Review by horror_spooky
I don't get it
A little bit of asking around about people's favorite games on the Genesis will yield a nice variety of results. Most people will probably call the Sonic series their favorite games available on Sega's answer to the Super Nintendo, and others still will cite Streets of Rage, uncensored versions of Mortal Kombat, or Phantasy Star. Gunstar Heroes is a game that is mentioned a lot along with these other titles, but I just don't understand what is supposed to be so great about this game. I guess I just don't get it.
Multiple people recommended Gunstar Heroes to me, and I expected a lot more. The game is a shooter in the vein of Contra created by Treasure. Treasure is a heralded bullet-hell developer, having created the popluar on-rail shooting series Sin & Punishment and the Bangai-O games. Gunstar Heroes was the first game by them. Treasure themselves is made up of ex-Konami staff, so the similarities to Contra aren't surprising.
In fact, the game is basically a reskinned version of Contra with minor changes. There are two different characters to choose from, one with a "fixed" way to shoot, and one with free shooting. If you are playing in co-op, one player picks one character and the other player takes control of the other character. Afterwards, you choose what type of weapon you will be using in that particular stage. The weapons range from one that shoots green triangles that will curve and hit enemies to a flamethrower.
The weapons are admittedly pretty sweet. Another weapon can be picked up in the stage and the powers of that weapon will combine with the one you chose, creating a mixing-and-matching mechanic that is somewhat addicting to explore. This game's problem definitely isn't the weapons. Gunstar Heroes falls short in practically every other area, and that's why I just couldn't have fun with this game to save my life.
Firstly, the levels have no rhyme or reason to them. They are designed in the most basic, generic way possible. We've all seen these levels before. Mine carts, running up slopes with enemies rolling down at you, and all that stuff. In this game, Treasure takes the very basics of how to create a 2D side-scrolling shooter and makes it into a game. With other, much more entertaining options like the aforementioned Contra on the market, Gunstar Heroes seems almost redundant. There's really no reason for this game to exist, as it's been done a million times before, and the innovation here is practically non-existant, with the exception being the weapon system.
One thing I did like about the game is the boss fights. There are multiple boss battles in every stage that break up the yawn-inducing repetitive gameplay with epic fights. These boss battles all feel unique and require a different strategy. While it's easy to exploit and cheat these battles, they still manage to be extraordinarily awesome. It's a real shame that the rest of the game weighs down the entertainment value so significantly that the good things about it are going to be lost in the shuffle.
The Genesis was technically capable for more, graphics-wise, than the SNES. So, why is it that Gunstar Heroes just looks...muddy? While there is a ton of action on the screen at once with literally no slow-down, which is impressive for the fourth generation, besides the boss designs, the game is very ugly. The backgrounds are boring and look blurry, almost. All the pixels in the game have this weird, unattractive muddy look to them. If that wasn't enough, the character design is ugly and awful. The two main characters look like dorky little kids from an 80s sitcom in jumpsuits. I'm afraid the artist that created these kids took the box art seriously. There's a reason Mega Man doesn't look like the dude on the cover of his game. And if you can't figure out what the reason is, play Gunstar Heroes and try to stomach it.
Perhaps I am being a bit too harsh on the game. It's just that...I didn't like it. I don't like it. It's not fun. While I felt there are indeed some good ideas sporadically sprinkled throughout the experience, much of the game is generic beyond belief. Maybe I just don't click with Treasure as a developer, as another game I played by them, the GameCube's Wario World that they made for Nintendo, also didn't register with me.
Keeping with the generic theme of the game, though, is the audio. The background music is average. The sound effects are average. The game just sounds like every other game like it does. There's nothing special about it, and when there's nothing special about it, it ceases being important. Why would anyone waste their time playing this when more polished and simply better gameplay experiences are out there?
Gunstar Heroes is rather short as well, but that's forgivable considering what kind of game it is. Playing through it in co-op still isn't fun, and I had difficulties getting my friends to keep playing with me just so I could write this review and do the game justice. However, co-op is still more entertaining than going it alone, which is considerably harder, more annoying, and infinitely less fun.
In short, Gunstar Heroes isn't worth tracking down. From what I've seen from Treasure so far, they are an over-rated company that makes generic, boring games, such as Gunstar Heroes. But for some reason, a lot of people seem to love this game and worship Treasure. Maybe there's something about this that I'm missing. I don't understand why this game is supposed to be fun, and I guess I never will. In short, I don't get it.
Product Release: Gunstar Heroes (US, 09/09/93)
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