Review by bluej33
The perfect rental
Ive never been much of an old-school gamer, probably because my parents were pretty strict about not having video games up until I turned ten or something. Ive always been kind of afraid of old games, for whatever reason, but even that couldnt keep me away from Gunstar Super Heroes, an update of the classic Gunstar Heroes by fan-favorite developer Treasure. And while Gunstar Super Heroes has a lot to offer, its regrettable that this games biggest flaw ultimately puts a damper on the many good things that youll find in this package.
Gunstar Super Heroes is old-school running-and-gunning at its finest. Youre thrust quickly into a rather simple story involving aptly named characters Red, Blue, and Yellow as they suddenly become under attack from an unknown enemy. Theyre all three operatives of 3YE, an organization dedicated to the protection of Earth, and the attackers, labeled only as the Empire and led by the mysterious General Gray, threaten its safety. Naturally, its up to you, playing as either Red or Blue, to stop Gray and his henchman and return the world to peace.
Gunstar Super Heroes is unique in that it allows you to play through the game either as Red (a girl, apparently, though youd never know it by looking at her) or Blue (pretty obviously a guy). This isnt, however, just a dumb attempt at imbuing the game with some replay value -- instead, the game is a noticeably different experience depending upon whom you choose to play with. For one, they have drastically different personalities, so the game script changes significantly for each character. Additionally, they have different weapons, which presents a small differentiation between the two characters, though it will likely not affect how you play the game.
The game is divided up into different moons, each of which have a single level on them. Naturally, you play through them progressively, and each beaten level opens up the next one. Essentially, your put in an area with tons -- and I mean TONS -- of soldiers, and youve got to shoot your way out. Youre probably going to keep your finger on the fire button for about 95% of the game, as you dash through levels filled with enemies. They dont stop at all, theyre relentless, and they explode when you kill them. Awesome.
Despite some of this really intense action, the developers did a really great job of controlling the pace and variety of the game. The entire game doesnt consist of you simply running through levels with bunches of soldiers intent on murdering you. Instead, the game mixes things up with several awesome additions to the core game play mechanic. For example, one level has you on top of a plane thats automatically piloted forward; you have to rotate the plane to avoid projectiles and shoot the crap out of any airborne enemies that come near. Other examples include a top-down level in which you pilot a helicopter through hostile enemy airspace (blowing the life out of everything that appears on screen, naturally) and running through a tilting maze collecting chickens (admittedly, this is one of the more random aspects of the game).
Running and gunning isnt all the game has to offer, however, as it provides more experienced gamers a chance to master a surprisingly comprehensive list of combo moves. Some of them are quite essential -- for example, the one that allows you to simply pick up help, which you are desperately going to need) -- while others arent even that useful, but look ridiculously cool. Honestly, its going to be mostly hardcore gamers who even bother to learn all these moves, much less actually use them. Still, theyre a lot of fun and pretty cool, and its neat to challenge yourself to run through an entire level without shooting any enemies.
And then, at the end of each of the few levels, comes a boss fight. This, my friends, is how boss fights are supposed to be done. The game is not kidding when it calls these baddies bosses -- theyre huge, towering monstrosities that take up the entire game screen and make you feel tiny in comparison. Theres not a whole ton of variety, because youll mostly be facing off against robots, whether theyre just evil and want to smash you to bits or if theyre being controlled by one of Grays minions who wants to smash you to bits. Either way, youve got quite a job to do.
Sadly, once you get past how frigging awesome the bosses look, theres not a whole lot to be had. Each boss has a health number somewhere beginning in the low hundreds, and each attack takes it down a bit. The thing is, there are really two main ways of defeating a boss: performing the same, simple action fifty times until hes finally dead, or finding a kink in the boss armor and blasting the crap out of them. For example, one of the games bosses, Pink, can literally be beaten in ten seconds flat, no matter which difficulty level youre on. Just jump up next to her, unleash a power shot (done by hitting R three times in quick succession), hold for a few seconds, and youre done. Come on!
So, on the subject of boss fights, there are two other important aspects of the game that can be commented on. First off are the games visuals. Let me say that for a GameBoy Advance title, Gunstar Super Heroes looks absolutely incredible. Everything runs smoothly in a cartoony sort of way, and the colors lend themselves beautifully to pre-rendered backgrounds and excellent character models. The enemies are sadly monotonous (there are only a few different types in the game) but the bosses look absolutely incredible. Its too late now for any developer to take a leaf out of Treasures book, seeing as no more games are being made for the GBA, but this is how you make a game look awesome. With awesome colors, tons of enemies, and plentiful explosions.
Theres also the difficulty to mention, and I feel its especially important to talk about this aspect of the game because its nowhere near what I expected. One of the reasons Ive always been a bit wary of old school games is because of the reputation they have for being so nail-bightingly tough. Im a pretty good gamer, but I dont find it fun to play through a stage countless times just so I can call myself hardcore. However, Gunstar Super Heroes does a nice job of really catering to all gamers, thanks to its three drastically different difficulty mode. The easiest will allow even the most inexperienced gamer to complete the title with ease, but the hardest will prove a challenge to any hardcore gamer. Theres a nice range here and I appreciate the fact that Treasure went out of their way to make this a game that anybody could have fun with.
Now, Ive saved the worst for last. And let me say, the worst is pretty bad. So bad, in fact, that Ive docked more than a couple of points from this games score up until now. The problem area? Replay value and overall game value. GBA games cost 30 bucks. Gunstar Super Heroes is pretty rare nowadays, so even a used copy might run you that much -- maybe even more, depending on where you get it. And the game can be beaten in less than an hour. Seriously. Even the later difficulty modes can be easily beaten by somebody who know what theyre doing -- and if you dont know what youre doing, youll have tossed this game aside long before you get to the toughest difficulty mode. Sure, theres some extra content depending on which character you use and which difficulty mode you play on, and theres the ability to go back and play levels again, but its not all that great. All told, youd have to be a huge fan just to spend more than five hours with that game -- and for thirty dollars, there is a myriad of other great titles out there that will last you much longer.
Sure, its a fun game, but Gunstar Super Heroes just isnt worth what youre probably going to pay for it. If you can get it for less than ten bucks, consider it. If youre one of those lucky people like myself who have a GameFly account, add this game to your Queue right now. Dont get me wrong: its a fun game, but its just not worth buying. Still, its an excellent title to borrow from a friend or pick up from a game rental store, especially if youre in the mood for some fun, intense, albeit short lived 2D shooting action.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Gunstar Super Heroes (US, 10/25/05)
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