Gunstar Heroes is another SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive classic that found massive success and introduced most SEGA fans to Treasure games. The studio was made up of ex-Konami employees and this anime style run and gun shooter really shows that you can make a Japanese looking game work for a Western audience . While the game is fine and dandy on the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive, how is the Nintendo 3DS version? Well, let’s find out.
If you never played Gunstar Heroes before (shame on you) it revolves around the story of a family who oddly enough have the surname Gunstar, which includes twin brothers named Red and Blue, their sister Yellow and their older brother Green. Thanks to the Gunstar family, four gems needed to power a robot that can cause catastrophic destruction remains hidden from evil powers such as Colonel Red (General Gray in the Japanese version) who has now used a mind control machine to enslave Gunstar Green (your older brother) and has him carrying out his orders. Colonel Red has also collected all four gems that the Gunstar family have fought to hid, now its up to you and maybe a friend to stop this evil intergalactic dictator as you save the universe. The game has just enough story as you progress to keep you hooked, but won’t keep you away from the action too long.
While today’s games feature way deeper and richer stories, I really liked the world that Gunstar Heroes painted because it really did feel like a weird sci-fi inspired manga/anime. I really loved the way that they used colors as names, but also used the back story to set up the 2 player cooperative mode. That’s right there are two twins in the Gunstar family, Red and Blue, who will serve as player one (red) and player two (blue). As a kid I loved the fact that you guys had a purpose that was personal in the game, not only saving the universe but also saving your brother, Gunstar Green from Colonel Red.
Its not easy being a Gunstar
Personally think that Gunstar Heroes has some of the best controls for the run and gun genre. Sure it seems basic at first glance having a shooting and jumping buttons but the game added the ability to pick up enemies that are close to you and throw them. This was always shocking considering other popular games in the genre had the whole one hit kill thing and if a enemy got close to you, that would be considered a hit. Treasure took that idea and gave the player the option of simply throwing the bad guy away, making it feel more epic. Tapping the jump button will also allow you to kick, jump off walls and look awesome. Recommended! As said, Gunstar Heroes does not have one hit death like Contra, instead you have a life percentage of life (not a bar) as you blast your way through stages. The game is still challenging but doesn’t feel cheap like Contra, who’s difficultly was designed to eat your quarters.
One thing that the game does fantastically is trying to change up the level design so it doesn’t feel like you are just blasting down enemies trying to get to the end of a stage. For example in one stage you ride a magnetic cart that has the ability to jump from the bottom and top screen, this is one of the most recognized levels by fans because of the epic boss fights during the stage. Oddly enough this is also the stage you fight Gunstar Green, so I guess being over the top runs in the family. There is even a stage where you play a board game, making you land on unique challenges until you reach the end of the board. Stuff like this really made the game feel fresh and set it apart from other run and gun shooters that other developers where popping out at the time.
The whole package is tied together with a great soundtrack by Norio Hanazawa, featuring some excellent synth tracks that sounded awesome for Genesis/ Mega Drive hardware and honestly still sound amazing even on the Nintendo 3DS. The sad thing is most people forget about the music when talking about this game due to how chaotic the game is, that most of their focus is trying to survive. The whole OST is differently something that is worth listening to.
While the game allows you to tackle the first four stages in any order you wish, the game only has seven stages total. While it isn’t super short by run and gun standards, it isn’t a super long game either. Its just one of those games that leaves you wanting more after you are finished beating it and that is a sign of a great game.
Most readers here most likely have played Gunstar Heroes, so you all want to know what’s new in this version of the game. Since the game is being called 3D Gunstar Heroes and is part of the SEGA 3D Classics, saying that the game has 3D is obvious. The 3D works pretty well, much like M2’s other SEGA 3D Classics. If you enjoyed the 3D effect in past titles, this will satisfy you. If you disliked it, you can always turn it off.
Just like the new modes in their last SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive 3D Classic entry for 3D Streets of Rage 2, the newly introduced modes focus more on lowering the games difficulty. For example the game introduces ‘Gunslinger mode’ that allows you to try different weapon combinations on the fly, instead of having to keeping two weapons. This will give you the option of trying different weapon combinations on different bosses. Its a subtle new mode that changes the experience, but at the same time makes the game more fair, less trial and error when it comes to weapon choices.
The other mode that is introduced is called ‘Mega Life’ which just doubles your life at the start of the game. This one seemed to be a bit lazy, considering they could have just allowed you to add lives in the menu instead of trying to make this a new mode.. After you beat the game you also unlike ‘Mega Shot Mode’ which just doubles the damage of your weapons. Again, same opinion as Mega Life mode. Like my complaint in the 3D Streets of Rage 2 review, these modes pale in comparison to their work on 3D Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa which had basically a new game added to the package. Sorry M2, you spoiled us!
Like most games by M2 it features the ability to change the look of the display by making it look like a tube TV, the ability to save a replay (only one is savable, sadly), and the ability to change the 3D from sinking in to a pop out 3D effect. This game also lets you play either the international version or the Japanese version, but from what I have seen the only difference is the game’s language. You also have the choice of emulating the game on either Genesis/Mega Drive model 1 or model 2 hardware. For obvious reasons model 1 is pre-selected. Local play makes a comeback, meaning you will need to have two 3DS units and two digital copies of the game. No online period, but thats nothing new since its the same thing for every SEGA 3D Classics released so far.
3D Gunstar Heroes brings the Genesis/Mega Drive classic to handhelds and really is the best handheld version of the game (sorry Game Gear). The game runs smooth, the graphics look crisp on the Nintendo 3DS’ lower resolution screen. Personally I felt that the game has aged perfectly and still find that shooting through these levels is fun even after all these years. The game has unique bosses, good controls and a great soundtrack which are all represented here very well.
While Gunstar Heroes is a great game, the extra modes in this title are a bit lacking. While I appreciate Gunslinger mode, which allows users to switch weapons on the fly, I find that Mega Life and Mega Shot modes as being a bit of a cop out. I mean, the only thing these modes do is start the game with double lives or damage. Should those modes really be considered modes? Regardless, if you haven’t played Gunstar Heroes before or even if you have but want a handheld version, you can’t go wrong with 3D Gunstar Heroes.
- One of the best Run and Gun games
- Gameplay still holds up
- Great level design, bosses
- Great soundtrack stays intact
- Extra modes are OK
- No online: ranking or multiplayer
“3D Gunstar Heroes is the best handheld version of the game and one of the best 16-bit run and gun games.”