The Sega Mega Drive / Genesis certainly wasn't short on shmups, and as a consequence, games in this particular genre had to be really good to stand out from the crowd. Telenet Japan's Gaiares certainly fell into this category; while numerous other Mega Drive shooters have been largely forgotten over time, Gaiares is often mentioned when discussing the best blasters on Sega's 16-bit console, and with good reason.
Not only does it offer excellent visuals, great music and a stern challenge, the TOZ System – much like the Force pod in Irem's R-Type – gives the game its own unique feel. Using the TOZ, you can copy the weapon of an enemy, giving the game an incredible amount of depth when compared to other shooters from the same period.
However, for some players, Gaiares is memorable for another reason. It was released in the US alongside a unique marketing campaign featuring James Bunker, who was then employed as a playtester at publisher Renovation Products. The "Can you say Guy-Are-Us" advertising campaign clearly stuck in the minds of many players, as in 2021, Retro-Bit lent on the slogan for its reissue of the game, which came complete with a special T-shirt bearing the message. Retro-Bit even enlisted the much older Bunker to help out with promotion, too.
Copies of the original version still fetch a pretty penny these days, but Retro-Bit's welcome reissue brings with it some neat extras, such as a full-colour manual, certificate of authenticity and cool translucent cartridge. There's even a leaflet in the box which features an interview with Bunker himself. You can also reverse the cover sleeve to reveal the North American box art, if you so wish.
Limited to just 6000 copies, this is a true collector's item – let us know if you managed to get hold of a copy by posting in the comments below.