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Einhänder is a shoot 'em up game of the scrolling shooter subgenre in the tradition of games like Gradius, in which the player controls a fighter spacecraft that must destroy enemy craft in side-scrolling levels. The game's graphics are in "2.5D"; that is in 3D with occasional shifting of camera angles, but with player's movement restricted to a two-dimensional plane. Pre-rendered full motion videos are used to illustrate pivotal scenes between stages. The player can choose between multiple difficulty settings and three different models of "Einhänder" fighter, in addition to two secret ones. The Japanese version also features a difficulty setting called "Free", which grants unlimited continues but disables the score. The player's fighter can move at different speeds and is equipped with a default machine gun as well as a manipulator arm, which is used to collect gunpods left by destroyed enemies. Gunpods have varying amounts of power, ammunition and range, and include cannons, guided missile launchers, aircraft-sized lightsabers and other types of weapons. Gunpods depleted of ammunition are discarded. They can be switched between an overhead and below-the-belly position, causing them to fire at different angles or directions. Most stages have a middle boss and an end boss, which often possess a main core and individual parts that can be destroyed. The game's score system is based on a multiplier bar and a hit gauge counter. As the player destroys enemy cores, the hit counter increases. Points awarded for destroyed cores are multiplied by the value of the hit counter. The counter decreases when the player stops destroying cores. However, if the multiplier reaches a certain amount it will begin to flash, awarding large point bonuses for any cores destroyed during this short period of time.
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