More retro goodness from Backbone Entertainment, the team that resurrected a disc full of retro classics with Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection. Next up is what got left out, namely this little classic from the Treasure dev team.
Chances are if you had a Mega Drive in the 90s you’ll remember this, if not here’s your chance for only £3.99. Out of the scores of side scrolling shooters this is among the best along with the likes of the Metal Slug series.
Like the aforementioned Mega Drive collection the adaptability options have been included. You can play the game in its original aspect ratio or stretch it to widescreen and turn on a smoothing effect. This time around the borders are black (like a widescreen film) so you don’t need to worry about screen burn as much if you’re not up for filling out the screen.
The basic aim of the game is to move from the left side of the level to the right on foot while blasting everything in sight. You begin by choosing one of four weapons: a rapid fire blaster, flamethrower, laser, and homing missiles. As you progress through a level you can pick up another one of these four to swap between at will. A word of warning though, choosing the homing missiles removes all skill from the game as you don’t even need to aim, just run and hold down shoot and everything dies. Screw it, do it once at least, it’s like being some sort of gun-toting deity.
Now if you’ve read some of the other reviews of this PS3 port you may have heard that the ability to combine weapons has been lost. This is FALSE! Sometimes it’s not immediately obvious that the weapons are combined as they don’t show both of them together as mixed colours, i.e. blue laser mixed with orange flames. Instead that pairing will produce a steady laser (like a lightsaber), which will be a similar distance to the original flamethrower. Or you could combine the blaster with the homing missiles. This produces a 20 foot long trail of homing fiery death. Alternatively you can double up on the same weapon to make it well…badass. Get double homing and you’re laughing.
Considering this was originally released in 1993 it’s surprising how many moves your little guy has apart from shoot. Your sprite can slide, hang from ledges, walljump, do a flying punch and throw enemies. Merely touching enemies doesn’t harm you for a change; you have to be shot by them to take damage. You can use the left analogue stick to move and aim in eight directions so you don’t need to feel limited by the old D-pad controls.
There are four difficulty settings with the harder ones meaning more enemy fire to dodge and different techniques from the bosses. Enemies don’t seem to have more energy so you don’t have to shoot every grunt fifty times before he drops.
You’re right at home here if you enjoy the Metal Slug games. You don’t get any tanks to control but there’s a mine-cart level (all the rage back then) and a spaceship level, which is a bit cack until you get used to the controls. Gunstar Heroes has one big advantage over the Metal Slug games though, a health counter for bosses.
No need to blast away forever wondering when it’s all gonna end. Bosses are mercifully short and you can change weapon combinations to see what works best on it. Speaking of bosses, this little red guy (who has an awesome evil laugh) that keeps popping up, looks more than a little like M. Bison from the Street Fighter games. Well the thievery karma balance is restored as a few years after this game’s original release, Vectorman came out looking a lot like one of the bosses on this picture (top right).
The levels are varied enough to entice you into playing through in one session in just under two hours. There’s forests, mines, factories, a rocket ship station where you chase it as it launches by climbing the launch tower to hop on at the top. There’s even a board game one where you throw a dice to progress, with some squares taking you to challenge rooms (kill everything, pick an item or mazes).
If you stay in some areas the stream of baddies just never ends so just fill your boots and keep moving right when you fancy or your arm starts to cramp up. Some of the levels feel quite long when you die at the boss and have to start it again. This could get annoying, but don’t forget this version allows you to save absolutely anywhere, and yes it does feel like you’re angering the hardcore retro gods. Ha!
Trophies are in, and it’s quite easy to get all of them in one playthrough, but that’s not the best reason to play again. Yes, multiplayer is in with two player offline and online! Offline is the way to go though as online would be a bit boring. Offline you can more easily set up throwing each other into enemy soldiers as an extra weapon, it doesn’t hurt each other either so there’ll be no arguments.
Short and sweet is the order of the day here. If you missed it in the 90s you should treat yourself for well under the cost of two pints and only 35Mb on your hard-drive.