(Sega/Treasure, 1993)

I found this particular game in a blue recycling bin where you can see tons of discarded older games that almost border line on trash to the shop owner. In a sea of old school sports title that most gamers wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, one of the games in there was an old Sega Genesis game call Gunstar Heroes.  If you never heard of this Gunstar Heroes before, the game is easily one of the best action shoot em ups ever created and it only cost me 3 bucks! Heh heh, Suckers!

Kill and destroy hundreds in 60 seconds!

Do you love guns? Do you love intense arcade action? Do you love the old NES classic Contra? The dudes at Treasure and Sega gave us one heck of a Run n' Gun game here from 1993 and I'm going to tell you why it is so good. You want wild weapons, GH lets you create your own special gun by combining power ups plus you can even punch and kick your way through evil robots if they get too close. GH is such a wild game with superior graphics and sound that no old school fan should be without it!

The story begins when a goofy M. Bison look-a-like by the name of Colonel Red leads an army to invade the peaceful planet of Gunstar 9. Colonel Red has also managed to brain wash Gunstar 9 warrior known as Green (all the characters are named after colours by the way) and since he under the Colonel's power, Red's army was able to steal the four Mystical Gems to gain full control of Gunstar 9's very own droids.  If that wasn't bad enough you also have to worry about the resurrection of the evil Golden Silver, a very powerful super weapon that was deactivated many years ago. In GH you play the roles of the team of Gunstar Red and or Gunstar Blue (those are names for player one and two). These two heroes are the only ones left that can defend their peaceful planet of Gunstar 9 from this aggressive invasion. Can you fight your way through the hordes of robots and evil masterminds to save your planet before it's too late?

The first thing you need to do here is get those four Mystical Gems back from your enemies but that alone won't be easy because each Gem is well guarded by the Colonel's top henchmen: Pink, Black, Orange, and even your former friend Green has one.  Each one of these selectable stages has something special about it like in Green’s stage you race across the underground level in a special mine car or Orange’s stage you have to chase down a huge battle ship before it escapes. Each stage is filled with something different and you always feel like you’re going somewhere new. I think I liked Black’s stage the best because half way through his stage, you get to survive an unusual but very challenging board game that’s packed with all kinds of cool mini missions.  Although the game can be very overwhelming when you get surrounded by countless of opponents at once, fortunately the two Gunstar Heroes are no pushovers. You can not only pick up four different weapon types but you can also double two of power ups as well to create a new super weapon, talk about innovative, eh? My personal favourite weapon is the Lock-on Laser where the Chaser and Thunder are paired up. Combine any two weapons and see what you can come up with?

GH not only gives us unbelievable action but the game also has some incredible 2D graphics as well.  The action is always very intense because the screen can get filled with carnage very quickly and the game rarely ever slows down either even in the two player game.  The Sega Genesis isn’t really equipped to handle any fancy 3D effects but that doesn’t stop Treasure from trying.  As soon as you turn the game on you’ll see some awesome rotating and 3D logos that really show off some of the technical effects that will appear later in the game.  Take a look at that freaky core boss of stage 6; just one of the many large, well animated bosses here.  Although the game's story sounds kind of serious because it is all about fighting the odds against a grand scale imperial invasion here, still the game looks fairly cute and charming much like the characters in Nintendo's Advance Wars. There are no signs of blood and you're basically destroying robots anyway here too. That means there isn't any unnecessary over-the-top violence so you can feel free to let any younger kids play this without any worry. To match the game’s wild action, GH has some catchy soundtracks that’s moves perfectly for the fast pace of the game.  Even a lot of the weapons have their own unique sound effect. Just like in some Sega Genesis games out there, the voices don't sound don't always come out very clear but after a few minutes of playing you get use to it.

This great game not only plays kind of like Konami's famous Contra, but it even plays better believe it or not!  GH has more of a story, it has more weapons, and it even has more action.  I took a lot of heat when I gave the Playstation2's Contra: Shattered Soldier a mere 40 something rating a while back but just compare the fighting and weapon system in GH to the limited three weapon set up found in Contra SS. GH not only has deeper game play here but it also a more fun oriented action game that doesn't rely on tedious movement arrangements just to survive all the annoying bosses. These Treasure producers should know a little something about a Contra game because some of the founders of the company were former employees of Konami and some of them even did work for past NES mega hits like Contra and Gradius for Konami so these guys really knew their stuff back then.

With only 7 levels available the game is a little too short for its own good and it left me wanting more especially after that weird cliff-hanger ending but other then that GH was still a very wild ride while it lasted and you can always bump up the difficulty if it becomes too easy. The game's Expert mode will drive anybody nuts, trust me! Despite the questionable length don't forget that game still plays absolutely incredible and the depth is also fairly amazing too for an arcade-like game. Player one even has different fighting moves then Player two. This is another one of those great but rare action games that you will only find exclusively on Sega Genesis so those who still own the system out there have something to cheer about.  Other then the Game Gear edition and the 2005 GBA sequel, this game is a one of a kind. Sure, Gunstar Heroes may seem like an odd name for a video game but if you give it a chance you'll be in for a real surprise because this game not only has some of the most advance graphics and sounds for the Sega Genesis but you'll also see one of the greatest games for high octane action and that is for any system.

overall rating: 97/100

Find Gunstar Heroes on eBay here!

For 1 or 2 players
Rated (GA) for General Audiences

graphics: 9/10
sound: 8/10
gameplay: 9/10
replay: 9/10

(Ryan Genno) 2004

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