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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Classic Games Retrospective: Part II

As Craig progressed through a big chunk of Super Mario RPG, I played a stack of titles, some were good, others weren't.  However, the first title I played, at the start of our little journey was Gunstar Heroes, a spectactular action/platformer that ranks among my favorite games of all time and easily charts pretty high on the list of the best games on the Sega Genesis.  
Gunstar Heroes -

Oh, man!  I love this game so much.  It is a title I can gladly refer to as “perfect”.  The action gameplay is so solid and well-paced, and unlike other games from the early 90’s, I actually felt like I could easily take on ten baddies with little effort.  The boss battles were balanced but challenging and the level design was exceptional.  Few games bring out the video game nerd in me like Gunstar Heroes, and I look forward to this venture through this great action plat former.

The Levels:

After playing through  the game, bringing back some great memories, I will give a brief perspective on some of the elements of the game that I enjoyed.

The first four levels in Gunstar Heroes are selectable and playable in any order:

Black’s stage has one element that is truly unique for a game like this.  After a brief bout of traditional gameplay you are sucked into a board game and must throw a giant die across the floor and progress across a game board, each square you land on can contain a mini-boss, some sort of timed challenge or a set of power-ups.  

The stage for Green is a straight-forward dash through the mine from hell.  The boss takes three forms, each with increasing difficulty.  The most memorable thing about this level is the boss’s second form, which has Green chasing you down a shaft, swinging a massive spiked ball from the tail of a giant machine.  Gunstar Heroes is a fast-paced game, and unlike games like Megaman X, your character is nimble and able to flip and glide through narrow gaps between enemy attacks.  

Pink’s jungle stage has you scaling a pyramid then rapidly sliding down the opposite side, which begs the question: Why didn’t the dude just walk around the thing?

Orange:  Orange’s stage is probably the most fun of the first four levels.  His is a vertical sprint up the side of a building racing to reach the deck of a massive air ship.  Fighting your way across you’ll face two minibosses and a barrage of enemies.  This level really puts your skills to the test.  That said, it is probably the easiest of the four levels in my opinion.  The boss isn’t really that impressive, but a few of his attacks pack a punch.

After laying waste to these four bosses, you then proceed through a series of final challenges.  These include a scrolling shooter ala-Gradius and a series of boss bouts that can really push your buttons. The final few bosses are actually quite easy, including the final battle in which you must attack an array of four crystals floating around the room.  As the fight progresses, their movements grow more and more erratic.  The pacing of this fight is very fast.  The game ends pretty abruptly after this.  You just fight about eight bosses in a row and it just seems to stop.  That certainly isn’t to say it wasn’t fun while it lasted.

The Gameplay:
The Gameplay is where Gunstar Heroes really shows it’s muscle.  You have a number of maneuvers including a sliding attack, a double-jump/air dash attack, the ability to grab small and medium-sized enemies and hurl them as projectiles and the agile backwards jump that allows you to fire on enemies while dodging their attacks.  All of these give a great deal of depth to the combat.

These moves are all about maneuverability, but what about fire power?  Well, Gunstar Heroes contains four primary weapons that can be mixed together to create a different gun entirely.  Like, say for instance you mix the Lightning with the Chaser.  You can fire a direct shot and hit a target, hold the fire button down and put a Damage-over-Time effect on the baddie for as long as you can hold that button.  There are a lot of mix-and-match weapons you can piece together from the small selection.

Final Thoughts:
How does Gunstar Heroes hold up?  Quite well actually.  It is one of the few action titles from the 16-bit era that still feels every bit as layered and deep as many of the action titles of today.  The game, which is now available for download on all of the major consoles, is a must-play for fans of challenging and addictive action, creative gameplay and an unflinching pace.  Gunstar Heroes is one of the best downloadable titles on the market.

Gunstar heroes is a game where some weapons are completely useless and some combinations of weapons are immensely overpowered. Through the game I watched as Chris used a myriad of weapons (he preferred the flamethrower more than anything else).  Combining the flamethrower with another weapon resulted in a quite interesting combination: a flame ring.  Which he then used during most of the game.  Another weapon he frequented use of was the Machinegun + Lazer combination, which fired a continuous beam of death and damage at his enemies. I thought it was the more destructive of the two but he said it was harder to control which would be crippling to the weapon.

The weapon combinations were something unique to games in this time period. A game later on the Nintendo 64 would use the same formula for some interesting results: Kirby and the Crystal shards.  It seems the difficulty of this game is directly proportional to the usefulness of the weapon combinations that you find.  Going through the game with a machine gun or a whirling laser of death makes the game harder/easier by comparison.


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