I recently dug out my Sega Mega Drive from storage to embark on some vintage gaming. The Mega Drive was one of the first consoles I owned and it always takes me back to a simpler time. A time when there was no online multiplayer, no overly complex character customisation and upgrades and no trophies.
Originally launched in 1993 (23 years ago – say wha?), Gunstar Heroes is a 2D run-and-gun shooter and arguably one my most revered titles on the console. The graphics are bright and colourful, the action is fast paced but never overwhelming and the game rejoices in its bombastic splendor.
One of the game’s most unique features is the ability to combine the powers of two weapons. There are four key weapon modes (force, laser, fire, and chaser) but you are able to carry two at once which makes for some fun shooting combinations. My particular favourite was the fire/chaser combo which would often look like chaos onscreen but probably one of the most effective against enemies. What’s more, unlike some modern games where you pick your character’s combat style early on and stick to it, Gunstar Heroes allows you to drop and pick up weapon combos as you play. It not only creates the freedom to experiment with weapons but also offers diversity to how you play the game.
In a time before online multiplayer and when you had to actually be in the same room as another player, Gunstar Heroes excels with its multiplayer option. It isn’t necessarily new or innovative, even by 1993 standards, but it is so much fun. The real joy from playing the game comes from sharing the experience with your friends, fighting your way through the armies of foes and working out together how to beat the boss at the end of each level.
The boss battles are creative and ridiculous. Like most 90s games, they follow a simple routine and all you have to do is work out the best time to attack and when to hold back. However, I remember playing this for the first as a nine-year old felt exhilarating. You only have to search YouTube to see some of the amazing boss battles and how much they mean to fans of the game.
After replaying Gunstar Heroes over 20 years on, it still retains its nostalgic charm. Surprisingly the graphics do hold up in a sense; not PS4 or Xbox standard but I could see it being a very popular mobile game. The action is fast paced as you’re thrown into one battle after the next and, however simplistic the fighting may be, it never feels repetitive thanks to the weapon combo choices. Whilst the game may lack the complexity of modern titles, the sheer joy and fun had whilst playing gives it massive replayability value and I can see why so many, myself included, still adore this game.