(Note: Before I begin the review, I'd like to beg forgiveness
if I sound like a gushing school girl in this review.
Look at the ratings above and you'll see reason why.
Gunstar Heroes is quite possibly the best game ever
released on the Genesis. It is the product of Treasure,
a group of former Konami employees that created its
most successful titles (Castlevania and Contra among them.)
The game itself is one of those blast-everything-in-sight
side scrollers, but it's the best of the genre, superceding
even Contra 3.
The game is given a semi-anime look and a small backstory.
According to legend, many years ago, an evil being was
sealed into four crystals (why they never destroyed these
stupid evil beings instead of locking them in crystals
so they could wreak havoc centuries later is beyond me.)
An evil emperor decides that he wants these gems to
help him conquer the world. He invades the planet of Gunstar 9
to find these jewels.
It's up to the Gunstar Heroes to stop them, of course.
The two mains characters are the Red and Blue heroes, which
you control. However, the Professor and your sister Yellow
also help you a bit. At the beginning of the game,
you get to choose your movement orientation (Free Shot,
meaning you can move and shoot, of Fixed Shot, so that
you stay stationary when aiming your weapon in any cardinal
direction.) Then, you can choose one of the four starter
weapons (Force, Fire, Homing and Laser.)
characters are armed, there are four stages to choose from.
Similar to Mega Man, there is a unique boss guarding the end of
each stage, and thus one of the four jewels. They almost seem to have
been given their own personalities...Pink is a domineering woman with two
little helpers to do her bidding, Orange is a big muscle man, Black is a
psychotic, grinning madman, and Green (your
captured brother) has a machine that has seven different transformations.
Each level also has its own little unique charm...for instance, Black's
level is a board game. Pick up the dice to choose how far your little
characters move on the board in the background. Land on certain spots,
and you can get items, fight a great variety of bosses, or even get
sent back to the beginning. Another level places you
deep in a mining shaft that constantly switches directions.
What's even better is that you can shift gravity...you
can ride your carts on either side of the screen (top or bottom,
left or right, depending on which way the shaft is going.)
Once you beat the four levels (it's best to go in order from easiest
to hardest, since you get an extra 20 points of life every time you beat
a level), your sister Green is kidnapped and you've got to save her.
After beating a long intermittent level, you get to hop inside of a spaceship
for a shoot-em-up battle, then finally face each of baddies for the final
But despite all of the cool levels, it's the gameplay that truly makes
a great title. And Gunstar Heroes has it all. Shooting, mad destruction,
death (but no blood), explosions...so much fun, it's hard to measure it all!
The weapon system is one of the coolest I've ever seen...you can take one
of the four weapons and combine it with another. Get two Flames to
make an extra long Flamethrower...a Homing with a Laser gets a really
cool Homing Laser...a Flame and a Laser gets you the equivalent of a light
saber. Everyone seems to have fun customizing their weapons and finding
the best one to suit their maniacial means.
And that's not all. Treasure decided that it would be cool if you
could also do some hand to hand combat! You can jump kick and even throw
enemies, if you get close enough. It's really just a small addition,
but little things like this add up to an incredible game.
The graphics...my God. The programmers at Treasure seem to have
mastered the 68000 (the Genesis CPU) to perfection. From the spinning
opening logo to the background effects used throughout the game, you think
you were playing a Super Nintendo game. Many of the bosses (and trust
me, there are lots...but they aren't too hard, and they aren't put in to
the point of oversaturation) are composed of many sprites, giving them
a very cool animated look. And using bright colors, it never falls into
the typical Genesis trap of a dingy palette . The music and sound effects
do everything to compliment the action, especially the yells of your
Quite all in all, Gunstar Heroes is a near-perfect game. Seven stages
may be too short for some, but it's still better than Contra 3. The
difficulty levels are balanced so that novices should be able to trek
through Easy mode, but vets will have a tough time with Hard. Two players
make it all the more pleasant. And nobody
can doubt the pure adrenaline rushing fun of blowing the shiitake
out of everything that you can lay your eyes on. Gunstar Heroes is a
horrendously overlooked title and one of the best side-scrolling action
games in existence. Must buy, no matter what.