â€œGunstar Super heroesâ€ is a game for the well-known handheld video game system, the Gameboy Advance.
First some background information. If you didn't already know, Gunstar Super Heroes is actually a sequel. It is based off of a forerunner called â€œGunstar heroesâ€ (same thing just without the â€œsuperâ€). This original (non-super version) came out more than ten years ago on the old â€œSega Genesisâ€ system. As it turns out, I own a copy of this older version. I found it for four dollars at a flea market. I've beaten it. As it also turns out, Gunstar Heroes is very, very awesome. In fact, it was so awesome, that when I heard they were going to make Gunstar SUPER Heroes on the Game Boy, I got quite excited, and I vowed that I would buy it some day. Come Christmas, I got some gift cards, and I did just that.
Quite unfortunately, Gunstar Heroes is not quite as well known as Super Mario or some other gaming icon of that nature (it should be <.<, and I have played the original version, so, needless to say, this leaves me at a bit of a viewpoint that many could find themselves difficult to relate to. So, this review is going to be formatted into two viewpoints. One is for those who know nothing about Gunstar Heroes, and the other is for those who have played (and undoubtedly love) the old, non-super version. I shall begin with a review intended for those who know nothing about the game or its predecessor.
The basic story of Gunstar Super Heroes is something of a cartoony-Jananese-anime-esque science fiction. The setting is planet earth, sometime in the future. The characters are three young persons belonging to some sort of elite force called the â€œgunstarsâ€. There's Blue, Red, and Yellow. Blue and Red are hot-tempered anime-esque guys who shoot stuff. Yellow is a girl who flies them around in a ship and also gives them advice.
Now, according to the plot, there is some diabolical faction of militaristic extremists dubbed â€œthe empireâ€. The Empire wants to take over earth and establish a new world order. One day, the Empire attacks the Gunstars' base (this happens to be the first level). The empire is going to take over the world, etcetera. There's also something about the Empire trying to take these four magic, multicolored gems and awaken some apocalyptic deity, but no one really cares about this. Basically to sum everything up you've got a bad-guy vs. good-guy situation sufficient to justify enough of the game's characters, Blue and Red, blowing up clumsy enemy troopers and blasting through various levels and stuff like that. It's fun, though, so I really don't care much about the loose story.
Okay, story aside, now to the actual game. Good grief, though, the graphics in this game are unbelievable. The character renderings and animations are flawless. Everything just looks so smooth and well illustrated (there's even this one high-speed level where Blue's hair blows around in the wind). But it doesn't stop here. The nice graphics are one thing, but the special effects are another. Gosh... At times I was left to wonder how my dinged-up gameboy could carry out this stuff and not be left with smoke pouring out of its crevices! I can hardly begin to describe some of the 3-D effects in this game. For example, there's this one boss enemy (sort of a giant robot with grabber-hands) who, while flying in the sky, shifts around left and right, and alternates between pulling back and accelerating forward, and it has this sort of overlapping effect that makes it look 3-D. It's really quite stunning. Then there's this other level where you're actually piloting a helicopter over a city filled with sky scrapers and other such buildings, and as you move forward on the screen, the buildings below actually shift in perspective. It's kind of hard to describe, but the effect it has is really cool. Then there's this one level where you're blasting forward on top of this ship, and they create this effect that makes it look like the features in the landscape and clouds and stuff like that are just blasting past you at warp speed. There's all sorts of little nifty things here and there.
â€œNow, good graphics are nice,â€ you're probably thinking, â€œbut what are you PLAYING while all these visuals are going on?â€ Well, the fundamental gameplay is a left-to-right sidescrolling affair, but with shooting. Hordes of clumsy, comical empire minions come pouring in by the dozens, and you've got to blast them away with your various weapons (a total of three you can switch between). It's really quite difficult to express the exact effect that comes from the fireworks show of gorgeous explosions covering the little screen as legions after legions of clumsy underlings come pouring in by the dozens (after you blow them to pieces, of course), but I think you should get the idea. You have to basically navigate from left to right, fighting off the occasional mini-boss, negotiating some minimal obstacles, blasting everything in sight to pieces, and ultimately completing the level and earning the â€œgemâ€ at the end. However, there's a good deal of variety peppered throughout the extent of the game, like the previously mentioned helicopter flight, or there's this one weird level where you have to navigate through this rotating maze and collect all these birds (if you've ever played â€œFlickyâ€ for the Sega Genesis you'd understand. >.<
With plentiful bosses, utterly beautiful graphics (probably best for the system), a zany sense of humor and a healthy dose of explosive action, this is a really nice Gameboy game to have around when you're on a boring car ride, or something along those lines. If anything, it's too short, but if you've never experienced Gunstar Heroes before, the other, better qualities should be more than sufficient to make up for this (it's even kinda fun to play over again). Fun game, this is.
Final score: 8 out of 10.
Now, in case you already know about the original Gunstar Heroes, this review is for you. Be notified that everything is written in comparison from the old version to the new one.
Compared to the old version, the graphics are put into complete and total overhaul. Every graphical advantage that the Gameboy Advance has over the Genesis is taken advantage of. Real-time sprite scaling, real time sprite rotation, expanded color palette, digitized sound... Honestly, the graphical and sound quality alone might have been substantial for a mere port of the old version.
Speaking of sound, by the way... the character's actually talk in this version. They've got brief voice clips. For example, when you run into green, he say's, â€œI am Green... Seven Force!â€ And it'd be one thing if they got some lousy off-the-street voice actors, but I've got to hand it to them, they chose these actors well. The voices are really well suited for their respective characters. Pink says something I can't quite make out... Orange says â€œI am Orange. I will crush you with a single blow of my fist!â€ There's also little â€œhiya!â€ and â€œahh!â€ clips when you're actually playing, some from your character, others from the clumsy grunts you have to obliterate.
If you remember how the dialog and text and stuff (to explain the story) seemed like a poorly translated Japanese cartoon, they completely took care of that in this version. They must have gotten a reasonably avid English writer to make all the dialog. There's also huge, hand-drawn, anime-like pictures they use to represent the characters, and that's a plus (think Fire Emblem, if you've ever played it).
The game has a save feature, which is really quite nice compared to having to set aside an hour or two to blaze through the old, non-saving version.
Unfortunately, while there are many improvements, there are some holes left behind in the light of the colossal expectation set by the first Gunstar Heroes. These are regrettably listed below.
The weapon system is downgraded. You can't mix and match weapons anymore; now you're stuck with a set of three weapons and some weird system whereby you have to charge up this meter to attain a â€œsuper attackâ€. I must admit, the â€œsuper attackâ€ is a sweet addition, but the loss of mixing and matching weapons is pretty sad. I was hoping they'd ADD some MORE elements to mix and match (like an ice weapon, maybe?), not abolish that system altogether. Even so, this loss is still surprisingly slight, and things maintain their fun to a reasonable extent in spite of this loss. Well.. THIS loss, anyway.
The biggest thing about this game as a sequel is the length.
Maybe I ought to make an example. Do you remember the old minecart level? That level went on for a while. You'd go down that one horizontal shaft, then it would take a vertical drop, then you'd go down a horizontal one, then you'd run into that gun train, then you'd go vertical again, then this, then that, etcetera etcetera... and by golly by the time you got to the end of things you felt like you had ACCOMPLISHED something. Well, in this one, you go down like one horizontal shaft, one vertical one, you make an obligatory encounter with the evil red-guy's train (where he starts throwing minions at you) and then that's IT. Moving right on to Green's Seven Force. â€œWhat!â€ you'll be yelling, â€œThat's all? What about... what about the train with all the minions fallen asleep inside of it? What about... gah! It's just too SHORT!â€
Yet another thing that struck me as being particularly short was the outer-space shooting level (where you're flying around in a ship). You remember how it just went on and on with wave after wave of enemies, and then you'd run into Timeron, and then the 200mm cannon, and then Green's Seven Force (delightfully miniaturized)... Not so in Gunstar Super Heroes. You just seem to buzz past some enemies â€“ no mini bosses â€“ and then it's OVER.
On the first level, the one with the tiny village and the jungle and stuff, that part where you slide down the pyramid is taken out. It's not even there. Then the jungle romp after that, with the hornets and the grabber-arms, that's taken out, too. The pyramid just caves in after you kill the block-man thing and then you have to fight Pink underground.
The â€œmain reactor coreâ€ boss is taken out (that Vectorman-looking thing, after the space-shooty level). After the space-shooty level you're taken right to the thing where you have to fight all the old bosses over again.
Now for some characters and mannerisms that were completely left out.
The professor wasn't in it. You know, that lab-coat clad frizzy haired guy who described the various levels to you? He's not in it. I mean he is GONE, period.
That diabolical officer in the red uniform (you know... the guy who looks like major bison from street fighter) is hardly featured AT ALL. In the Genesis version you had to fight this freak like five times. In this one he shows up for combat TWICE. Once in some level I can't remember, and another time in Black's dice maze... and in Black's dice maze that's only a statistical CHANCE of fighting him, not a REQUIRED confrontation.
The â€œfinal ultimate boss soldierâ€ - the one with â€œlove love dancingâ€ - doesn't show up at ALL. That was one of the funniest parts!
I find it strange that while this game is supposed to take place AHEAD in time, the story and characters are all exactly the same (professor notwithstanding <.<. The climactic ending is even identical to that of its predecessor.
The music is mostly reused from the old Gunstar Heroes, just slightly remixed. I mean, this is OK, but it would have been nice if they'd got the original composers to make something new? Ah well... this isn't such a big deal, but it's particularly noteworthy when you've got the EXACT SAME tunes playing from the old game in what's supposed to be a SEQUEL (implying improvement).
Now, at this point I probably ought to mention that this game is not DEVOID of innovation. There are new levels, new bosses, and a substantial amount of general â€œnewnessâ€ to make this a good sequel. It's just... gah.. mildly frustrating. Could have been better... but it's still pretty good.
SO, for fans of the original Sega Genesis version of Gunstar heroes, I must say in conclusion that if you are seeking a successor to your beloved game, you can expect to be somewhat underwhelmed. HOWEVER, this is not to say it's a bad game. Consider it a handheld â€œdeluxeâ€ version of your old Gunstar Heroes, with better graphics, some new bosses, new levels, but some other stuff taken out in the process.
And... that's all.