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|Reviewer: ReesesInPieces||Date: Dec 20, 2022|
|Gunstar Heroes was the debut of the game company Treasure, which was made up of ex-Konami employees after being fed up with their overreliance on sequels and ignoring original ideas. Treasure made an amazing game here, and it's easy to see why. Satisfying run-and-gun gameplay, a multitude of weapons, and technical feats that pushed the Sega Genesis to its limits were just some of what this game offered.
The graphics are pretty good for Genesis. Characters are bright and colorful, backgrounds are decent, and while the UI is somewhat bland, it works. The real star of the show are the insane graphical and technical tricks Treasure put into this game. Many bosses are multi-jointed, creating insanely smooth animation. Treasure was also able to create a pseudo-3D effect on many more bosses, making them shrink and scale almost hypnotically. All these effects and many more pushed the Sega Genesis to its limits. Overall the graphics and special effects in Gunstar Heroes are a shining example of Treasure's mastery of the Genesis.
The sound in Gunstar Heroes is pretty good. Sound effects are satisfying to hear, and none are too annoying or loud. The music sounds really good for the Genesis, with many tracks taking advantage of the Genesis sound chip to deliver a kind of twangy synthesizer sound. It's especially apparent during the boss theme, which does a great job of cranking the intensity up to eleven for your final obstacle to clear. Overall, the sound is serviceable, and that's about all I have to say on that matter.
The gameplay of Gunstar Heroes is amazing, an unquestionable 10/10 in my book. There are 4 orbs you can collect in stages that each change the projectile you shoot, which can then be combined with another orb to produce a combination weapon that takes properties of both orbs(e.x. beam + homing = homing beam). This alone adds a huge amount of replayability. Aside from projectiles, your playable character is also equipped with 2 melee attacks, a throw, and a guard, resulting in an extremely versatile and useful moveset for a run-and-gun game. Your choice of character also affects gameplay, with one being able to run while shooting for more fluid movement, and the other not moving while shooting for better accuracy. The difficulty feels just right, and there are unlimited continues to help with any tricky parts of the game. When the game decides to switch up the way you play on some levels, it feels completely natural. Flipping gravity in the mines or playing a board game to reach the boss all feel like second nature and not a forced gimmick thanks to the way they intertwine with your base controls. I could keep talking about the gameplay, but I think I've made my point clear. It's perfect.
Gunstar Heroes is one-of-a-kind and a treasure (ha!) of any gamer's collection. While the game is a little undercooked in the sound department, the graphics, gameplay, and technical tricks are stellar and ahead of their time. It's also one of the few retro games that are more accessible to all audiences, thanks to the factors of unlimited continues and genuinely fair level design. Gunstar Heroes is always a blast to play and has withstood the test of time to become of of the very best games made for the Sega Genesis. Play it.
A sequel, Gunstar Super Heroes, was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2005.