Gunstar Heroes(1)

Genre: Run and Gun
Year: 1993
Developed by: Treasure
Published by: Sega
Platforms: Genesis, Game Gear, 3DS
Feeling Like: Guns. Lots of guns.

If there’s a single song that encapsulates Gunstar Heroes, it’s this one from Malcos. It comes from – a haven for nerds like myself who want to listen to video game soundtracks as much as humanly possible. And it’s all for free.

The talent on display is almost embarrassing. Hundreds of remixers, thousands of songs available in every genre you can think of; trance, country, pop, synth, rap…you name it, they’ve remixed it. And ‘Deep Mine’ is one of my favorites.

I don’t think the song personifies the developer or anything like that. It’s just cool from start to finish, and unlike anything I’ve played before. It’s unforgettable and that’s Treasure in a nutshell. They’re responsible for some of my favorites, nearly all of them require an insane amount of shooting, dodging and more shooting. God, I love Treasure games.

Gunstar Heroes(2)
Lasers, jump kicks, explosions and robots. What else do you need?

Everything is done fast in Gunstar Heroes. Enemies fly onto the screen unannounced, and often. You can slide down pyramids, bosses will sprint at you with fatal intentions, vehicle levels will test your reflexes like no other. ‘Run and Gun’ was never more accurate. There are so few Genesis games that have aged well; here’s one of them.

To say this is like Contra would be doing both a disservice. There are some significant differences: Mercifully, you have a health bar here. You can slide and throw enemies. You can combine the four weapon types, allowing for 14 different mixtures. You can choose the stages, Mega Man style. Everything is easy to perform thanks to the controls.

The game itself, on the other hand, is hard as nails. I mean, it’s a Treasure game. If you didn’t know that Treasure games are hard as nails, you do now.

Steve and I played through this to even greater enjoyment than with River City Ransom. There’s a lack of barfing and naked sauna visits, but the game felt tighter in every way. There wasn’t any exploration needed – go right, and shoot. Make sure you don’t hog the power ups. Memorize boss patterns. Experiment. Didn’t you always want a homing flamethrower?

Gunstar Heroes(3)
It’s like the boss from Dynamite Headdy, only fun.

I don’t care that the story is bonkers, or that the heroes are dressed as Tron rejects. I’d replay this in a heartbeat; I can still hear the signature Genesis sound effects in my head and you’ll be hearing them a lot. There’s very few quiet moments, this is a loud, brash, adrenaline shot to your senses and it doesn’t make any apologies for it.

They experiment with some 3D effects, there’s a 2D space shooter section, the bosses stretch the limits of creativity the Genesis hardware permits. There’s a fight on a helicopter. There’s a board game section. There’s an M.Bison ripoff. There are alien robots. The soundtrack is non-stop bangers. You have unlimited continues, and varying difficulties to further challenge yourself.

After going back and watching reviews, checking my notes and scanning my own nostalgia, it’s definitely surprising this isn’t rated higher on the list. It was fun then, and it’s fun now. I can’t really think of a major flaw. Could it be that we’re just reaching a new echelon of quality on the list? Or am I just needlessly rushing through this review and refuse to scrutinize every detail?

Nah. I don’t think that’s appropriate for a Treasure game. Fast. Shoot. Leave. Go. GO.

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