Review by segasonicfan
Reviewed: 12/31/01 | Updated: 12/31/01
Metal Slug...where are you???
Well, I think I am the only person on earth that doesn't love Gunstar Heroes, the first game ever produced by the geniuses at Treasure. Now, don't get me wrong, it's an excellent first game however, the Genesis/Mega Drive has many much finer shooting experiences to offer.
Gunstar Heroes was released in 1993 for the Genesis/Mega Drive console. Today it is one of the most sought after games on the system thanks to poor marketing in the US. I purchased a copy off of www.ebay.com for $15 expecting one of the finest 2D shooters of all time. I was told by many sources that GH was one of the Genesis' finest titles. I wouldn’t dare put this among the top 20. A decent shooter but essentially a poor copy of the brilliant Metal Slug, released years before it. Treasures first title lacks the ''legendary'' status people crown it and, to me, it lacks much much more...
Many people give a great deal o f props to GH with statements such as ''It shows off the Genesis' incredible 2D power'' but I strongly disagree. The game's backgrounds leave a lot to be desired. More importantly however, GH never surprises you. You are never introduced to 3D effects or details, any sign that thought and artistry was ever inserted into this title. You'll never play GH and say, ''that was a pretty cool effect!'' Or anything of the sort. While the onslaught of enemy explosions impresses, after the first couple of plays you'll be bored of it all. The same explosions constantly repeat without any new artwork or say, a massive explosion for a boss. Just those same old bubbles. The graphics are decent enough, but the don’t have that sparkle or influence that a 10/10 title should include.
This is the saddest part of GH. The sound is literally terrible-uninspired and lacking all thought, emotion, setting and mood. The sound effects are decent enough, but the in game’s themes are awful. See, I love video game music more than anyone I’ve ever met, that is why this aspect of GH saddens me to such an extent. Just about every Genesis shooter crushes GH in this department including MUSHA, Granada, Thunderforce 3&4, Air Buster, Steel Empire, Bio-Hazard, Raden Trad, Phelios, and the list goes on… Music is one of the most important elements of a shooter because it gives it the realism, life, and emotion you wish to set. Whether it’s a blood-pumping lightning fast theme or an eerie scary tune, shooting themes are of paramount importance. Some of the worst game music I have ever heard and a truly pathetic approach to making a quality shooter.
Alas, the gameplay where GH supposedly shines. GH has an obviously Metal Slug-inspired shooting engine in which you scroll defeating many enemies that jump around with a single-shot kill. In GH however, there are two differentiations to the MS classic style, one good the other bad. The first is a close battle system. You can slide tackle, tackle, or throw your enemies. This is an extremely fun gameplay technique and stands as the game’s finest quality. The only withdraw to this is on 2-player mode where you can’t stop throwing your teammate. The second new concept is the idea of infinite enemies. No matter how much time you spend shooting or jumping around the enemies don’t stop coming until you reach a boss. This may seem like a good idea at first, but eventually falls the opposite direction. On the plus side, you are always on the move, maybe this is more exciting for some but on the downside you can never concentrate on a single object or clear the screen. This demolishes the replay value idea of “I’ll kill everything this time around” which is quite necessary in the lasting value of a shooter. Also, enemies constantly grab you (on hard mode anyway) which is an extreme annoyance in itself. Instead of a hit and you keep moving your enemy holds you there while you attempt to free yourself. This puts an instant break on the game's movements and results in severe jamming of controllers.
On the plus side, Gunstar Heroes has a fine weapon system to explore. The game’s 4 weapons can each be mixed with one another as a play can hold two at the same time. The weapons change when say fire (the strongest but small) is mixed with laser (thin but can go through objects) you get a short, powerful ray that kill more than one enemy at a time. A decent concept as well not included in Metal Slug. However, when you die you come back with only one of your two, making bosses very difficult. And, the only way to change your weapon is to hope that maybe one of the carriage pods will drop what you are looking for. Some of the combinations are extremely useful while others downright useless. Usually more thinking is provided in ideas as these. GH’s 2-player mode is fun, but as mentioned before, the throwing of each other becomes increasingly annoying as the game progresses. Many Genesis shooters provide extensively more fun video game experience.
Lasting Value: 6/10
After you beat GH and watch its HORRIBLE ending you’ll likely never return for quite some time. The poorly created “bad guy” bosses attempt to be “cool” but look like badly drawn cartoons. On the harder modes GH is awful as you may never defeat all enemies and the bosses are more annoying than before. The only lasting point of interest is the 2-player mode as the 1-player lacks any twists or turns-you always move down the exact some route every time you play. I only come back to make some explosions and it gets old real fast.
If you haven’t been opinionated enough to read this far you probably think I’m crazy for disliking this game. I am a huge fan of Treasure and I find them to have produced many masterpieces. GH isn’t Treasures worst game cough Light Crusader cough but its up there. All I ask is that you play it for yourself. Most really enjoy this title but the rare few like myself would rather spend their $15 on Thunderforce or Metal Slug for NGPC. My main point is this: there are better shooters so why track down this? Do me a favor and spend whatever it takes on ALIEN SOLDIER and YU YU HAKUSHO, two of the finest games of all time that came from the brilliance at Treasure. Or grab another Genesis shooter of far more creativity and artistry such as MUSHA or PANORAMA COTTON. I’m just thankful that the great Treasure didn’t stop here.
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