Gunstar Heroes (Genesis) review
"I was never a bully as a child, but when my friends and I played videogames I was seen as the tough one. While they were struggling to defeat a giant squirrel in Donkey Kong Country that does practically nothing I was absolutely dominating run n guns such as Contra: Hard Corps and Mega Turrican. But after they got their hands on Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes their view on the run n gun genre changed. They dug its easiness and simplicity, but failed to realize that it actu..."
I was never a bully as a child, but when my friends and I played videogames I was seen as the tough one. While they were struggling to defeat a giant squirrel in Donkey Kong Country that does practically nothing I was absolutely dominating run n guns such as Contra: Hard Corps and Mega Turrican. But after they got their hands on Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes their view on the run n gun genre changed. They dug its easiness and simplicity, but failed to realize that it actually isn’t so great.
Now before I put it down let me say that Gunstar Heroes is one of the most gamer-friendly games in the genre. Forget about the Contras and Metal Slugs in which you lose a life for getting hit once. Gunstar Heroes gives you a health bar that starts with 100 health and increases after each level. So you won’t be penalized for making a few mistakes, although if you’re not careful that health meter will drop pretty quickly. There are also several different weapons to choose from, including a laser, homing, fire, and rapid-firing gun. You can also mix and match weapons to make new, more powerful ones. It is the ideal game for someone who couldn’t ever get into the genre because of its difficulty.
The game just is not as good as it sounds. Not because it’s hard, which it certainly isn’t, but because it is so repetitive and rarely delivers the thrills that other games in the genre do.
Hard Corps totally revolutionized the basic run n gun formula. Instead of putting us against thousands of boring, generic soldiers, it had us battling several different types of enemies in different situations that totally ruled. Gunstar Heroes doesn’t follow in Hard Corps’ footsteps, and instead takes the usual, boring approach. But this time it is worse than ever. Throughout pretty much the whole game you will be fighting the same generic soldiers over and over again. Sure, some might charge at you and some might shoot you with a laser gun, but that’s not enough to make it anything interesting. The continuous enemies might sound cool, but seriously, how many enemies can you kill before you’ve had enough? Where’s the diversity here? Treasure also added a few cool moves for us to use, such as a throw, block and sliding kick, but thanks to the game’s frantic, non-stop barrage of enemies 95% of the time it is much more convenient to stick with your good old gun, making the aforementioned moves useless.
The bosses aren’t anything worth bragging about, either. I can go on for hours about the awesomeness of the Dimension Keeper and Wrecking Machine in Hard Corps, but I have trouble remembering most of Gunstar Heroes’ bosses. Instead of being challenging and unique, they are rather simple and plain. You don’t have to be a skilled player to defeat them, you just need to observe what they do once or twice, and the rest is a piece of cake. There are a few neat bosses, such as Curry and Rice, who forces you to resort to your fists to defeat him, but the majority of them are bland and will be forgotten.
The levels, on the other hand often try to innovate but fail to do so. The first stage is for the most part your typical bland, straightforward run n gun level, and surprisingly it is one of the best ones. Most everything else fails to live up to its potential. For example, stage two will have you traveling in a mine cart while shooting the countless soldiers that are riding in front and behind you, as well as those shooting from the inside of trains. This might sound cool, but it’s actually pretty dull. You’re still fighting the same exact soldiers, but this time you’re in a cart that’s much harder to control and maneuver. Plus once you’re jump on the ceiling or another rail (the only almost neat thing you can do in this level), it will often take several attempts to get off, which becomes very frustrating.
The worst example of this “innovation” is “The Dice Maze”, which appears in the fourth level. The game forces you to role a die and you’ll move the number of spaces on a board corresponding with the number you got from your roll. Chances are you’ll fight a boss, but if you’re lucky you’ll pick up an item instead. This might sound like an interesting idea on paper, but playing through it is pure torture. I previously mentioned that the bosses are boring an unspectacular. Now imagine fighting 5-10 of them (the amount depends on your luck with the die) IN A ROW. And if you happen to lose you have to fight them all over again. That’s not my idea of fun.
But Gunstar Heroes isn’t a total stinker. There are some great moments that demonstrate why the genre is so freakin’ awesome. The Flying Battleship level, for instance, will have you fighting on top of an airplane while shooting down soldiers who are dropping bombs on you. Later on in the level you’ll fight a muscle man on top of a smaller airplane. Not only do you have to worry about defeating him, but you also have to make sure that he doesn’t push you off the edge while the pansy soldiers cheer him on from below. Another sweet part is the Outer Space level, which will have you dodging and destroying asteroids and giant lasers while enemies attack you from all fronts. I just with the game had more unique and enjoyable moments rather than throwing level and level of repetition with the occasional good level mixed into the mess.
Actually I had a lot of fun with this game. I remember playing it over and over with my friends, and even by myself for hours. There are quite a few great moments, but in the end Gunstar Heroes doesn’t bring anything new to the genre that we haven’t see before, most noticeably by the Contra series. And whenever it attempts to present a refreshing idea it almost always fails. It isn’t a horrible game, but with so many better ones out there I can’t recommend Treasure’s rookie effort, even if you could never get into the run n gun genre because of the difficulty. If Contra is too tough for you than you’re a giant sissy who should be playing SNES platformers instead.
Community review by Halon (December 04, 2005)
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