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Game Review | Gunstar Heroes

Red takes down one of the four bosses you can choose to go after at the start of Gunstar Heroes

Game Summary: Chaos has broken out on the planet Gunstar-9!! The mad Colonel Red has discovered four crystals that imprison a deadly being known as GoldenSilver, and plans on unleashing it onto the population of the planet! (IMDb)

Gunstar Heroes is one of the very few games I have ever purchased more than once. In fact, the first time I played it was when I rented it for the Mega Drive because I wasn’t too sure the game was as good as reviews said based on what I could see in screenshots at the time.

Once I had to return the game, I couldn’t stop wishing that I could still play it and got it as soon as I could afterwards, playing through the entire game multiple times. It was simply so much fun to play, while also giving the player a choice of which stage to do first or which weapon set-up to use that it was easy to keep things fresh.

Once the Mega Drive days were over, it would be years before I played it again on the Wii, buying it through the Virtual Console and beating it multiple times over again. Once the Wii was gone, I realised that I simply wanted the game ready to access at any time and finally got it on PC.

While I have beaten it more than once on PC, I haven’t actually played it as much as I expected. This is in part due to my ludicrous backlog, but also because I think the game is finally starting to show its age. Still, not a bad run for a game from 1993!

Another reason might simply be because I’ve played the damn thing to completion so many times that it’s just impossible to remain fresh anymore. Yes, one of my criticisms is that I liked the game so much that I played it far more than most ever will and managed to make it seem uninteresting.

It’s really not though, mainly because the game gives you very little respite from the action. While not exactly a ‘bullet hell’ game, there is so much going on at any one time that people who have never played it before might just struggle to keep up at first.

And that isn’t to say it gets cluttered – at least, not always. There are a small number of occasions when the game does get a little too busy to follow, with the screen packed with enemies, explosions and weapons fire.

Yes, there's a board game inside Gunstar Heroes too

Even then, this might be a result of me knowing exactly what to expect and barrelling through the levels at a rate the game struggles to match. If you take things a little slower than me, you should be fine, and the only time you might struggle to follow things is during the brief cut-scenes when you don’t even have to worry about controlling anything anyway.

It’s not a particularly long game either, which is yet another reason I’ve gone through it so many times. Once you get a certain rhythm to your play, knowing when to take a pause to slow your brain down and let your eyes rest from the carnage, it’ll seem to go by even faster too.

Viewed by modern standards, Gunstar Heroes obviously suffers in comparison even to small indie titles, but the fact that a twenty-five year old game still hasn’t been completely eclipsed is testament to this game’s quality.

To be fair, the fact that many smaller games go for ‘retro’ looks and sounds help out, but modern games still have slicker animation and better music. Unless you enjoy playing genuinely retro titles, or are old enough to have played them originally, this might not be quite your thing.

Gunstar Heroes is an old favourite and is still extremely good fun even today, although it is starting to show its considerable age. Action-packed from both a gameplay and visual standpoint, it’s simple pick-up-and-play controls make it easy to go back to whenever the need arises.


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