Note: This is the second part of a six part retrospective look at Treasure. Click here to read the whole series.
If there is any game that defines the 16 bit era for me, it is Gunstar Heroes for the Sega Genesis. Released in 1993 with minimum promotion, the game never took off in terms of sales like it deserved. Instead, it has attained a level of cult status very few games receive, but developers always hope will occur for their projects.
I stumbled upon the game while walking through a used videogame dealer over 10 years ago. They had a demo for play, so I decided to try it out and was immediately hooked by how fast paced it was. Some months would pass before I finally bought a copy of it for a mere $30. Ten years later, even by today's standards, I cannot say I have played many games that can compare to this classic.
You play as a Gunstar Hero-- an intergalactic protector of planets and their citizens. You must fight against a dictator, Smash Daisaku, who is trying to resurrect a powerful robot called Golden Silver. The truth is, unless you are as dedciated as myself and many others to the history of Gunstar Heroes, from the moment you begin to play, the story will be the last thing on your mind.
At the beginning of the game, you can choose between two characters, the Red or Blue Gunstar. The major difference between them is that Red Gunstar can run and shoot at the same time while Blue Gunstar must to stand still to shoot.
After choosing your character, you then have a choice of four stages to choose from. In total, there are seven stages, but if you are like me, when I first played this game, I knew nothing about them. So while many complained that the game was too short, for me, the game kept going on and I had no idea when it was going to finish.
The gameplay is what makes Gunstar Heroes the classic that it is. It is all about mind-numbing action, yet somewhere in the mix of everything that is going on there is a certain level of strategy, and for those that really want to explore, there is an ability to make up your own minigames.
The controls are very simple. Gunstar Heroes uses a 3 button set up: change weapons, shoot and jump. You can also powerslide, combine weapons, and throw. The throwing ability is actually my favorite aspect of the game. The enemies have this ricochet effect when you throw them-- they bounce off of each other after colliding. I remember spending hours with friends playing our own version of "Gunstar King of the Hill" by tossing each other into pools of enemies from a platform seated above/away from them.
Graphically, Gunstar Heroes is very impressive for its time period, especially on the Genesis. The entire game itself is an eye opener, and the graphics only compliment it with their vibrant colors and the activity taking place on screen.
The music is great, and the sound effects work, too. There is so much happening on screen, with sound effects accompanying it, that it verges on audio overload.
When it comes to replay value, it should suffice to say that this is the reason I still own a (working) Genesis. The game is over ten years old now, and I still prefer it to the majority of game offerings that exist today, especially when I am playing it on the extreme difficulty level, which is pure madness. I have never actually beat the game on Extreme-- I just love the chaos, which makes normal games seem boring by comparison.
So if you can find a copy of Gunstar Heroes, I highly recommend it. I would also suggest keeping an eye out for the Game Gear version of this game that also did not get much attention and was released a couple years later. It was almost enough to get me to buy a Game Gear. Almost.