Review by Unleashed Vortex

Reviewed: 12/06/05 | Updated: 12/07/05

A treasure from Treasure.

Much has been said about Treasure’s classic Gunstar Heroes. Some claim that it’s a renowned title of a wealthy calibre, while others have criticised it as a direct rip-off from Konami’s famous Contra series. Suggesting such a comment is a rather fair complaint due to the fact that Treasure were actually formed from a minute group of developers who broke off from Konami’s scope to form their own team. However, no matter how you wince and whine about the similarities between the two (which go as far as the genre itself, to be honest), you cannot deny that Gunstar Heroes is a very enjoyable experience and proves itself as a title that deserves to be in your collection.

What starts off as a rather standard run n gun slowly develops into a creative and innovative marathon. You begin in a jungle, assaulted by a constant stream of identical enemies. Soon, you’ll find that the jammy in your hand is packed with unlimited ammo, making blowing away these enemies a breeze. Another pleasant discovery will pounce on you, the different types of weapons you can collect can be merged together to make new ones! For example, combining your basic shooter and a flamethrower will create a powerful explosion that clears away anything that it burns. The ability to mix and match weapons to create something even more devastating makes blasting away enemies a ballet of unfathomable destruction.

Later, you’ll experience some amazing stages packed with an astounding blend of action and innovative design. You’ll blast more enemies on a mine cart, zooming through darkened caverns packed with trams and the more deadly “Seven Force”, a giant boss that transforms into seven different mechanical horrors, each of them must be destroyed one after another with your same slab of health. Later, you’ll enter the Dice Palace, a concept that is bursting with astounding creativity. The stage is set out like a board game and you have to roll a dice to get further along a set amount of squares. Each of these squares hold a challenge for you to conquer, whether it’s a rather simple blast ‘em up against a beast or a hand to hand battle with a new blubbery (not bluberry) boss, you’ll be given an exciting task that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.

Then, you’ll be surprised of the genre swap from run n gun to shooter. As events arise, your mission will be thrown across the endless sea of space and your chirpy character will pilot a rocket throughout a mindless obstacle course of beams, meteors and spaceships. Unfortunately, this transition is rather jarring due to the unusual and awkward control scheme that your new ship adopts. Firing your newly acquired weaponry isn’t hard but using the turret to aim is far too irritating for its own good. You can use the D-pad to point the gun in whatever direction you choose but, this is incorporated with your movement. So, if you want to move down but keep on shooting right, you have hold down the fire button to keep the gun stationary, otherwise, the gun will also point down. This incredibly annoying flaw can really get the veins in your forehead bulging. However, after a few blunders and curses to God, you’ll grab the bull by the horns and (almost) enjoy this portion of the game.

Gunstar Heroes unleashes a pack of immersive and brutal boss battles that will lock you into submission. They start off rather straight forward, usually floating around as cannon fodder for you to blow away. Then, they start to pile the concrete on your back by forcing you to battle multiple bosses one after another. Not only do you have to duel with the aforementioned bastard known as “Seven Force” but we have a huge robot armed with an extendable arm and laser gun, an airborne battle atop of a bi-plane with some hefty general, a one on one fight with a pink M. Bison clone and an epic blast ‘em up with a former friend. Then, we have the incredibly tricky boss gauntlet near the end where you fight a group of old bosses (thankfully, they’re not the previously fought incarnations) from previous stages. Unfortunately (for you), they’re back with some immense upgrades to duke it out with you in a powerful marathon.

If you’re good, you might survive.

Gunstar’s unique anime style may look rather immature when compared to the likes of any Contra game, but the unusual visuals pay off well. The characters are brightly painted on a beautiful palette of colour and the animation is as fluid as a trickling stream. Even the backgrounds are majestically crafted with minute details. On our adventure, we are treated to an aesthetic forest, a rocky an airship, floating miles of the ground in a bright blue and mine clouded sky. It’s like somebody pulled out your visual sensors and filled them to the brim with assorted poster paint! Despite the long-term damage that it may cause, it’ll give you a rather nice example of how visually stimulating Gunstar Heroes is.

Who cares if it’s similar to Contra? Sonic is similar to Mario but can outperform him half the time. Beyond Oasis may be a clear Zelda rip-off but it still gets the job done. Heck, even Wani Wani World was great and that ripped off TWO games at the same time. When it all boils down to it, rip-off or not, Gunstar Heroes is an immensely enjoyable title for you to get involved in. Sure, it may be going for a small fortune in your local game store but that’s nothing a quick download can’t fix. It’s a key to unlock some immensely innovative features and a sweet addition to your collection.

Rating: 8

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