Oh how I miss the days of the good old side-scrolling run-and-gun video game. During the early 90’s, action side-scrollers ruled the console gaming scene. Games like Contra and Metal Slug were extremely popular due to their insane action sequences and challenging battle sequences. Let’s take a look at this week’s retro game of the week and a legend in the shoot ‘em up genre: Gunstar Heroes.
Developed by Treasure, Gunstar Heroes was an innovative run and gun shooter released on the Genesis back in 1993. Players chose between playable two twin heroes: Gunstar Red and Gunstar Blue. As Gunstar Red, players were able to shoot (with a limited aiming capacity) while moving whereas with Gunstar Blue, players could shoot (only from a standstill) in any direction. Personally, I preferred Gunstar Red’s freedom of movement while blasting through each level. Speaking of levels, Gunstar Heroes had damn good level design. The game didn’t just have a variety of locales, it also threw a variety of different gameplay elements into each level as well. This game had players doing everything from piloting a ship through epic space battles to rolling dice to win a villain’s board game.
The highlight of this game has to be the weapons system. There were four basic types of weapons: lightning, fire, homing and machine gun. Players were able to combine two weapons into one stronger one at any given time. For example, combining the lightning gun with the homing gun created a “homing lightning gun” that would cause the lightning to seek out the nearest bad guy. My favorite was the machine gun + fire combination. These epic weapons were quite neccesary to take down the even more epic bosses in this game. I won’t spoil the game for those who haven’t played it, but I will say that this game has some of the illest boss fights of any game ever made…hands down. The most memorable of these boss fights is no doubt the battle against Seven Force.
Graphically, this game was spectacular. I dare say this game has some of the best 16-bit graphics I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The boss sprites and animations had an almost Neo-Geo level of polish to them. The soundtrack was pretty enjoyable too.
Gunstar Heroes was one of the defining video games in my childhood life. The game’s awesome blend of innovation and stellar graphics made sure it stayed in my catalog for awhile. If you haven’t played it, I guarantee it’s a great reason to fire up that old Sega Genesis (or you can just grab it on the iPhone/iPad).