By Evan Norris 30th Apr 2020 | 2,380 views
The SEGA AGES series works best when it shines a light on a forgotten or unavailable game. Enter G-LOC Air Battle, a relatively obscure arcade title from 1990. While G-LOC saw several console ports in the 90s, the arcade version has never been available on home systems—until now. Everything good and not-so-good about the game is retained on Nintendo's hybrid, buttressed with online leaderboards, some nifty presentation options, and a brand new "AGES" mode.
Sometimes considered an off-shoot of SEGA's more famous After Burner series, G-LOC—which stands for G-force induced loss of consciousness—is an action game where players pilot a fighter plane through several stages filled with enemy vessels. Unlike After Burner, the action takes place from a first-person cockpit view, except in rare cases when the camera pulls back to a third-person perspective to identify a tailing bogey.
The controls and action are simple and straightforward. You'll pilot your jet through several scrolling stages, downing enemy aircraft (and sometimes ships and marine installations) with a rapid-fire Vulcan gun or heat-seeking missiles. On higher difficulty levels players have access to thrust and afterburners plus greater control of the jet's roll, allowing more breakneck maneuvers and even inverted flight. The goal of the game: destroy each stage's requisite number of enemies before a timer runs down. In this way, G-LOC is something of a cross between the aerial daredevilry of After Burner and the time-based driving of Out Run.
It makes for a fun and exciting experience—to a point. While G-LOC's sense of speed, height, and movement is great—SEGA's arcade system Y Board does some heavy lifting here—the game ultimately sits on the short, repetitive side. This is an arcade title through and through, with simple commands, unvaried gameplay, and brief stages. A single playthrough could take only five to ten minutes, depending on the difficulty setting (higher settings include more stages).
G-LOC, then, is designed with high scores in mind. Knowing this, the port masters at M2, who brought this title to Switch, added in online leaderboards for all three difficulty levels. While G-LOC's moment-to-moment gameplay is merely decent, pushing yourself to finish the game more quickly and efficiently—and in so doing climbing the leaderboards—is surprisingly satisfying.
M2 also added a brand-new "AGES" mode, to provide some additional substance. It takes the core gameplay loop, limits it to a single difficulty setting, offers a single credit, and adds more enemies, more missiles, and a more powerful lock-on system. With a new set of 16 levels, it's a fun bonus that, alongside online leaderboards, makes G-LOC on Switch much more than a simple port. This is simply the best way to experience the game—outside of the expensive and rare R360 motion-based rotating arcade cabinet.
Another gift from M2: a variety of screen filters and HUD options, including a moving cabinet display designed to recreate the original hydraulic-powered arcade cabinet. You can also experiment with a smoothing filter and scan lines. Even without these extras, G-LOC is a treat for the eyes thanks to scrolling textures, sprite rotation, and pre-rendered 3D graphics—all courtesy of the Y Board. There are also some neat special effects like a cracked canopy. 30 years later it still looks damn good.
G-LOC is the perfect kind of game for SEGA AGES. It's a relatively unknown arcade title never before available on home systems, some watered-down console ports notwithstanding. While the Switch version inherits the original game's unvaried, repetitive gameplay and short-lived sessions, it mitigates those issues thanks to online leaderboards, a brand new AGES mode, and a moving arcade cabinet display—no quarters required.