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An Obscure Shoot 'em Up - Gunstar Heroes Review
When many gamers think of classic shoot ‘em ups, Contra and Metal Slug are often the two most popular choices. Back in 1993, however, a run and gun game launched on the Genesis that not only fell under the same category of game as those titles, but offered its own style and charm as well. That game was Gunstar Heroes, and while it never gained the level of notoriety like Contra and Metal Slug did, it definitely deserves to be noticed and appreciated. That’s why its inclusion on the Virtual Console is a great thing, and something that has already garnered a new following of fans for this title.
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Gunstar Heroes Storyline
The original story of Gunstar Heroes revolves around a team of heroic brothers who must keep an evil god from awakening. It’s fairly dark storytelling, and this tale is left exclusive to the Japanese version of the game. Unfortunately, the North American version of Gunstar Heroes gets the watered down (and somewhat generic) story where the god is replaced by a robot. Luckily, the game’s plot is the last thing you’ll be worrying about as you take on countless enemies and awesome bosses.
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Gunstar Heroes Gameplay
Gunstar Heroes relies on simple running and gunning mechanics. Enemies fill the screen at a rapid rate, and it is your job to shoot every last one of them. Villains get progressively stronger and attack in larger groups as the game progresses. And while the lowest difficulty setting provides just a small challenge, higher settings really keep you on your toes.
Before you start playing, you must choose whether you want your character to shoot while running, making him much more elusive, or utilize a fixed shot, meaning he stands still while shooting but can aim better. After making that selection, you must choose one of four gun types: Force, Lightning, Chaser, and Flame. The cool thing about Gunstar Heroes is that you can acquire different weapon types and combine them to create a super powerful gun. So say for example that you combine Chaser and Flame, you’ll end up with a powerful homing gun that shoots fire at enemies.
A great shoot ‘em up is always better when there’s a co-op component included, and Gunstar Heroes allows two players to take on the game together. This adds an extra layer of fun to this already impressive package, and being able to shoot enemies alongside a friend—or better yet, hurl your friend into enemies, in the process destroying them—is very rewarding.
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Gunstar Heroes can be played by holding the Wii Remote sideways, but that isn't the best option. Switching between your two weapons or combing them is done with the A button, and having to reach over from the D-Pad to the A button while you control your character can be a bit of a nuisance. Still, if you don't have access to either a Classic Controller or a GameCube controller, the Wii Remote works well enough.
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Graphics and Sound
Gunstar Heroes features interesting, anime-inspired characters, over-the-top (and oftentimes silly) bosses, and colorful environments. The art style isn’t too detailed, but it looks pretty good overall, and with explosions literally filling different parts of the screen nearly every second, it’s hard to notice the game’s lack of precise detail in the backgrounds. The sound is similarly good, with fast-paced music in each of the game’s levels and “chippy” shooting sounds. Everything in the game looks, feels, and sounds a bit quirky, but that all just adds to the style.
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Unfortunately, for as awesome a Genesis game as Gunstar Heroes is, it’s not the longest-lasting shoot ‘em up experience. With only a handful of levels to play through, the game is over rather quickly. Luckily, the higher difficulties not only keep you playing for longer due to their challenge, but some bosses take on different forms, making boss battles last a lot longer. Still, it’s a shame a few more levels weren’t thrown into the game. Gunstar Heroes is the kind of game that you can get lost in, and it’s unfortunate that it’s over so quickly.
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Gunstar Heroes Overall Score
Gunstar Heroes may not have the following that Contra has, and the game’s fan base is certainly a lot smaller than that of Metal Slug’s, but that doesn’t change the fact that this game deserves to be held in high regard like those titles. It’s not a very long-lasting experience, but it is certainly a memorable one. Gunstar Heroes is action-packed from beginning to end, and whether you’re doing some side-scrolling, moving vertically, or utilizing a space craft and taking the fight to the skies, there’s no denying that this varied shoot ‘em up is one heck of an addition to the Virtual Console.