#77 Gunstar Heroes

gunstar heroes

  • Original release year: 1993
  • Consoles: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis (later: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, iOS, Steam, 3DS)

Gunstar Heroes is the best game ever. If you disagree, you’re wrong. I can prove you wrong, in fact, with evidence. The evidence being that Gunstar Heroes has guns, it has explosions, it’s made by the legendary Treasure, it can be played 2 player co-operatively, it plays like Contra on crack, oh and did I mention that it has explosions? Lots of awesome explosions and lots of awesome boss battles. Also, unlike Contra which turns young men’s hair grey, with its unfair ‘one touch = dead’ policy, Gunstar Heroes has a life meter (well, life points) AND unlimited continues, so that people like me can actually, you know, see anything past the second level.

So is there more to the gameplay than explosions and guns? Well, kinda. When you load up Gunstar Heroes, you’ll be given the the choice of either ‘fixed shot’ or ‘free shot’. One allows you to move and shoot and will, but with limited accuracy, whilst the other allows you to shoot in 8 directions, but you cannot move and shoot at the same time. The choice is entirely up to you.

Who wants explosions?
Who wants explosions?

The other choice you are given, is the weapons you can use and how you wish to combine them. There are 4 basic weapons you can collect and use – the homing gun, the machine gun, the lightning type gun and the flame thrower. But, there is more to it than that. To add depth to the combat, you have two gun slots and you can combine the weapons. So say you have the homing gun and the lightning gun, I could choose to just use one of those guns. I could switch between them at will, but I could also combine them to make a homing lightning gun. All the weapons can be combined and the first few times you play through, it’s really awesome to experiment to see what weapons you can make as you progress. In addition to the weapons, you can also just dive into enemies (which does more damage than you think) and grapple and throw the bad guys.

But what’s great shooting mechanics and cool weapons without good level design and boy does Gunstar Heroes have fantastic level design. At the beginning, there are four different stages to choose from (you can complete them in any order you want), all of which all have their own unique boss fights (I think…? My memory is hazy. Maybe the last one only has the board game at the end… But that counts!). A highlight is definitely the mine cart stage, where you race in a mine cart throughout the level, switching between the ground and the ceiling by double jumping. The boss is awesome in this stage, with lots of different transitions.

Want awesome boss battles? Gunstar Heroes has plenty of those.
Want awesome boss battles? Gunstar Heroes has plenty of those.

Once you beat all four stages, there’s a board game to play through (think like a miniature version of Mario Party, kinda) and then there’s more bosses and a shmup stage and some other shit happens and then it ends. It’s been like 5 years since I last completed Gunstar Heroes, so I really cannot remember if I’m honest (and I’m going for honesty with my reviews, rather than, well, professionalism).

In summary, Gunstar Heroes is a classic game that everyone should play. With its top-notch gameplay, depth and accessibility for gamers with different skillsets. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Gunstar Heroes is one of the best games to come out of the 16-bit era. You can pick it up for a variety of fairly modern consoles, so if you’ve never played it, pick it up now.

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