I Think UR A Gunstar.
Gunstar Heroes is game that seems to have only grown in popularity since its original 1993 Genesis release. As the original Sonic games come under more scrutiny with each passing year, Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes climbs past them on "Top Genesis Games of All Time" lists. Gunstar Heroes’ place among the greatest games on Sega’s 16-bit console is well deserved - it’s an incredible accomplishment, both creatively and technically.
At first blush, Gunstar Heroes doesn’t seem too far removed from its closest contemporary, 1992’s Contra III on the SNES. Both are beautiful 16-bit run-and-gun shooters, but while Contra takes the more (endearingly) '80s-action-movie-machismo route, Gunstar feels more like a '90s anime. The characters (especially the antagonists) are incredibly expressive and the locations are unique and varied, taking you from strange villages to the far reaches of space to even a virtual boa… well, I won’t spoil that one for those who may be playing the game for the first time.
At its core, Gunstar Heroes essentially follows the side-scrolling run-and-gun template, but what really makes it stand out is the moveset you have at your disposal. In addition to firing a weapon, your character can grab and throw enemies, or attack via a Mega Man 3-esque slide. Firing weapons is hardly conventional in Gunstar Heroes. You choose and change weapons via pickups, and while the heat seeking rounds and flame shots may seem like standard fare, what makes the weapon system unique here is that not only can you switch between weapons, but you can also combine them. This system gives experimental players a reason to replay the game over and over again, trying to find the best weapon combinations for each stage and boss.
Surprising no one at this point, M2 has made some additions to this 3D release. Along with the expected visual and version options, a "Mega Life" option has been included, which doubles the amount of life you have, making a challenging game much more manageable. The greatest inclusion however, is the new "Gunslinger" mode. With this selected, you start with every weapon (you can switch between combinations with the L and R buttons), and you can, with the press of the X button, switch between characters (and firing styles) on the fly. Another cool bonus to this version is not found in the game itself, but the digital manual. Inside, you’ll find both the International and original Japanese versions of the game’s story. Comparing the differences between the two is a fun distraction, and another unnecessary, but appreciated, addition.
The moment I started up the game on my New 3DS with the 3D slider cranked and saw the Treasure logo morphing on the screen, I knew this was going to be a mindblowingly intense 3D experience. However, as with 3D Out Run, having the 3D at max may be too intense for first time players. Gunstar Heroes is a fast and demanding game, and while the 3D effect is incredible, I’d recommend easing into it.
Gunstar Heroes is an absolute classic of the 16-bit era. I didn’t think it was possible to make the game better, but somehow M2 pulled it off. Learning the moveset, boss patterns, and weapon combinations may take a bit of time, but if you love classic action, this is a game you’ll want to revisit again and again - and this is the version you’ll want to come back to.