Genre: 2D Arcade Action
|FIMP: Gunstar Heroes [GENESIS]|
My Sega-hating followed me up until the mature end of the Playstation Era in 1998, when I met AnTiPoDe. Tales of high quality Sega Saturn games that I had been missing and first-hand experience the next year with his import Dreamcast started to spin me around and start to dissolve my claim that the Playstation and the N64 were too superior to consider any kind of Sega competition. I was shown the door to the company whose name stood for "Service and Games", and I opened it. It only took one game to pull me through.
So we come to the Sega Genesis, its incredible ally Treasure, and Gunstar Heroes. Were it not for the AnTiPoDe, I would probably have never heard of Gunstar Heroes. Ouch. People, I realize you want to read a FIMP -- not overdramatic, worthless drivel of my life story. Too bad. I did that for a reason, and a good one. The fact that I would take the time and attention to point out my failings as a younger gamer and a turn to a company I hated unjustly should show you the impact that Gunstar Heroes -- and its creator, Treasure -- has had, does have, and should forever have on true video-gamers.
Gunstar Heroes at first glance seems like a, "What's the big deal?" game. Just like Contra and its sequels, and Castlevania and its sequels (notice: all developed by a Konami team that employed future Treasure members). You romp through four long stages either solo or with a partner, and there are weapons, and many bad guys to kill. Yay, so what's the big deal, right?
Well, what pre-Treasure got right with Contra is taken and astronomically improved in this game. The once-awesome weapons in Contra are upstaged by the maniacal weapons in Gunstar Heroes -- a heat-seeking shot, plain-jane but hefty machine gun, laser beam, and flame thrower. Yeah, that's right, I said upstaged. Because the cool thing about this is, like Contra III, you hold two of these at a time. Unlike Contra III, you can combine their powers to create even deadlier weapons. Barrels of flame that follow your enemy, or laser beams that constantly ensnare an enemy until destruction -- whereupon it moves to find another victim. Fire them in any direction you please, using two modes where you run or stay put while shooting (selectable before play begins). Use melee attacks (like a body splash, or a sliding kick) when in close range to really bruise up the enemy. Hang off of ledges and assault your enemies from above.
Let's not forget the dastardly Treasure design principals, which have got to be, "If stage design is simple, throw everything and the kitchen sink at them. If stage design is complex, throw everything and the kitchen sink at them. If fighting a boss, throw everything and the kitchen sink at them." Enemies are flying in from everywhere, and your job is to aim true or become goo. Stages seem simple in structure but always have some "thing" lurking about, whether it be a crazy modified-mine-cart ride (fully controllable, not like that ape$hit in Donkey Kong Country, pun intended) or a boss battle on the wings of an airborne vehicle.
I haven't even begun to talk about the game board part or the nasty bosses that come with the later stages. (Part of the reason for that is that I've played that far in the game about three years ago, and I've only just recently begun to re-play it.) Treasure also saw fit to equip us with responsive, sharp controls. The game really feels like Contra on steroids, and controlling the Red and Blue heroes comes like second nature. It's a shooter from top to bottom, and it oozes with the action, intensity and great controls that a shooter requires before it can be considered a piece of art.
And really, that's all there is to it. Some of the greatest games are some of the simplest in concept. It's almost gone missing today, with games like Ikaruga (DC, Gamecube), Silpheed: Lost Planet (PS2), Metal Slug 3 (Xbox) and even Super Monkey Ball and Pac-Man Vs. (Gamecube) struggling to keep the old-school mechanic alive and updated for today. I could pray for Gunstar Heroes on Cube, PS2 and Xbox, but I know Metal Slug (which is still excellent) is the closest we'll get. Treasure, if you're out there, please save today's young gamers. Complex systems and tactics make for rewarding games, but so does an experience requiring lighting fast reflexes, keen eyes and skilled coordination. Gunstar Heroes, or something like it. 2005. Please make it so.
A review when I finish, but I think this FIMP already says all that you need to know.
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