Review by clarkisdark
It was difficult to believe that the Game Boy Advance would continue to stand as a "pillar" in Nintendo hardware after the release of the DS. The little handheld hasn't given up so easily, however, with titles like WarioWare Twisted, Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap, and Sigma Star Saga coming out just this last year. If you still have a soft spot for GBA games, there's still a good selection left to pick at. Don't mistake Gunstar Super Heroes as part of that.
Gunstar Super Heroes ought to be remembered as one of the GBA's most visually stunning games. The developers really maxed out what this thing could do, and I doubt there will be another GBA game to show it up. I've read GameFAQ reviews that poopoo how sprites have obvious jagged outlines, but this is still a GBA game. That's to be expected. What makes Gunstar Super Heroes a technical feat is how these "ugly sprites" are handled. This game does not stay put. Levels not only zip by with tons of stuff going on and a near perfect framerates but also rotate a full 360 degrees. The developers seemed to really like this idea, because it's used a lot, allowing you to swing the screen in full circles without resorting to silly WarioWare Twisted antics. Seriously, it's cool.
All other action games feel primitive and subdued of their potential after playing this one. Gunstar Super Heroes is intense. I could actually feel my heart beating faster, and this is just a Game Boy game! The key isn't that everything moves fast (though it does). The game is so frantic, because it's so varied. No level is the same. You may start out with some basic platform shooting, then shift into an overhead space shooter, then to an absolutely crazy spinning level. In particular, there was a certain area where you rode a mechanical bird that could take three positions: running on the ground, running on the ceiling, or flying in the middle of the screen. Gunstar Super Heroes was worth playing just to see and experience that.
I actually had to read the instruction manual to figure out how to play this game correctly. There is a lot to know. The A and B buttons serve different functions depending on if they were tapped or held and if the character was in the air, on the ground, or not moving at all. It might sound confusing, but it really opens up a lot of options, like slicing enemies up-close or performing mid-air kicks. I met my untimely death many times, because the character would run forward while shooting diagonally. Luckily, there is actually a way to circumvent that. By holding the R button, you can aim your fire while stationary. It's a very nice addition.
Action games are hard for me to enjoy, because they more often than not frustrate me with seemingly impossible boss battles and thousands of bullets coming from all directions. Gunstar Super Heroes features both, but the game isn't quite so troublesome. Bosses have their subtle weaknesses, and bullets stand out enough to be able to discharge or evade them. What really aggravated me about Gunstar Super Heroes, however, was a "Fortress Game" in one of the levels. This played out much like a board game with the player needing to stop a number to determine how many spaces to move. Every square then became a mini-challenge such as reaching an exit point or defeating all the enemies in an area. The goal was to get to the end and fight the boss. The boss battle was difficult but fine how it was. The board aspect, on the other hand, was so irritating, I finally had to turn the Game Boy off and take a walk. It was like a twisted version of Chutes and Ladders where you could roll "back" or fall through the floor of a higher challenge and end up near or at the beginning. The game would have been much better without this nonsense.
The back of the box wasn't lying when it said Gunstar Super Heroes contained six stages. Unlike the developer's previous Astro Boy game, where stages were divided into separate levels, what you see is what you get. This game is extremely, surprisingly, disappointingly short. It isn't fair to require of every game an elaborate amount of replay value, but you're paying $30 for what is ultimately a two hour investment at most. Surely, you can play the game again on a harder setting with a different character, but Gunstar Super Heroes isn't satisfying a second time around. Most of what makes the game fun is just seeing it for the first time.
Gunstar Super Heroes has enormous potential. The action is heart-pounding, the variety of gameplay is refreshing (except for that stupid Fortress Game), and the graphics really put the GBA to the test. However, you can beat this game in one sitting, maybe even in the time it takes for your brother or sister to get out of the shower. It's such a short experience, I find it really hard to recommend forking over $30 when that $30 could buy you Astro Boy: Omega Factor (a much longer and more enjoyable experience) and ice cream for two. If you ever happen across Gunstar Super Heroes--whether at a friend's house or a garage sale--don't hesitate to pick it up. Just remember that it won't stay in your GBA for long.
+ Amazing visuals
+ Great variety
+ Fast action
-- Extremely short
-- Stupid Fortress Game
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
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