Why do all the enemies look like they're running away? Am I the bad guy?
The Sega Ages series is known for its lovingly enhanced ports of classic Sega titles. In general, if a game has a Sega Ages release, that’s probably the best way to play it in a modern context. Much of Sega’s library has aged very favorably into this series. And then there are sprite-scaling based rail shooters. A staple of Sega arcades with classics like Fantasy Zone, Galaxy Force, and Afterburner, these games attempted fast-paced 3D combat way ahead of their time. While their ambition remains clear to this day, their limitations also find themselves in sharp relief.
G-LOC Air Battle is one such title. Based on the title screen, G-LOC stands for “loss of consciousness by G force,” assuming of course you don’t read the acronym in order. It is played from a first-person perspective inside a fighter jet. Your goal is to shoot down a set number of enemies within a time limit to move onto the next level. You can lock on using a limited (though generous) number of missiles as well as free fire from your machine gun. Early on, most enemies will simply fly past you from behind, but later on enemies will also come from in front of you and actually take a few shots—truly a bold new strategy. After clearing all stages, a quick minigame plays out in which you land on your carrier before your fellow pilots hoist you into the air in a fit of ‘90s arcade goodness.
Multiple difficulty options are available, with higher difficulties giving you control of your fighter’s speed in addition to direction. A new Ages mode is also available that changes up enemy layouts as well as your targeting system. As expected from the Sega Ages series, there are plenty of customizable options for how you play. A variety of screen sizes, formats, and filters are available, along with different border art. You can even set the screen to move in response to the game, simulating the original arcade experience.
No matter how you play, though, your enjoyment will come down to one very important factor. Can you tolerate sprite-scaling rail shooters? There are no true 3D graphics in G-LOC but rather everything is represented with 2D sprites. These are then rotated and scaled to give the illusion of moving closer and farther. Sometimes multiple sprites will be lined up to give the illusion of a cliff wall extending into the distance. While the effect was ingenious at the time, it never quite replicates 3D in a way that feels natural. Determining depth while aiming and dodging around obstacles can present a challenge.
G-LOC is by no means the best game of this type Sega’s released, but it's serviceable and fun. The Sega Ages port is, as usual, excellent. However, morso than many of Sega’s games from this era, G-LOC certainly shows its age. If you’re a fan of this type of game, you’ll likely have a great time, but if you’re not sure, there are better places to start your sprite-scaling journey.