> When a number of developers working for Konami broke away
to found their own company to pursue their own dreams of creating original
games, Treasure was born. The fruits of their labor (unfettered
by the money making agenda of churning out sequel after unoriginal sequel)
was one of the best side scrolling shooting games to appear on a 16 bit
console. Gunstar Heroes may belong to the same genre as Konami's
Contra series, but it taught Konami a lesson in how
to make a great shoot 'em up.
> The people who founded Treasure worked on the Contra
games, but founding their own company finally meant having free
rein over their ideas. In Gunstar Heroes you take control
of a duo of twins as they endeavor to stop an evil empire from rampaging
across Gunstar-9 -- a planet your family has protected for generations.
The vile Colonel Red, who bears an uncanny resemblence to M. Bison from
Capcom's Street Fighter games, has kidnapped your brother
Green and bent your sibling to his will. This powerful empire has found
several gems capable of bringing to life an even more powerful robotic
monstrosity by the name of Golden Silver who has every intention of wreaking
havoc once activated. Of course, being devoted to the protection of all
that is held sacred means that it is your mission to stop these gems from
falling into the wrong hands. This is your cue to start blowing things
> Gunstar Heroes' graphics haven't aged too badly over the
years when we consider the fact that 2D shooting games from the Genesis
era don't get much better than this. The graphics are great to say the
least. More than a dozen sprites can appear on screen at once and you won't
detect even a hint of slowdown (slowdown is only detectable when a second
player joins the action, but even then, you'll be too busy trying to stay
alive to notice). This is truly a testament to the Genesis'
sprite handling capabilities, and oftentimes makes for some hectic battles
against an overwhelming number of foes coming at you from all directions.
In fact, there almost isn't a moment when you're not being bombarded by
swarms of enemies, or simply being swarmed. The action is non-stop and
the only thing marring the colorful backgrounds are the constant, nicely
animated explosions filling the screen as your enemies burst into flames
after being introduced to your weapons. The frame rate is constant, and
never drops to a crawl as you would expect when so much is happening on-screen
> Gunstar Heroes' character sprites seem anime-inspired,
and also seem as if they were drawn with many frames of animation, as they
animate very smoothly. Despite their small size they are surprisingly detailed,
too. Each and every stage of the game is filled with some great looking
enemies that might seem comical at times if they weren't trying to kill
you. I must say, the bosses in this game are some of the best and most
original I've seen in a game like this. They are almost always huge, but
always menacing enough to remind you to watch yourself around them. There
are so many cool looking weapon effects in the game that I've lost count.
The most notable special effects are the fiery explosions which either
leave trails or expand rapidly. There are some nice warping effects present
in the game too.
> Anyone new to this game should have no problem acclimating themselves
to the controls, since they are quite user-friendly and responsive enough
not to garner any complaints. Other than unleashing your weapons on all
those who would dare to oppose you, you can run, throw your enemies, jump,
jump kick and slide-kick. Even clinging to railings and jumping off walls
will be demanded of you from time-to-time.
> You can select a weapon from four different types of weapons at the start
of the game, which include: force (a pulse laser), lightening (a beam laser),
chaser (a homing weapon), and fire (a flame thrower). Any two individual
weapons (once you've acquired a second weapon power-up) can be combined
to either produce a more powerful version of the same weapon or one weapon
that shares traits with the other (how does a pulse laser that chases your
enemies across the screen sound?).
> At the beginning of the game you can also choose whether you want to
run and shoot at the same time, or shoot while rooted to a fixed position.
I find shooting from a fixed position to be much easier in the long run
because it's better to move from one safe spot to another and then fire,
rather than constantly be on the move. However, remaining in one place
for too long makes you an easy target. The choice is yours.
> The music, like the gameplay itself, is frenetic and in many ways uplifting.
The boss music creates a great sense of impending doom. The moment it starts
you receive the distinct impression that something posing a real threat
is approaching fast. The sound effects aren't bad either, though the screams
of certain defeated enemies sound a bit muffled. Naturally, the sounds
of gunfire and thunderous explosions will be the only sounds to enter your
ears most of the time.
> Thanks to three difficulty settings, players are the ones who decide
just how challenging they want the game to be. Completing this game isn't
as easy as holding down the fire button; you need to react quickly enough
to keep out of range of the enemy's weapons as well. In each stage you
must fight through an army of foes every step of the way until you come
face-to-face with a sub-boss or end-of-level boss. What more could you
possibly want from a shooting game? The bosses themselves make your life
as difficult as possible and will stop at nothing to stop you. Treasure's
bosses are known for their originality for a reason and this game will
show you why. One of the bosses who morphs into all manner of mechanical
monstrosities even turns into a giant gun of all things. The game is quite
short yet so fun that you'll find excuses to play it again and again merely
to relive the excitement of watching your enemies burn before your very
eyes. This is the part where I start bursting with evil laughter.
> Gunstar Heroes is a classic in every sense of the word.
I'm not joking when I say that Gunstar Heroes is perhaps
the best side scrolling shoot 'em up ever to grace a 16 bit console. Fans
of this game should seriously consider checking out Treasure's Alien
Soldier for more explosive action.
Geoffrey Duke ~
9.5 | Graphics: 9.6 | Control: 9.4 | Sound: 9.5 | Fun: 9.5