The original Sega Mega Drive version of Gunstar Heroes was released in 1993 to huge acclaim.
It was the debut game from Treasure, a team of ex-Konami coders who went on to wow audiences with technically impressive classics such as Guardian Heroes, Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga. Thanks to developer M2 this has now become the latest addition to the must-own Sega 3D Classics series.
For those of you who have never played Gunstar Heroes before (shame on you!), it’s a run and gun game – with lots of emphasis on the gunning! But where this game differs from other games in the genre such as Metal Slug or Contra is that it’s far more forgiving: the usual one hit and you lose a life system has been replaced with an energy bar that depletes when you are hit and can also be replenished thanks to handy pick-ups. It’s a good job too, because the sheer amount of enemies on screen in Gunstar Heroes can become overwhelming at times, meaning you don’t have to think too much about avoiding enemy fire and can concentrate more on wiping the blighters out. It also makes the game far more approachable for less experienced players (or those who simply suck at video games!).
Another change from the norm is the weapons and power-up system. In Gunstar Heroes you can combine two different weapons to create a new form of firepower or collect two of the same to increase the already chosen appendage. This system is great and really gets you thinking about what the best weapon combinations are, and once you start to learn the game this becomes even more important as you figure out the best combination for each level/boss. And did I just mention bosses? I sure did, and that is another aspect of this game that is pretty unique. You do get some fairly standard bosses to destroy but then you encounter truly unique ones such as a little fellow who makes you play a board game with him!
Graphically Gunstar Heroes is absolutely sublime. The Mega Drive graphics have been translated perfectly and M2 have gone all out in improving the already impressive 3D effects that this game brought to the table originally. It might lack the all out in-your-face 3D effect of other titles in this series such as Space Harrier or Thunder Blade, but the more considered and well thought out approach to the visual enhancements could arguably be considered more impressive in many ways. Gunstar Heroes also has a great soundtrack too, so you will want to hook up some headphones if you require the full immersive experience this game has to offer.
I should also mention some of the now trademark extras that M2 have added to this release. As well as the pretty standard features such as screen modes, difficulty setting and the ability to choose the Japanese or International version of the game, there are also some cool new settings too. The most notable of these is the Gunslinger mode that gives you the ability to cycle through all the power-ups available using the shoulder buttons to try out the different combinations, but even with this enabled, Gunstar Heroes is still a satisfyingly challenging game.
The more I played this title the more impressed I became, and I found it pretty hard to even put it down for a moment to take a breath! This has to be one of the best games in the 3D Classics series yet and is a must-have purchase for anyone out there with one of the many 3DS models.