Gunstar Heroes (PSN)
-Also on Xbox 360
White has been keeping four powerful jewels safe. If they were ever to land in the hands of someone evil, the entire world would be at risk. Colonel Red is that certain evil someone and looks remarkably like a certain M. Bison. He has captured Green, brainwashed him, and used him to steal the four gems. It’s up to Red and Blue to get the gems back and rescue their older brother, Green.
Noticeably absent from Sega’s Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection was the fan-favorite Treasure masterpiece Gunstar Heroes. How could it have been the “Ultimate” collection without Gunstar Heroes? Well, sporting a few updates, it can be downloaded off PSN (and XBLA). I suppose if any Genesis game deserved a re-release of its own, it would be Gunstar Heroes.
Gunstar Heroes is a side-scrolling platform shoot-em-up along the same vain as Contra and Metal Slug, but cuter and not nearly as hardcore difficult. You start off by picking which character you want o play as, Red or Blue. In the original Genesis version Red could run while firing and Blue stood still while firing. In this updated version, however, you get to choose whether you want to run’n’gun (free shot) or stand and shoot (fixed shot) no matter which brother you choose. You also pick one of four initial weapons to start with. Throughout gameplay, a second weapon can be collected and combined with your existing one. Each weapon can be combined with another or another of itself for many more sweet weapon combos than just the standard four. The game seems almost too easy with homing attached to anything, though. You can basically just stand in one spot and have the weapon do all the work watching the explosions rock the screen.
The ultra combiner weapons aren’t the only things in the Gunstars' arsenal. Each character also has close encounter and defensive moves. For fighting, Red punches while Blue kicks, but they also share other common moves. They can both slide into enemies or away from or under certain bosses. They can both go into a defensive posture that blocks some attacks. Both can also throw enemies, or each other, into other enemies.
You only get one life per stage, but some stages have checkpoints so you don’t have to start from the beginning if you die. That life is shared when playing two-player co-op, but the amount of varied firepower at your disposal makes things easy at times. There are health items scattered among the stages, but they only fill your health a small amount, so it is important to get good at either killing everything or dodging. The game is made a little easier with the “save anywhere” function, which was also present in the games of Ultimate Genesis Collection.
Most of the stages involve running from point to point B, shooting a ton on enemies in between, but each has a cool little innovation. There is a “mine cart” esque stage where you ride in a fast mini tank-ish vehicle that can ride on ceilings and vertical walls. Another satge has you jumping up platform to platform to catch a rocket as it’s taking off. Still another stage is a game board where you throw a dice and move your “piece” that many spaces to fight a boss or grab an item. One of the later stages is even a side scrolling shooter style like R-Type or Gradius where you pilot the Gunstar ship against a space cruiser and its armada.
The graphics are colorful and vibrant with lots of detail and holds up well today. The game has a style that is unmistakable. There is a smoothing filter that smoothes out the pixelated sprites. Overall it looks fine, but a slight amount of detail is lost with it on. The bosses in the game are quite numerous. A boss encounter can and will occur at any time. Each stage has you fighting multiple bosses, sometimes one right after another. When you think you’ve fought the last boss of the stage, another appears.
Gunstar Heroes now includes a full set of Trophies/Achievements. You can obtain 95% of the Trophies/Achievements just by playing through and beating the game, so they are not difficult to earn.
Gunstar Heroes is a classic and loads of fun and is now in HD with online co-op and leaderboards. Although it wasn’t on Ultimate Genesis Collection, the $5 price tag is well worth the supreme amount of Treasure-made shoot-‘em-up goodness.