Gunstar Heroes

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Gunstar Heroes
Gunstar Heroes.jpg
North American cover art
Developer(s) Treasure
M2 (GG)
Publisher(s) Sega
Producer(s) Masato Maegawa
Designer(s) Yoshiyuki Matsumoto
Hideyuki Suganami
Programmer(s) Mitsuru Yaida
Hideyuki Suganami
Artist(s) Tetsuhiko Kikuchi
Hiroshi Iuchi
Composer(s) Norio Hanzawa
Platform(s) Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear
Release date(s) Genesis
  • NA: September 9, 1993
  • JP: September 10, 1993
  • EU: October 1993[1]
Game Gear
  • JP: March 24, 1995
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-and-gun shooter video game, and the first 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.

The game's premise was altered slightly for it's western release, but is generally centered around the exploits of the 'Gunstars', a mercenary family out to stop the 'Empire', a dictatorship that seeks to revive an ancient weapon by using the power of four gems hidden throughout the planet. It has been listed among the best video games of all time by various publications.


Co-op gameplay in stage one

Gunstar Heroes is a run-and-gun side-scrolling shooter much in the vein of Contra. The playable characters, Red and Blue, represent different control schemes: Red being free shot, which allows the player to move freely while shooting; and Blue being Fixed Shot, which makes the player stay fixed in one spot while firing. There are four different basic weapon types the player can choose from at the beginning of the game: Force, which fires a rapid series of small bullets; Lightning, which fires straight lasers that pierce through enemies; Chaser, which fires stars that home in on enemies; and Flame, a short range flamethrower that is very powerful.[2] These weapons are dropped as power-ups throughout the game, and the play may hold onto two at a time. By combining two weapons, a new weapon can be formed. For example, combining Lightning and Flame results in a short range beam weapon that ignores most collision from walls and enemies. Counting the basic weapons, there are a total of 14 different possible weapons in the game. In addition to using weapons, the player can engage enemies in close quarters combat. Enemies can be tossed, and other moves can be performed, such as sliding and jumping attacks, and a long-range skid.

The first four stages of the game can be played in any order from a stage select screen. Unlike most games in the genre, the player has life in the form of a numerical health counter. However, the player only has one life, although there are unlimited continues. The game's main focus is on its boss encounters, which are often made up of multiple sprites allowing for fluid movement and simulated scaling and rotation. There are often multiple bosses per stage, each with their own special moves and abilities.


The game's backstory concerns an evil organization that created an extremely powerful robot, Golden Silver, for use as a weapon to destroy civilization from the moon. Through the efforts of the Gunstar family: twin brothers Red and Blue; sister Yellow; and older brother Green, Golden Silver is defeated and the four gems that served as its power source were taken and hidden throughout the Earth. The Gunstars, exhausted, seal themselves in stasis pods on the moon while civilization rebuilds itself. As time passes, Golden Silver begins to be seen as a God that will lead righteous people to paradise. General Gray, leader of a dictatorship knows as the 'Empire', sends an expedition to the moon in order to excavate the four gems and awaken Golden Silver, so that he can use the android's power to rule over the planet. There, the leader of the expedition, Professor Brown, finds the Gunstars in stasis. The Gunstars learn of the Empire's plan, and learn that Green is helping the Empire to resurrect Golden Silver. The Gunstars convince Professor Brown to betray the Empire and help them stop the revival of Golden Silver.

Red and Blue journey to recover the gems with the aid of Yellow and Professor Brown. In their quest to obtain the gems, Red and Blue encounter and defeat General Grey's four lieutenants: The diva Pink and her henchmen Kain and Kotaro at an archaeological dig site; the mind-controlled Green and his shape-shifting robot Seven Force in an underground railway mine; military-man Orange at a launch base, and inventor and gambler Black in his mysterious Dice Palace. Grey's second-in-command, Smash Daisaku, continually challenges Red and Blue throughout the game.

After securing the last gem, the Gunstars return to base to find Professor Brown tied up and Yellow kidnapped by General Grey, who demands the gems in return for her safety. The Gunstars fight their way to the launch bay of the Empire's capital space ship, the Ark, where Smash Daisaku challenges Red and Blue to a final fight. He is defeated, but manages to get Yellow at gunpoint. Red and Blue surrender the gems to Grey, who releases Yellow and sets off on the Ark for the planet's moon, where Golden Silver is sealed away. The Gunstars commandeer a small ship to chase after the Ark, and after defeating Seven Force again, board the Ark just as it lands on the moon's surface. Red and Blue destroy the ship's core, and make their way to the bridge, where Grey once again sends his lieutenants to defeat Red and Blue. Each of the lieutenants is defeated, culminating in a final duel with Green. Red and Blue knock him unconscious, and his mind control device is destroyed. Grey, cornered, attempts to use the Gems to fight the Gunstars, but the gems attack Grey and fly into the chamber where Golden Silver was sealed. Golden Silver awakens and fights Red and Blue, but is untimately defeated but the robot flees in an attempt destroy the planet. General Gray and the empire attempt to stop it, but are obliterated. The Gunstars begin to panic until Green, in his Seven Force and no longer mind-controlled, chooses to fight Golden Silver to atone for his actions while mind-controlled. The Seven Force and Golden Silver collide, and Green both Green and Golden Silver disappear in the explosion.


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."[3]

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.[4]

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,[5] with a release in North America, Europe and Australia on August 20, 2015.[6] 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.[7]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 95%[8]
Metacritic 96%[9]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4.5/5 stars[10]
CVG 92%[11]
EGM 36/40[12]
Eurogamer 5/5 stars[13]
GameFan 197/200[14]
GamePro 5/5[15]
GamesMaster 90%[1]
GameSpy 10/10[16]
IGN 9/10[17]
Nintendo Life 9/10[18]
Nintendo World Report 9.5/10[19]
Mean Machines Sega 93%[20]
MegaTech 95%[21]
Retro Magazine 5/5 stars[22]
Sega Force 94%[23]
Sega Magazine 94%[24]
Publication Award
GameFan Megawards Game of the Year,
Best Action/Platform Game,
Best Music (Genesis)[25]
Electronic Gaming Monthly Best Action Game,[26]
Game of the Month[12]
MegaTech Hyper Game

Gunstar Heroes was awarded Best Action Game of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly.[26] MegaTech magazine praised the animation and speed of gameplay, and could not think of any downsides to the game.[21]

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."[27] They furthermore included it among the Game Gear's top ten list as well.[28]

Gunstar Heroes has been listed among the best video games of all time by the following publications: Electronic Gaming Monthly (in 1997,[29] 2001[30] and 2006[31]), GameFAQs (in 2004,[32] 2005[33] and 2009[34]), Guinness World Records,[35] IGN (in 2003[36] and 2005[37]), NowGamer,[38] and Retro Gamer.[39]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b GamesMaster, episode 43 (series 3, episode 7), 21/10/1993
  2. ^ Gunstar Heroes: Weapons Details, Game Informer 181 (May 2008): 105.
  3. ^ "Sega-16 – Interview: Mac Senour". 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  4. ^ "Gunstar Heroes hits XBLA and PSN on June 10th and 11th". Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  5. ^ "3D ガンスターヒーローズ". セガ 3D復刻プロジェクト (in Japanese). SEGA. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  6. ^ Brian (August 14, 2015). "Update: Official confirmation – 3D Gunstar Heroes hitting the 3DS eShop next week". Nintendo Everything. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  7. ^ "3D Gunstar Heroes Brings New Modes and Local Co-Op to 3DS". Retrieved 2015-06-24. 
  8. ^ "3D Gunstar Heroes for 3DS". GameRankings. 2015-08-20. Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  9. ^ "3D Gunstar Heroes for 3DS Reviews - Metacritic". Archived from the original on August 30, 2015. Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  10. ^ Marriott, Scott Alan. "Gunstar Heroes". Allgame. Archived from the original on February 9, 2010. Retrieved November 19, 2012. 
  11. ^ Computer and Video Games, issue 142 (September 1993), pages 38-40
  12. ^ a b Electronic Gaming Monthly, issue 52 (November 1993), page 38
  13. ^ "3D Gunstar Heroes 3DS Review: Sega's Pride and Joy, Now Nintendo's Shining Star". USgamer. 2015-08-27. Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  14. ^ GameFan, volume 1, issue 10 (September 1993)
  15. ^ GamePro, issue 55 (February 1994), page 52
  16. ^ "Classic Review Archive - Gunstar Heroes". 2007-12-14. Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  17. ^ "Gunstar Heroes Virtual Console Review". IGN. 2006-12-11. Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  18. ^ Town, Jonathan (2015-08-20). "3D Gunstar Heroes Review - 3DS eShop". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  19. ^ "3D Gunstar Heroes Review - Review". Nintendo World Report. Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  20. ^ "Gunstar Heroes - Sega Megadrive - Mean Machines review". Retrieved 2015-04-08. 
  21. ^ a b MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 21.
  22. ^ Workman, Robert (2015-08-24). "3D Gunstar Heroes Review | RETRO". Retrieved 2016-03-11. 
  23. ^ [1][dead link]
  24. ^ [2][dead link]
  25. ^ GameFan, volume 1, issue 3 (January 1993), pages 70-71
  26. ^ a b "Electronic Gaming Monthly's Buyer's Guide". 1994. 
  27. ^ "Top Ten Mega Drive Games". 2014-01-07. Retrieved 2015-04-08. 
  28. ^ "Top Ten Game Gear Games". 2014-12-05. Retrieved 2015-04-08. 
  29. ^ "EGM Top 100 Best Games of All Time". Electronic Gaming Monthly. November 1997. Retrieved 2011-06-01. 
  30. ^ Top 100 Games of All Time, Electronic Gaming Monthly, 2001
  31. ^ "The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time". Electronic Gaming Monthly. February 6, 2006. Retrieved November 19, 2013. [dead link]
  32. ^ "Spring 2004: Best. Game. Ever.". GameFAQs. Retrieved July 16, 2008. 
  33. ^ "Fall 2005: 10-Year Anniversary Contest—The 10 Best Games Ever". GameFAQs. Retrieved July 16, 2008. 
  34. ^ "Spring 2009: Best. Game. Ever.". GameFAQs. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  35. ^ Guinness World Records 2009 Gamer's Edition reveals the Top 50 console games of all time, Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, 2009
  36. ^ "IGN's Top 100 Games of All Time". IGN. 2003. Retrieved 2014-12-17. 
  37. ^ "IGN's Top 100 Games, 2005". IGN. 2005. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  38. ^ "100 Greatest Retro Games", NowGamer, Imagine Publishing, 2010  (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)
  39. ^ "Top 100 Retro Games", Retro Gamer, no. 1, p. 30, January 2004 

External links[edit]