"Then, early in the seventh hideout, you can pick one of two sets of clothes. One greatly enhances Zero’s attack, while the other does the same to his defense. Take the first suit and no enemy, even the final boss, can stand up to his power. Grab the second and it’ll take even the toughest foes an eternity to whittle down his life meter. Considering you’ll probably have obtained a good number of extra lives by this point, it now is nearly impossible to actually die."
So, do any of you stay up late at night wondering what you’d get if you combined The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with, say, Guerrilla War or Commando?
Yeah, I didn’t think so. However, for some reason, the fine folks at ASCII apparently had more than their fair share of sleepless nights pondering what the result of such a coupling would be. If you lived in America during the 16-bit era, odds are you were blissfully ignorant of their creation. However, those lucky Japanese were “privileged” enough to experience the fruit of their creative loins -- Ganpuru: Gunman’s Proof.
Taking place on a fictional island in America’s wild, wild west of the 1880s, Gunman’s Proof tells the story of good aliens trying to stop some evil ones. The bad guys, under the command of a mysterious being known as Demi, have set up a number of bases throughout the island and are doing their part to place the area’s one human settlement under a lot of duress. One young boy doesn’t get what all the fuss is about and, against his parents’ wishes, ventures out of town.
Suddenly, a tiny alien spaceship crashes right in front of him! Fortunately for the kid, these aren’t lackeys of Demi, but a pair of intergalactic law enforcement types trying to capture the villain. However, these aliens can’t hold out for long in Earth’s atmosphere and, after their less-than-graceful landing, their safe-haven spaceship isn’t going anywhere for some time. Luckily for Space Sheriff Zero and his sidekick, they are able to enter the bodies of regular people -- one of whom is staring at them with slack-jawed amazement. Ordering his sidekick to stay in the ship and repair the damages, Zero joins forces with the boy and sets out to take care of Demi, once and for all!
After getting a chilly reception in town, complete with a triple-dose of good, old-fashioned child abuse courtesy of the boy’s morbidly obese father, Zero hits the road to take out Demi’s seven hideouts and then meet up with the alien mastermind in his top-secret lair. Anyone who’s played LttP will feel a strong sense of deja vu from this game. Zero goes from dungeon to dungeon in the overworld, killing bosses to advance closer to Demi. By succeeding in each mission, he earns the right to purchase special items and unlock new abilities in order to get to the next hideout. Clicking the “select” button in either the overworld or a dungeon brings up a map that looks remarkably like those in LttP. On the surface, Gunman’s Proof is little more than a derivative clone.
But the gameplay's a bit different. Zero’s main weapon is a pistol with unlimited ammo. As he progresses through the game, he gets temporary access to other guns, like a fast-firing machine gun and a super-powerful bazooka. Much like those land-based arcade shooters, the main battle strategy in Gunman’s Proof is to quickly gun down anything that gets in your way. While bosses can’t be dispatched that easily, many of them have easily-exploited flaws in their attack pattern. You also collect points for killing foes and finding rare treasures and can get one-ups for beating dungeons and opening certain treasure chests.
ASCII had an intriguing idea when they made this game....it’s just too bad the negative aspects of the two genres involved are what’s most noticeable. Let’s take a peek at Gunman’s Proof’s two most glaring flaws -- the lack of difficulty commonly noticed in Zelda-like adventures and the lack of depth found in Commando-like shooters.
Lack of Difficulty: In virtually every game following the Zelda mold, the fighting’s the easy part, as the game focuses on having you explore a vast world to find well-hidden, but useful, items. You typically get a generous amount of life, enemies drop restoring items frequently and, if that’s not enough, you can hold a decent supply of medicine. Even better, your hero will obtain a number of equipment upgrades throughout his adventure in order to always be more than capable of standing toe-to-toe with the opposition.
For parts of Gunman’s Proof, it looks like things might be different. The first couple of weapon boosts do little more than help keep your head above water. But then, after the fifth dungeon, things get crazy. A special item you get shortly after clearing this place doubles both your attack and defense, making the sixth dungeon child’s play. Then, early in the seventh hideout, you can pick one of two sets of clothes. One greatly enhances Zero’s attack, while the other does the same to his defense. Take the first suit and no enemy, even the final boss, can stand up to his power. Grab the second and it’ll take even the toughest foes an eternity to whittle down his life meter. Considering you’ll probably have obtained a good number of extra lives by this point, it now is nearly impossible to actually die.
But, like I said, these Zelda clones tend to focus on exploration. There are a lot of hidden goodies out there and it can be quite fun to dig up all of them. Which brings us to Gunman’s Proof’s....
Lack of Depth: Virtually every ability Zero can obtain is acquired by talking to the same handful of people after completing dungeons. There are only a couple special items and their only purpose is to open up more of the game’s overworld, which seems much smaller than even one of LttP’s two lands.
And the dungeons are simply boring. There are no puzzles whatsoever in these places -- not even simple ones like “push a block to open the door” or “bomb that obviously cracked wall”. If not for the occasional attack-boosting item in these places, there would be no incentive to do anything but take the shortest path to the boss, as most side paths don’t lead to anything of note. Even worse, some of those items aren’t even worth finding, as they only enhance Zero’s punching power. Alert readers may have noticed this is the first time I’ve mentioned his pugilistic ability. That’s because, compared to all his pretty guns, it has no practical purpose with the exception of one special move that can break the boulders blocking access to one dungeon.
The idea behind Gunman’s Proof is intriguing, unfortunately the game itself isn’t. It’s a short, linear adventure that seems to all but hold your hand to ensure you won’t have any problems apprehending Demi. Instead of combining two genres to make a special game, all ASCII could do was create an adventure with very little exploring and combine it with a non-challenging shooter to create an experience most players will be all too glad to put behind them.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 15, 2007)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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