Review by ShadowGuardian9

Reviewed: 03/13/06

Though short, Gunstar Super Heroes is a stellar side-scroller.

Any hardcore gamer should be familiar with the developer Treasure. Treasure has been widely known for its classic games for the truest of hardcore gamers, featuring games like Ikaruga, Guardian Heroes, and the sadly-overlooked Astro Boy: Omega Factor. Well, Treasure doesn’t like to leave the true gamers in the dust and have decided to release a slick GBA game in the Gunstar series. Gunstar Heroes debuted back on the Genesis and after a long wait, Treasure has released the sequel to Gunstar Heroes in the form of Gunstar Super Heroes. Can Treasure succeed here as well?

Graphics 10/10

One word can describe these graphics: colorful. Never before has so much bright and vibrant effects been displayed in such a game. The characters are animated in a very traditional style, but the action on-screen is non-stop. Once you think it’s over, you’ll see another five or so enemies appear and the sheer madness returns. With two different characters and three distinct weapons to choose from for each, the color will blast from your tiny avatar’s hand. After charging up a special gauge, you can execute a blitzing Super move with wider range and even more stunning colors. Every single explosion is crisp and beautiful. Enemies are pretty standard, but are plentiful. Also, their appearances are full of character and are demonstrated by their attacks and strategies. Levels are incredibly-designed and full of action all the time. After you witness a few of these absolutely excellent pieces of game design, you’ll realize that you’re seeing all of this on your handheld system. The sheer amount of action and fluidity in the graphics make Gunstar Super Heroes some of the best the GBA can muster.

Audio 8/10

As far as audio goes, Gunstar Super Heroes has a majority of the bases covered. The voice-acting is sparse, but kicks in during battle, giving the game some character. Attacks are very well done. The impact of a solid special attack is spot-on. Melee attacks feel strong and visceral. Background music will usually be drowned out by the sheer amount of action on-screen, but when you do hear it, it will be entertaining. The scores are well done. The audio isn’t groundbreaking, but the quantity and quality is solid.

Gameplay 10/10

Side-scrollers have gone the way of the dodo these days; not very many have been released as in the past. However, when a new side-scroller debuts, especially one from Treasure, gamers take notice. Gunstar Super Heroes is one of those games to give your undivided attention to.

It seems that the Gunstar Heroes, Red, Blue, and Yellow have been called into duty. The heroes of the past, the Gunstar Heroes, sealed away a great evil into four moons. Now the evil organization, the Empire, want to revive the evil, unite the moons, and rule the universe. Not top-notch storytelling, but the game backs up the story with some downright incredible gameplay.

Anyone who’s played the Gunstar Heroes games of past will feel right at home with the controls. A to jump, B to shoot, D-Pad to move, R and D-Pad to shoot from a standing position, L to switch weapons. By changing the button combinations, you can perform different attacks. Press Up and A to rocket up with a powerful uppercut. Press B and move to fire on the run. By pressing B twice, you can use a sword attack. The special attack is executed by pressing R twice; the attack is wider and does more damage. The special attack also drains energy from the special gauge, which can be refilled by defeating the many swarms of enemies. The controls feel spot on. Blazing across the screen is simple and fun. Each move can seamlessly be linked to another, so you’ll instinctively slide, shoot, jump, shoot, or whatever without thinking. The fluidity of the controls is perfect for such a fast-paced side-scroller.

In gameplay, there is one goal: make it to the end of a level without dying. Sure, you can rack up a high score, but to progress, all you have to do is run. But just running won’t get you very far. Enemies swarm in ridiculously high numbers and will surround you instantly. But you have heat. Three different weapons are at your disposal, each with infinite ammo. The first weapon is basic and rapid-firing. The second is a powerful, but slow shot. The last is a homing shot. The three weapons don’t add a ton to gameplay, but they each have enough unique properties to keep the tedium away.

Levels are unique and have some quirks to keep you occupied. Although most levels follow the same control scheme, each one feels different. The challenges are so diverse and clever you barely notice that you’re mostly shooting things. From a race through a shaft filled with bubbles to blasting a giant plant, the whole game will constantly surprise. The side-scrolling roots are backed up by some stellar level design, keeping gameplay fresh and entertaining.

The highlight of this game is the very clever assortment of bosses. No boss will seem familiar; each one is unique and clever. Even better is the challenge; it’s perfect. The boss will put your reflexes to a serious test, but when you fail, you get back up because you know you can defeat this boss. The game’s simplistic appeal is its highlight and shooting things never seems to get old. With each excellent level, there is a surprising and challenging boss afterward.

With the side-scrolling roots comes a challenging difficulty, and Gunstar Super Heroes doesn’t let up in the challenge. The many enemies and bosses will put your skills, reflexes, and will to the test. However, none of the challenges feel cheap. The difficulty is leveled so that each time you die, you know you can get back up and try again. A difficulty that requires skill but never feels impossible is an extremely good level of challenge, and Gunstar Super Heroes balances the mission difficulty with a powerful move set, excellent level design, and a ton of action. When games can use such tight access with such cleverness and diversity, the game proves to be a winning formula. Gunstar Super Heroes masters that formula.

Replay Value 7/10

The story mode is mercilessly short. I mean really short. Even though there are two characters, both play near-identically. The lack of any multiplayer is a huge disappointment as well. However, the game’s perfect gameplay makes up for the short length. This is the perfect quick-fix game for your GBA. Turn your game on, play a quick level, shut down. The gameplay is so excellent you won’t mind playing the same levels over and over. Sure, a longer story or some multiplayer would have been great, but the gameplay more than makes up for it.

Final Verdict 9/10

Gunstar Super Heroes proves how solid game design remains a success. The solid controls are spot-on and never feel cumbersome. The graphics are bright and full of action, and the audio is solid. The level design is nothing short of genius. The sheer amount of cleverness and diversity in this game is astounding. Never before has a game constantly surprised in its challenges and levels. The short length of the game is the only downside to this otherwise incredible game. But despite being a little too short, Gunstar Super Heroes is an amazing game for your GBA. I highly recommend this side-scroller to anyone with a GBA.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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