Review by Dogg

Reviewed: 07/02/02 | Updated: 09/03/02

Explosive.

Here is a nice concept idea: you play as one character who’s equipped with a futuristic-like gun and one who shoots down all enemies in sight. The character then picks up their bodies and throws it to the other enemies that are coming his way. He then gets an item and combines it with his other item—which he received before his little fireworks display even began. Now with this ‘new’ gun you can shoot in more ways then one. You then kill more enemies— by exploding their bodies to fleshless ashes—and soon you will fight a boss. You beat the boss—assailing him to the sky—and you then celebrate in victory.

Pretty nifty concept idea, huh?

And the part that will surprise you will be that Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes more or less follows that idea.

You see, Treasure—a company made up of old Konami executives who, get this, worked on Super Castlevania IV for the Super Nintendo as well as other games—were still relatively new during the time Gunstar Heroes was in making. Many didn’t know about them, so the thought of a good game coming from them would have been really strange. However, it wasn’t. Gunstar Heroes is one hell of a game; it is a 2-D side-scrolling shooter that gives you more things then you can possibly shoot at. No it is not an anomaly; Heroes, instead, is one hell of a fun game that surprisingly didn’t sell ‘extremely’ well back in its day.

The story of this game, at first, is a little bit clichéd, but it surprisingly gets better as you progress through the game. It seems that an evil man has stolen 4 gems and it is your job to retrieve back those gems. In fact this evil man looks a lot like good old Bison from the Street Fighter series; he’s got the cape and everything. Nevertheless, you will now go through 4 levels to get back the gems and then once they are reclaimed you will go through some more levels to put a stop to this Bison-looking fellow and his goons; most of which pilot high-tech robotic machines. Interesting, really.

Retrieving the gems in the first place, though, isn’t an easy thing. The 4 levels in which you go through first are chosen directly by yourself; though you will eventually have to beat all of them so picking whichever ones in whichever order won’t really matter—since all have to be beaten once in a while, you know? And what’s good about this game is that strategy isn’t the key to winning; in fact winning more or less depends on which weapon items you got and which items you’ve combined in an order of your liking.

The weapon as said is a gun. This gun fires rays of light and of solar power, it releases fire, and it also fires all of that futuristic crap most of which looks straight of the Contra series, the games that play pretty much like this title. By killing enemies or breaking up huge metal blocks you will acquire some sort of an item. This item can be to give you health or it can be used as a tool for upgrading your weapon, which makes taking out enemies a much, much easier task. You see by upgrading your weapon you will be able to fire two of something, or you can make pretty nifty attacks—like having ice lines drawn around your enemy and steadily draining their vitality to a halt.

The levels in Gunstar Heroes are expertly crafted and fit well with the game’s story. The 2nd level for example places you in a mine car frenetically shooting down enemies’ onboard trains and robotic bosses that transform to pistols that surprisingly shoot you. Another level pits you in a roll-dice-and-play kind of game. Here you pick up a dice in a board game arena and depending on what number the dice gives you (either 1, 2, or 3) you will start to move on the board game. However, the board game has ‘spots’ all over it which will make you perform a certain action. One spot will say ‘Fight’ and then you will have to fight an enemy; their difficulty ranges from easy—Melon Bread—to Hard—the Core enemy. One spot will even tell you to fight without a gun—here you will take on Curry and Rice, a rock monster familiar with Kung Fu (COOL!!!). One spot will even take you back to the beginning of the game, while the rest of the spots will take you to the item room. In the item room you can heal up and pick up items, as you get ready for your next challenge. The final spot on the board is the one-and-only boss mark. Here you will finally end the game by taking out the mastermind of the whole thing and by losing you will be taken back to the beginning of ‘his’ game.

Other levels are even more enticing. The space-ship level for example reminds you of old shooters like Phalanx or hell even the Gradius series. In the space-ship level you commandeer a ship and you pilot your way out of messes by getting rid of moon rocks and other aircraft that all ambiguously try to attack you. What is even more alluring is the final level; here you take on a horde of bosses each one more difficult then the last. Challenging; sure is. But is it a great and fun challenge; you bet.

If this game, however, becomes too difficult for you to master you can always plug in another Genesis controller and then call down a friend and reminisce on some classic video game action. By playing by yourself you will already be impressed, but by playing it with a friend you will be even more impressed—both you and your friend.

The only problem that I found with Gunstar Heroes is the game’s length. While the difficulty is so-so—some levels hard, some easy—the length is a little on the short side. At most two hours of playing should already have you tucked beneath the final level taking on one boss after another. This is only a small problem, though, because a game like this doesn’t have to worry about its length; it has to worry on how it plays and how people who give it a try would actually like it.

The graphics in this game are superb—some of the best details seen in a Sega Genesis game yet. The explosions are exuberant and lively and just seeing well over 12 enemies explode at one time is always quite a sight. The backgrounds are also good. They are very atmospheric and colorful and they shouldn’t let down anybody. The 2-D character designs are also right up there with the backgrounds. Menus are also clean and this game runs fast—really fast. And as you see these are all factors that shouldn’t let anybody down. The more impressive part about the graphics is the visual effects. All tasty eye-candy if I may say. The audio is also pretty good. It is very distinctive and moody and it gives you a game that is full of character. Gunstar Heroes is very impressive on the quality side as you can probably see. Good job, Mr. Gunstar

This game also has a lot of replay value. Since there’s no save feature of any kind, you will have to play this game from the beginning once you feel like giving it a spin again. That shouldn’t be a problem, though, because Contra had the same thing and was way harder; and still the fans had loved it and from what I know the fans love this game as well.

Finally, Gunstar Heroes is an excellent rookie effort from the geniuses at Treasure (don’t know how smart they are today, though). Gunstar Heroes has everything that will please any game-craving enthusiast and more; it has explosions, frenetic gunfights, robots, and some of the best damn visuals possibly seen on the Genesis. This game is no masterpiece by any chance; instead it’s a game that delves you into an explosive experience that should never be forgotten.

Don’t miss out on this folks!

Gameplay: 9
Presentation: 9
Graphics: 10
Audio: 9
2-Player: 9
Replay: 8
Lasting Appeal: 8
Final Score: 9


Rating: 9

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