||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2014)|
North American cover art
|Genre(s)||Run and gun|
|Mode(s)||Single player, cooperative|
Gunstar Heroes (ガンスターヒーローズ Gansutā Hīrōzu?) is a run & gun shooter video game developed by Treasure and published by Sega. Treasure's debut game was originally released on the Sega Genesis in late 1993, and later on, ported to the Game Gear by M2. On February 23, 2006, Gunstar Heroes was released as part of the Gunstar Heroes: Treasure Box Collection for the PlayStation 2. It is also available on the Wii's Virtual Console. In 2009, it was released on June 10 for Xbox Live Arcade and June 11 for PlayStation Network. In 2015, a 3D Classics version was released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. It has been listed among the best video games of all time by various publications.
Gunstar Heroes is a side scrolling shooter. The player has four weapons to choose from, and these four can be combined in pairs to create an additional 10 weapons, for a total of 14. In addition to the weapons, the player can engage enemies in close quarters combat. It is possible to grab and toss enemies, perform sliding and jumping attacks and a long-range skid.
Unlike most games in the genre, the player has a life total calculated in numbers. Death to a player requires multiple hits but just one death will issue the option to continue from the start of the level or to end the game. Players have unlimited continues. The main highlight of the game are its boss encounters, which often feature large enemies made up of multiple sprites allowing for fluid movement.
Gunstar Heroes features four basic weapon types: Force, a powerful shot that fires rapidly; Lightning, a straight shot that goes through enemies; Chaser, which homes in on enemies; and Flame, a shot that is very effective at close range. By combining two weapons, a new weapon can be formed. For example, combining Lightning and Chaser gives a homing lightning beam attack.
The Western version of the game storyline is different from the Japanese version. In both storylines, there is a God-like but evil robot, Golden Silver, that has the potential to cause extreme ruin. Through the efforts of the Gunstar family (twin brothers Red and Blue, sister Yellow, and older brother Green), the four gems that were Golden Silver's power source were taken and hidden. However, the vicious dictator Colonel Red (called "General Gray" in the Japanese storyline) used a mind control machine to enslave Gunstar Green and make him obey Red's orders. From this, Colonel Red has amassed all four gems again and hopes to reactivate Golden Silver, who Red falsely believes to be a bringer of utopia. The player controls Gunstar Red or Blue (or both in a two-player game) through several different environments to recover all four gems, fighting lots of small enemies and bosses along the way, as well as facing three of Red's lieutenants and the mind controlled Green, who fails to kill his brothers but escapes after they defeat his powerful, shapeshifting robot, the Seven Force.
Afterwards, the player finds out that Colonel Red kidnapped Gunstar Yellow and Gunstar Red and Blue set off to save her, but after finding Yellow, the player is forced to give them gems to Colonel Red for her life, whereupon the Colonel sets off in a large spacecraft for the moon Gunstar 9 (G-9) where Golden Silver is located. Yellow is freed and the player pilots a small but fast spacecraft through space, once again dealing with enemies and bosses. After Gunstar Red and Blue arrive on G-9 and fight several previous boss characters, the gems turn against Colonel Red and Golden Silver is activated. The player must destroy the gems. If this is done successfully, Colonel Red will attempt to stop Golden Silver, only to get himself destroyed in the process. The Gunstar family becomes concerned about the threat posed by Golden Silver, but Gunstar Green, no longer under enemy control, makes amends for the trouble he caused by attempting to sacrifice himself to finally destroy Golden Silver, though it is revealed that his brothers managed to save him at the last second.
- Gunstar Red & Gunstar Blue: Red is Player 1 with Free Shot as default, and Blue is Player 2 with Fixed Shot as default. They are the active Gunstars who protect the planet.
- Green: Formerly Gunstar Green, he is the amnesiac older brother of Red, Blue, and Yellow, who is now controlled by the Empire. He integrates with a shape-shifting mech known as Seven Force, which later appeared in Alien Soldier.
- Gunstar Yellow: The sole female member who assists the good doctor and befriends the miniature natives conquered by the Empire. She is later kidnapped by the Empire as a bargaining chip for the gems.
- Dr. Brown: This kind old man trusts the remaining Gunstars' claims that Golden Silver is actually a destructive force, so he renounced the Empire and supports the Gunstars. He also appeared in Advance Guardian Heroes.
- Colonel Red: The leader of the Empire. He believes in the legend of the creator of the new world. As a result, he desires to collect the gems and reawaken his God at any cost.
- Smash Daisaku: The Empire's second-in-command. He appears throughout the game to oppose the Gunstars.
- Pink, G.I. Orange, and Black: High-ranking Empire commanders who appear as stage bosses. Pink has followers in Kain and Kotar, Orange prefers brute strength, and Black is a gambler.
- Golden Silver: While it is revered as a harbinger of hope, this "God" is actually an android who once brought the Earth to ruin. It currently sleeps on the moon, waiting for the four gems to return to it. It also appeared in Guardian Heroes.
According to former Sega of America producer Mac Senour, Treasure's Gunstar Heroes was rejected by twelve of Sega's producers and associate producers, primarily because of its small sprites, before he decided to pick it up and get the game released. He also revealed that he "made only one real change. There's a boss in a military uniform, and in the original version he was Hitler. I asked them to remove the mustache or change the character."
Shortly after its original release, Gunstar Heroes made its way to Sega's handheld machine, Game Gear. The port was handled not by Treasure, but by development house M2. As the console's power could not be matched to that of the Mega Drive, the game was significantly scaled down, stripping its multi-player mode, Black's Dice Maze, and several graphic effects. It does, however, add in a few new features such as a jetpack level and the chance to drive one of the later walker robots from the 16-bit version. The game received a PC port on December 17, 2004 as a part of the Sega Honpo series, titled "Sega Game Honpo Gunstar Heroes" (セガゲーム本舗 ガンスターヒーローズ?).
On October 6, 2005, Treasure and Sega released Gunstar Super Heroes, a Gunstar title for the Game Boy Advance. The game makes a few changes to the gameplay, such as having a fixed weapon selection and the addition of 'super' attacks controlled by the trigger. In addition, it presents itself as a distant sequel to the original, but the levels and bosses are remixed and thus gets labeled as a "retelling." On February 23, 2006, Sega released a Treasure-oriented entry in their Sega Ages series for PlayStation 2. Titled Treasure Box (トレジャーボックス toreja bokkusu?), it contains Gunstar Heroes prominently (to the extent of it being on the front cover), along with Dynamite Headdy and Alien Soldier. Treasure Box also contains the various versions of these titles (such as Game Gear versions, versions from different countries and a Japanese prototype, which is essentially a near-final game lacking some polish and functional end stages), as well as digital manuals and other bonus materials.
Gunstar Heroes was released December 11, 2006 in North America on the Wii Virtual Console and December 15, 2006 in Europe. A version for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network was released on June 10, and June 11 in 2009, respectively, with online co-op, leaderboards, and 'improved graphics' via smoothing. However, both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions have reported that the co-op feature is a step backwards from the original, due to the inability to rejoin your partner upon death. Gunstar Heroes debuted on the iOS platform on November 22, 2010. It received a Steam release on January 26, 2011. On September 19, 2012, Gunstar Heroes: Treasure Box was released on the PlayStation Network in Japan.
3D Gunstar Heroes was developed by M2 as part of the 3D Classics series of games for the Nintendo 3DS. It was released in Japan on June 24, 2015, with a release in North America, Europe and Australia on August 20, 2015. It is redesigned to be played with the stereoscopic 3D effects of the 3DS and features two new gameplay modes: Mega Life, which doubles the lives each player has in stock, and All Spec, which allows the player to choose any combination of weapons they want.
|This section requires expansion. (April 2015)|
Gunstar Heroes was awarded Best Action Game of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. MegaTech magazine praised the animation and speed of gameplay, and could not think of any downsides to the game.
Retro Gamer often praised the game in its print edition, and also included it among the top ten Mega Drive games in its online version, describing it as an "outrageously good platformer/shooter that features dazzling graphics, a crazy relentless pace and dozens of fantastic boss encounters," featuring "astounding visuals" and "all manner of interesting play mechanics to ensure that every level remains as fresh as a proverbial daisy. If you're after a frenetic blaster then look no further. This is run-n-gun heaven and shouldn't be missed." They furthermore included it among the Game Gear's top ten list as well.
Gunstar Heroes has been listed among the best video games of all time by the following publications: Electronic Gaming Monthly (in 1997, 2001 and 2006), GameFAQs (in 2004, 2005 and 2009), Guinness World Records, IGN (in 2003 and 2005), NowGamer, and Retro Gamer.
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