Game: Gunstar Heroes System: Sega Genesis Emulators: Gens Designed by: Treasure Release Date: September 9, 1993 Genre: Action Gunstar Heroes is one of those games that wasn't hyped up by Sega at the time that it came out, but nonetheless, more people know about it now than back in 1993. This fast-paced action game by Treasure is one of those hard to find cult classics, due to bad marketing at the time, but it can easily be found online. It probably goes for about $10 or so now, so if you don't feel like downloading it, it's not going to burn a deep hole in your pocket, unlike basically every RPG Square released for the SNES. The graphics in this game are good, considering that it was an early Genesis game. The "bubble" mini-explosions that accompany the death of all the enemies are different than basically every other explosion effect that tend to be the norm in lot of games these days, which certainly counts for something. The sprites are respectably done, and they have an anime look about them seems to add to the appeal (Even though some of the levels remind me of old used car lot commercials from Nashville during the same period, for some reason). Based on the style, I'd say that this was supposed to be a shooter for the younger crowd that had skill, but there's really nothing wrong with that. After all, the average person reading this is probably in their late teens or early 20's now (Ok, maybe mid-40s), so that would not have been much of a stretch back then. The music in Gunstar Heroes seemed to fit the mood of each stage fairly well. It's not going to really get you into the mood to kill thousands of robots entirely on its own, but once the action gets going, the music helps a lot. All of the sound effects fit each weapon and explosion rather well. When you hit someone with the Chaser, it makes a light, high-pitched "tink" that seems to go with what's happening on the screen. My favorite music from the game, and this was probably one of the initial selling points for me, was the title screen theme. When I first started this game up, that theme, combined with the title screen itself, made me want to jump into the action and start immediately blowing up robots. One thing that might frustrate a few people game is the controls. Although they're fairly simplistic and easy to use, you might accidentally throw a robot instead of shooting and blowing up 5 at a time, if you start button-mashing too quickly in a crowd of bots. The biggest factor in the experience with the controls comes with whether you choose to have a Free or Fixed shot. Free lets you run while shooting, and Fixed makes you unable to run while shooting, but you can shoot in 8 directions, which has its perks at different parts of the games. This part is really a matter of preference, but it greatly influences how the game is played. Some boss battles are a cakewalk with the Fixed shot (The fight at the end of the jungle is a good example, once you figure out where the enemy won't fire), while others are easier if you're able to move and fire constantly. This can lead to a little frustration, if you don't adapt accordingly. Overall, there's nothing wrong with the controls, but you will need to adapt your style to work with the strengths and weaknesses of both options. A final note, about Fixed/Free: Your character is determined by this choice. The Free Shot character's name is Red, and the Fixed Shot character's name is Blue. That's probably pretty unimportant, but it has been noted. Some will like this game simply because of the choices you get at the beginning. You can choose between fixed or free shooting, and you can choose your starting weapon (Your choices are: Force, Lightning, Fire, and Chaser). You can then combine these weapons with other weapons or get a second one for even more power. The ability to mix and match weapons is an example that more games of this type should have followed, because this was actually a pretty smart way to keep people playing (4 x 4 x 2 = 32 different ways to go about playing the game). Think about it: How many people who have played this have strived to beat the game by using different weapon combos? It adds a different twist to things, and is just the thing to keep your run of the mill gaming junkie busy for a few hours or days. To sum it all up, Gunstar Heroes is a solid 2-D shooter for someone who wants something that doesn't take itself very seriously, yet also brings a few different elements to the table in order to keep things interesting. To sum it up in one large sentence, The graphics are anime-like (In a good way), the sound effects are dead on, the controls might piss a few people off until they find which type of shooting they're best with, and the mixing and matching of weapons makes the game more enjoyable and maybe even replayable for all. Some of the critics of the game will dismiss it as a Metal Slug or Contra clone, but I never saw a Dice Board in Contra, nor have I heard about Metal Slug having an equivalent to the Timeron Challenge. Overall Score: 9.0 Grade: A- Overall I give this game a »» View my review in its original format!