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GENESIS Reviews: Gunstar Heroes


For those reading one of my Genesis review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:

I already reviewed a bunch of SNES games, so its natural that I am going to review the games of its prime competition. Does the SEGA Genesis stand a chance against the legendary SNES library?

My review series is based on the top 100 list of Retro Sanctuary

-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.

Without further ado, here is:

3: Gunstar Heroes:
Year: 1993.
Genre: Run & Gun.
Publisher: Sega.
Developer: Treasure.

First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.

I must confess that I wasn't a big fan of Treasure's other games on the Genesis. Alien Soldier was definitely a solid shooter, but it was too chaotic and hard to follow, and the less said about the Light Crusader the better.

I am also not a big fan of the Run & Gun genre, finding it too limited and repetitive for great games to come out of it.

Which is why it is doubly surprising that I managed to enjoy Gunstar Heroes so much, proving that this game is a pinnacle for both the console and the genre.

"No!... The Earth, under one person's power"

At the Genesis era, games like Gunstar Heroes didn't usually make any effort to tell a story or to have any sort of narrative. While this is mostly the case for Gunstar Heroes, it actually puts in more effort in crafting a story than other similar games.

Starting with an opening narrative, the evil empire managed to take control of the entire earth, and its up to the heroic Gunstar Heroes to save the world. In order to do so, they must take back the 4 power gems.


That's a very basic story, but the style of the game manages to add more character than that.

Featuring a unique sprite design for its characters, Gunstar Heroes achieves a similar effect to the Metal Slug series by crafting a world that's full of character. That's mostly apparent with the absurdly Bison-like character (from Street Fighter series) Smash Diakatsu, who showcases a lot of humor and personality through his design and animation.

Some Narrative Elements: +1
Very Good Characters: +2

"Your journey ends here"

Gunstar Heroes plays at the outset like any other Run & Gun game, but with a few differences. First, you have the ability to pick any of the four beginning level. Second, you can choose between two shooting styles through your choice of characters. Either fixed shooting, or fixed aim. The first option allows you to aim your shot at a single point and keep firing, but that sacrifices the ability to move and shoot at the same time. Obviously, the second option is the best.

That's not the only difference that counts though. Besides the ability to run and... well, gun, this game allows the hero some significant mobility as well as a variety of offensive option.

You can slide into enemies, as well as do some drop kick attacks. Also, when getting close, you could throw them at each other, with even some bosses being susceptible to that move. Since the game gives you a health bar instead of the one-hit kills of the Contra and Metal Slug series, this expanded move-set allows for extremely chaotic fun.

It's pure chaos at some times

Added to your variety of beat-em-up moves, is of course the weapons themselves. The game basically offers a system where you can have two gems that affect your main gun out of four kinds. There is homing, laser, flame thrower, and rapid fire. Each type has been featured in run & gun games in the past, and you could probably guess how it behaves.

Gunstar Heroes does not only give you the ability to switch between two types, but also to combine them for an extra devastating effect. As far as I can tell, all weapon combinations are valid in some way, but some are clearly more suitable for the majority of the game.

Great Run & Gun Gameplay: +5
Weapon Variety: +2

"Welcome to the Dice Palace"

With such a great gameplay foundation to build on, Gunstar Heroes can only fail if the levels do not do justice to the gameplay. Thankfully, that's not the case here.

Each stage is in some way, drastically different than the other. With even one stage that plays more like a shmup than a Run & Gun game, and another taking place in something similar to a board game. This variety is especially apparent considering the bosses.

Boss battles are exciting and fun

As seen in later Treasure games, they have a tendency to put their best work with their bosses, and that started here. From small-sized baddies to those that cover nearly half the screen, the bosses in show here are among the best in the genre.

By being both fair and fearsome, they manage to strike the perfect balance between challenge and frustration.

Since this game is meant as a score-attack game though, it is supposed t be finished in one-setting. Meaning that there is no saving or passwords, but that's a small issue if your considering emulated versions.

Good Level Variety: +4

"Ha, Ha, Ha... If you want to save Yellow, come to me with all the gems"

With its character designs being part of the charm, and its varied level needing to look varied, this is game that manages to do both justice through its graphics. Through both good sprite arts, and very good background design, the game looks great despite the chaos in the screen.

It's a great sight to see multitude of bullets and enemies flying about at you mow through them with your double flamethrower.

Look behind you man

Special mention needs to be reserved to the surprisingly good 3D graphics though. Somehow, the game manages to put in a couple of sequences where 3D polygons interact with 2D space without being overly offensive to the eye.

Audio-wise, the game is just as good. Through both effects and music, it showcases an energetic tone throughout. Something that particularly invites players to go forward despite the difficulties faced.

Good Graphics: +3
Good Music: +3

In Conclusion:

Most of the time, I am confident of what I think my opinion on a game would be. In this case, I thought Treasure would have a third strike, and they will be out. It's their first game, and their latter efforts gave me no reason to celebrate.

Which is why I am happy that this time I was wrong. This game is not only a fine first-time effort by Treasure, but a very good game as well.

Final: 45/50

Keep on lovin' you



1- For maximum defense, take homing weapons and move to avoid being hit.
2- For maximum offense, its all about the flamethrower baby.
3- In the Shmup stage, you will live and die by you combination, so try for a homing flamethrower.
4- Don't always use the combination effect, sometimes a single option is the best (rarely so).
5- You can double the weapon style for double the single-type impact.
6- Always go with free movement.

Next Game:

I know that one Dtoid member hoped I would enjoy a Treasure game, and now it came to pass that I did indeed enjoy one. Still a toss-out between this game and Hard Corps as the best Genesis Run & Gun.

Two games remain in the list, but I got a weird request to review a game from one Goallegacy poster. So, for the next game, I will be reviewing Ringside Angel, a wrestling game with some "unique" characteristics It's going to be a shorter than usual review though.

Stay Tuned

For Previous Genesis game Reviews:

The List

 For More Screenshots:

See Here

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About Lord Spencerone of us since 5:57 PM on 01.12.2014

Hello all, I am Lord Spencer, your friendly neighborhood royalty. Yes, the ancient bloodlines are letting absolutely anyone in these days.

Being the lurker that I am, I have been following Destructoid for more than four years. Well, its 3 AM where I live now, and I just plunged in getting HUGE in the way.

Here is hoping for a fun time.

Oh yes, here is a little more info about me that is probably not as interesting as I think it is:

-I owned and played about 1000+ games.
-I owned and read about 2000+ books (I counted comic books I read as a kid so this is not as impressive as it sounds).
-I absolutely love Legos.

Out of all the games I played, I only regret playing a few. I am a big fan of gaming, and thus I really like most of what I play.

Seeing as my top 10 games of all time would change depending on the day you ask me, I am just going to put in Random games I don't think are in anyone's top 10 list:

-Blood Will Tell
-Mega Man Legends 2
-Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
-Donkey Kong Country 2
-Suikoden 2

Oh, and here is a link to my blogs:
My Blogs