superplay 2-All - Comanche 3.4(?) million points by CSP

About this guide
I finally decided to do a Shmup treatise for Zero Gunner 2 because it's one my favourite games and I've now played it for quite a long time. If YOU want to help me filling the contents or just to comment on something (telling me about mistakes and crappy English, suggesting other contents or a better structure etc.), I will appreciate it! :)

Every piece of information - just in case it differs between the difficulty settings (like the amount of E-cubes which is needed to gain special attacks) - is for Arcade difficulty (number 5 on the Dreamcast port).

Incredibly cool fellows
Thanks a lot to m3tall1ca for improving the language in this guide.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction, Basics and Miscellaneous
2. Rotation
3. General Scoring
4. The Helicopters
5. 2nd Loop
6. Tips and Tricks
7. Detailed Stage/Boss Walkthroughs


1. Introduction, Basics and Miscellaneous

About Zero Gunner 2

First of all, Zero Gunner 2 is quite a basic shooter without a real scoring system. The special and individual aspect lies of course in the ability to rotate your ship in 360° to face the enemies that appear from every direction of the screen. This is one of Psikyo's latest titles and one of the very few to use 3D graphics. It was released in May 2001 in the Arcades and a little later on the Dreamcast. It has some very typical Psikyo trademarks like the short stages, the varying stage order at the beginning of the game, the orange-coloured bullets, the transforming robot bosses or the extremely difficult 2nd loop with suicide bullets.

See "2. Rotation" for more details about the key feature in this game.

Shooting, Dodging, Surviving

You start the game with 3 lives; the only extend is given when 600,000 points are passed. If you get hit by a bullet, you'll lose one life, simple as that. The hitbox is centered on the helicopter's cockpit and rather small for Psikyo standards. Crashing into enemies won't hurt you, and, unlike other Psikyo games, collisions don't even power your ship down. You can even destroy the smaller enemies by simply crashing into them (only useful in the 1st loop). Crashes with bigger bad guys won't kill neither you nor your foe, but you are pushed backwards a bit and lose control over your ship for a short period of time. You can't shoot then either. In this time you may get hit by bullets easily.

Enemies don't shoot when you fly very close to them (point-blank range). This can be used to make certain passages easier, but is of course quite dangerous. Being a bit too far away often results in certain deaths. Moreover I think the possible distance decreases when the rank is up. You can only prevent normal enemies from shooting, no bosses or boss parts.

There are no bombs in Zero Gunner 2. It's simply dodge or die. Bullets are only deleted when a boss draws its last breath, even if it's a midboss or the first of two parts from an endboss. Quite merciful for a Psikyo game.

Weapons, Powerups and E-cubes

Each helicopter has 2 weapons: the standard shot and a special attack. At the beginning of the game and after every death, you start with no powerups and with 2 special attacks in your stock.

The normal shot can be powered up twice by collecting the triangle-shaped "P" items. Special enemies and boss parts leave them when destroyed, most often small red helicopters. Collect two of these items and you're fully powered up. Every further "P" item you collect adds 1,000 points to your score. You remain fully powered up as long as you stay alive. As already pointed out you can't lose powerups by colliding with enemies. Dying loses you all powerups, but exactly one of them will always fly around the screen after that, no matter if you die when being fully powered up or not. Powerups fly around with a slow speed and bounce off the edges of the screen. You can attract them by not holding the fire button. However this doesn't work as well as for the E-cubes. At least a powerup won't fly out of the screen unless there's a bunch of them on it.

The special attacks are more powerful and can obviously not be used unlimited. Collect the green E-cubes to gain more special attacks. All enemies in Zero Gunner 2 (except for the main parts of all the end bosses) will reveal a certain number of these cubes after you destroyed them. Some will even generate more E-cubes if you let them alive a little longer. The cubes don't bounce off the sides like the powerups, but just disappear if you don't catch them. While not using the standard shot your helicopter attracts all the E-cubes on screen which makes it easier to collect them. There are two types of cubes, the small ones give you 50 points each, the big ones 500. Besides from adding to the score they raise the special attack meter which is seen on the very side of the screen. A big cube fills the meter like 10 small ones would do. When the bar reaches the top, one special attack is added to your stock. Now you can fill the bar again to get another one. You can save up to 6 special attacks. The arrows next to the bar show how many of them there are in the stock. If the arrows are blue, you can execute a special attack. If they are red, it is not possible because a cutscene is shown or you already have actived a special. The Comanche is the only helicopter that can use multiple special attacks at the same time. Not to forget: the amount of E-cubes which is needed to gain another special attack differs drastically between the three ships. See "4. The Helicopters" for the individual details.

Rank

Like other Psikyo shooters, Zero Gunner 2 has a simple Rank system. The longer you stay alive and fully powered up, the more will the rank increase. Then the bullets become faster and are shot more frequently. Additionally, point-blank range will decrease so that you have to get nearer to enemies if you want them not to shoot.

Unlike other Psikyo shooters you cannot control the rank through crashing into enemies and losing powerups. You simply can't lose powerups in Zero Gunner 2, so one has to accept the rank.

Difficulty Setting

On the Dreamcast port there are 7 difficulty settings, Default is "4 Normal", but "5 Arcade" (guess what) represents the original Arcade version. All the settings have the same enemies, but the amount and speed of enemy bullets differs. Moreover the special attack meter will rise faster or slower. The 2nd loop is only accessible on difficulty 4 or higher.

Control Options (Dreamcast)

There are 2 or 3 buttons needed to play Zero Gunner 2. One for shooting, one for rotating and eventually another one for the special attack. In the menu you can choose between 4 different options. Basically A and B have the same button assignments, so do C and D. The difference is that A and C have "Shot + Turn Marker" on, B and D have it off. That means with A and C you can unleash the special attack by pressing shoot and rotate simultaneously. That's how it was in the Arcades where Zero Gunner 2 only used 2 buttons. This can somehow be confusing, so if you use a third button for the special attack anyway, you shall probably go for B or D.

Unlockables: Continues and Replay Mode (Dreamcast)

When you start Zero Gunner 2 for the first time, you have 4 credits. By playing the game you will unlock more continues, I think it just depends on the amount of time you've played. Finally, free play will be unlocked. However using continues is of course critical because it makes the game too easy and the game will only save the score which you achieved on the last credit used. Additionally, if you use continues, you won't be able to save your replay video.

The second and already last unlockable extra in this game is the expert replay. Just finish the game once (any difficulty setting and continues allowed) to see a replay that's saved on the GD-Rom and shows how to beat both loops of the game with the Apache and without losing any lives. The normal Replay Mode is available from the very start. Here you can save your own replay and watch it again. A replay which shows the whole 1st loop needs approximately 30 blocks on the VMU.


2. Rotation

In Zero Gunner 2, opposing planes, helicopters etc. don't just arrive from the top of the screen, but from every possible side. The first stages can be played without too much rotating, but later well trained rotation skills are absolutely necessary.

So this is the technique. Basically you move your helicopter like normal through the stages. When you press the rotation button, a turn marker appears in front of the chopper. Now the moves still work as usual, but the helicopter will always face the marker and so it rotates around its own axis. When you let off the button, the new direction is set and the helicopter shoots in this direction from now on. Until you execute the next rotation. So basically the rotation button doesn't rotate your ship, but just sets a target point. This needs some time to get used to, but in the end it's the best solution as it makes extremely precise rotation possible. However you can't turn while standing and always need some freedom of movement. Problems may show up when being somewhat caught in the edge or side of the screen. So if possible, always keep yourself enough space to be able to rotate.

3 tricks for advanced rotating:
  • The turn marker normally appears directly in front of the helicopter, suitable for rather fast rotation. If you want to execute, slow precise rotations, press the button multiple times in a row while your helicopter is standing still. Then the turn marker appears in bigger distance to the chopper and thus rotation works slower. The more times you press the button, the farer away the marker is. The maximum distance is reached after the button has been pressed 4 times.
  • To rotate slow while moving much - for example flying around the edges of the screen and facing objects in the middle - it's also useful to tap the rotation button repeatedly.
  • Fast 180° turns are possible, too. Press the button once and fly directly across the turn marker.


3. General Scoring

Not really much to say here. No multiplier, no chains, no end of stage bonusses or somethink like that, Zero Gunner 2 keeps it classic. Just shoot as many enemies and collect as many E-cubes as possible. The difficulty lies in finding the right balance. To collect the cubes it's necessary to let off the shot button quite often, but there should still be enough fire power to take care of all the enemies.

Other possibilities to raise the score include boss milking and destroying smaller boss parts. Some bonus enemies can be triggered by destroying certain enemies very fast. On the other hand some enemies produce more E-cubes if you let them alive for some time, but this just leads to minimal differences. Last but not least, at the end of the 2nd loop 10,000 points are given for every remaining life (I guess that's all there). Detailed scoring areas are included in the stage/boss walkthroughs.

The amount of available points rises drastically later in the game. While the first 4 stages offer ~100,000 points each without milking, you can get over 600,000 points in the last stage using extensive milking.

4. The Helicopters

Image
* necessary amount of small E-cubes to gain another special attack

Apache

The green helicopter is the slowest one in Zero Gunner 2. It has a powerful forward shot and some missiles which also just fly directly forward. The Apache fires with 5 cannons if you are completely powered up, 3 cannons if you only have one powerup, the amount of missiles differs as well. If the shot of one cannon hits, all 5 shots of this group will. Better damage can be inflicted by flying close to an enemy. That causes more missiles to be fired, even though this works much better with the Hokum because the Apache's missiles aren't fired simultaneously. The Apache is a bit difficult to handle as it only shoots straight forward and the shot is comparatively thin. So you will have to be absolutely precise when rotating and aiming for enemies, but therefore you get the strongest normal shot in the game.

The Apache also has the strongest special attack from all 3 helicopters, but can't use it that often. 6 extremely powerful homings are fired. They will even connect to enemies if you lose a life shortly after unleashing the special attack. The homings can almost or completely kill a boss, so if you're having problems with a specific boss, you can just skip him with the Apache. As you're automatically equipped with 2 special attacks at the beginning of the game and after every death, Apache has an advantage here with his powerful special. To gain another special attack, earning E-cubes with the value of 11,500 points is necessary (not sure about the exact value here, but approximately right). That's 230 small or alternatively 23 big e-cubes.

All in all probably the best helicopter for stages 5 and 7 because of the strong and concentrated shot. Rather difficult in the first 4 stages, if you're trying to shoot everything and get most of the available E-cubes.

Comanche

The blue one is the weakest and/or most difficult helicopter to choose. It moves much faster than the Apache and has equal speed to the Hokum. (It's even slighly faster than the Hokum, but the difference is really minimal.) After collecting the first powerup, the Comanche fires a green twinshot and two green lasers. If fully powered up, the twinshot becomes stronger and you get 4 lasers, 2 on each side of the central twinshot. Like the Apache, the Comanche just fires directly forward, but due to the lasers, the shot has a greater wide range. The lasers can shoot through enemies. They are especially useful against small enemies, for example helicopters that appear behind a boss. But be aware that the lasers aren't too effective. If you want to do real damage, be sure to hit it with the twinshot. It has at least decent damage.

The special attack is really tricky here. Comanche's position and direction are critical when you unleash the special attack. A single drone fires stiffly from this position and in this direction for 6 seconds, also if you move or rotate your helicopter after that. So you have to memorize how and where they have the best use and aim very precisely. It is very useful for causing barrages or letting the drone killing certain enemies while you take care of other ones with your standard shot for example. A lasting special attack isn't affected by dying in the meantime, it still fires 6 seconds long. The Comanche's special is not only tricky, but also the weakest in the game. In return you can use many more of them and even multiple ones at the same time which is not possible with the other helicopters. To gain another special attack, you need to collect E-cubes with the value of only 3,000 points. That's 60 small or alternatively 6 big E-cubes. So you can use 2 1/2 times as many specials as with the Hokum and even nearly 4 times as many as with the Apache. Keep in mind that the normal shots of the Comanche aren't really powerful. You'll definitely need to use your special attacks right to get through the game.

Thus the Comanche is difficult to play, but can be very fun if you mastered it. I wouldn't recommend it for Zero Gunner 2 rookies. Especially difficult in the later stages.

Hokum

This yellow buddy will be the best choice when you begin playing Zero Gunner 2 (and probably after that, too). The speed is equal to the Comanche. With one powerup the Hokum fires 2 straight shots and 4 guided missiles, with all powerups there are 3 straight shots and 6 guided missiles. The straight shot is - unlinke the Apache's - quite scattered. This makes it easier to hit an enemy. But since there probably only 1 or 2 of possible 3 shots hit (notice the difference to Apache again where all 5 shots hit together) the damage is not as good, especially when you are facing small, but powerful enemies. The Hokum's missiles are shot simultaneously. Therefore you can improve the damage a lot when flying closer to enemies. (A group of missiles is shot when all of the previous group have hit.) The missiles are also extremely helpful, you can hit a lot of bad guys without rotating your helicopter too much. This makes many passages easier.

The special weapon is superb. While the Comanche gets one drone, Hokum gets three of them. They don't shoot for a fixed time like Comanche, but get 100 shots each. Moreover the drones rotate with your ship and follow your path, just like the options in the Gradius series which makes it easy to use them. Last but not least you can choose when to shoot. You can sometimes play with one and the same special attack for a quite long time. However if you hold on the fire button, the attack only lasts 10 seconds, so save the shots till you need them. I would say the attack power isn't really worse than the Apache. Hokum can also destroy one boss with just one special attack. The differences are the longer time which is needed to fire the 100 shots and that some shots may not hit. You need to collect E-cubes worth of 7,500 points to gain another special attack. That's 150 small or alternatively 15 big E-cubes.

Perfect ship for the first 4 stages and also plays very well after that.


5. 2nd Loop

General

To access the 2nd loop, you just have to beat the 1st one on difficulty 4 (normal) or higher, no matter how many credits you used. The order of the first 4 stages is completely random just like in the 1st loop. Even the stage order in the 1st loop of the same run doesn't have an influence. The 2nd loop has varying background colours, but the main feature is of course the much harder difficulty. The amount of enemies is the same, but they fire more and faster. Moreover, almost every destroyed enemy shoots another 1 or (mostly) 2 suicide bullets. These are the main aspect of the harsh difficulty. They are shot approximately at you, but the exact direction is random. So quick reflexes are needed. Bosses also shoot faster and tighter. Not enough, they also unleash suicide bullets through destroyed parts, rockets etc. Not to forget the helicopters which appear during the boss fights. Just the main part of every boss doesn't shoot any suicide bullets.

An annotation regarding continues. You can simply play through the 1st loop even with continues. You will be respawned just where you died. In the 2nd loop you will be set back to the beginning of the stage, so unless you survive it with your 3 lives, you won't beat the stage. Yet this can be very helpful to practice the 2nd loop, especially since there is no practice mode or a possibility to begin with the 2nd loop. Just get yourself killed and practice the stage over and over again. In 2 player mode noone is set back unless both need to continue at the same time.

Strategies

Help needed!
Otherwise this may be filled with more content if I actually make some progress in the game.


Stay the hell away from the opponents. While point-blanking is really effective und useful in the 1st loop, you must forget about it here. The suicide bullets would get you. So always leave some distance to have a chance to dodge the suicide bullets. Point-blanking may just be used to pass an enemy and to shoot him later when you are far enough away. Furthermore you need to plan your route exactly and know where all the enemies are, especially the small helicopters. A crash will kill (one of) them, but now yourself, too. You may get killed by accidentally crashing into them, so memorize exactly when and where they appear or stay away from the very edge of the screen.

You can kill some specific enemies, most importantly groups of three helicopters, even before they get on the screen. Then they won't shoot suicide bullets. If a situation becomes too dangerous, think about not to shoot. Dodging the main shots may sometimes be easier than dodging the suicide bullets.


6. Tips and Tricks

  • Neither waste your special attacks nor save them up for too long. You can only have 6 of them and there's no point bonus when the stock is full.
  • Use special attacks, so you can let off the shot button more often and collect more E-cubes than would have been possible without use of specials. With the Hokum and Comanche you can gain a whole special attack during/because of the use of another one at certain passages in the game.
  • Destroy enemies as fast as possible to minimize the amount of bullets on the screen. Use point-blank as well to prevent enemies from shooting.
  • Improve damage with Hokum and Apache by flying nearer to the enemies.
  • Use the limited range of the enemies' attacks. Many enemies just shoot straight or in a limited angle. Use this to get through or even to find safe spots. Several bosses offer safe spots as well.
  • Should be known to almost everybody, but I'll include it anyway: Bosses have no lifebar, but you can estimate their remaining energy by the red flickering. The more the boss flickers, the less engery he has left.
  • More coming soon...


7. Detailed Stage/Boss Walkthroughs

For now, I think I will cover exactly one strategy to get through the stages, every possible milking area in the game, a rough sum of all points available in one stage and some further annotations. Normally, I will refuse to write down different strategies unless the helicopters play too different in a certain passage or for other distinctive reasons.

Especially for the 2nd loop, it's necessary to know about the respawning patterns of the helicopters during bossfights. They vary drastically between all the stages, e.g. each group appearing definitely OR the next one appearing a distinctive amount of time after the previous group got destroyed OR a group appearing only if the previous one has been killed in time etc. I'll cover all of this sooner or later.
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Last edited by Battletoad on Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:52 am, edited 24 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:24 pm 


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Alpine Armored Train to go here
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Last edited by Battletoad on Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:24 pm 


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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:24 pm 


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Sea of Cloud

Stage, part 1

(...)

Stage, part 2

(...)

Midboss - 3 Boeing Planes

(...)

Boss, part 1 - Bomber

Strategy

A bomber split into 3 parts. Killing the main part leads to self-destruction of the sideplanes that are still alive and thus the end of this part of the boss fight. However you won't get points for the self-destructed parts, so kill them first.

Attack A
Fixed

Unforunately I don't know about safespots for attack C in stages 1-3 and 1-4. I rarely have Sea of Cloud as these stages somehow and got surprised when I found out that my safespot from the 2nd loop doesn't work. I will check this sometime.

Milking

No popcorn enemies this time, there are just the three parts from the bomber and you. Destroy the sideplanes first, collect all their E-cubes and powerups and then destroy the main part. That's all.

Self-destruction

I don't know the exact moment, but it is not necessary for this boss at all. The main part simply does attack C or D a couple of times (at least 4), then some more aimed shots while it leaves the screen on the top side. But since there is no milking in here, you want to kill the boss as fast as possible anyway. Then you will only see attack C or D once or twice.

2nd loop

Proceed as usual.

Boss, part 2 - Flying Mecha

(...)

Points calculation

(...)

Total amount of available points:
My personal best:
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Last edited by Battletoad on Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:25 pm 


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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:25 pm 


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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:25 pm 


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Orbital Elevator (Stage 6)

Stage, part 1

(...)
Be careful, you can't use the whole screen in this sequence, the elevator is limited to the left and right side.
(...)

Midboss

(...)

Milking: Destroy both of his sideparts for points and E-cubes. Also kill him as fast as possible. See "Stage: part 2" to know why.

Stage, part 2

Several waves of enemies confront you directly after the midboss has died. The sooner you destroyed him, the more enemies you get to shoot in this section between midboss and boss. There are 6 three-pieces showing up in the exact same order like the last enemy wave before the midboss, just a bit faster:

spiders from
1. bottom left
2. top right
3. top left
4. bottom right
helicopters from
5. top right
6. top left

From now on I'll call these 6 three-pieces one enemy wave. This wave will be repeated until you reach the top of the elevator. The absolute maximum I got was with the Apache. I used a Special attack after the midboss' first move to the left side (still need to try if his short entrance in the top of the screen is enough to kill him with Apache's special attack), thus destroyed all of his three parts, then got to see two full enemy waves and all 4 spider three-pieces from the third wave (I've only destroyed 2 of these though).

To destroy these waves you basically have two opportunities:
1. Turn clockwise, starting at bottom left. You'll destroy the 3rd three-piece before the 2nd one. Therefore the 2nd one (on the top right) is alive a bit longer and shoots more bullets, but turning is easier this way. Turn counter-clockwise after the 4th spider three-piece to face the helicopters and eventually the bottom left for the start of the next enemy wave.
2. Always turn to immediately face the next three-piece. As a result you probably have to deal with less bullets, but turning is harder. You have to execute a 180° turn between the first two and another one between the last two spider three-pieces. To deal with the helicopters, proceed as above mentioned.

Boss, part 1

(...)

Boss, part 2

(...)

Enemies that don't shoot suicide bullets in 2nd loop

Midboss
- both sideparts
- main part
Boss, part 1
- type B turrets (only those two in the section in the middle of the battleship!)
- type C turrets
- main laser turrets
Boss, part 2
- all orbs (yet to check: orbs loaded with electricity from attack E seem to reveal lots of suicide bullets!)
- main part
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Last edited by Battletoad on Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:54 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:26 pm 


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Aerial Capital (Stage 7)

Stage, part 1

(...)

1st Midboss - Blue and Purple Mecha



Stage, part 2

(...)

2nd Midboss - Snake Mecha

Basically the easiest part in the game after you memorized it. There are sweetspots for every attack here. Don't waste special attacks with any of the helicopters, not even Comanche. Comanche even has a lot of damage potential if you shoot the lasers through the whole snake. So here is an overview of the attacks including safe spots and the routes the boss takes.

1st attack
enters from:



Boss, part 1 - Outer Ring

(...)

Boss, part 2 - Core

(...)

Loop 2

Luckily this part isn't any harder in loop 2. Follow the same procedure as in loop 1.

Final Boss, part 1 - Whatever that thing is

(...)

Final Boss, part 2

(...)
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Last edited by Battletoad on Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:22 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:42 pm 


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Very nice guide so far, Battletoad! I've been having a bit of trouble finding the time to continue mine; perhaps we'll race to the finish :) Your English is quite good for a non-native speaker; don't worry about that. There are several errors; perhaps I'll comb through and PM you a list. And yes, unlockables is perfectly acceptable English :)

My frothing demand for your guide's completion increases ;)
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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2009 10:47 pm 


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Thanks! :)
I saw you're busy with other shooters. I don't mind... take your time and do/play whatever you want. Someday I'll sure expect you to play it again, but no need to hesitate.

I assume some errors concern "if"-sentences (which I used too often anyway... I'll have to go through the phrasing some other time). :mrgreen:
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 Post subject: Re: ST: Zero Gunner 2 (work in progress)
PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:57 pm 


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Well I´m kind of done with this ST. Finished everything except the stage walkthroughs. Regarding these, stage 5 and 7 are roughly planned and should be written soon (which means sometime whithin the next months). As for the rest... we'll see.

Comments are welcome!
Help needed for 2nd loop strategies!
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