Reviews  |  Mega Drive

Gunstar Heroes

By Joshua Farrelly / February 25, 2008


Gunstar Heroes is best described as an awesome boss-rush glued together with shit. Shit meaning it has every design element of one of those terrible Euro shooters (see: all of them), also known as euroshmups.

Firstly, your character has hit points to compensate for unavoidable situations during non-boss segments. This is aggravated on Expert difficulty (which is necessary for a challenge) where bullets and enemy attacks just overtake the screen regardless of composition. There is a guard move obviously designed to counteract this problem, but you still take damage and invite yourself to getting attacked by enemies during the areas where this move would've been useful (the boss battles are too well designed for it). Using a weapon with bullet-cancelling properties will make the game much more manageable, but that is another flaw: the weapons are imbalanced. The only downside to Flame + Laser or Flame + Homing is that they take a little longer to master, but once you do you won't be switching to, say, Rapid + Homing. Fixed Shot also seems to be more functional than Free Shot.


Another stupid choice was infinitely re-spawning enemies. I can understand wanting that constant pressure, but it didn't need to be score-destroyingly infinite. Time limits or temporary re-spawn would have been the way to go, and even though temporary re-spawn would've meant losing some of that pressure, the player would have a natural incentive to scroll the screen right and get back into it, because, you know, he's trying to clear the game. Treasure would rectify this for the most part with their next action shooter, Alien Soldier, by cutting non-boss segments (which clearly weren't their strength) extremely short and adding time counters for accurate skill ranking.

But why is there a score system in Gunstar Heroes in the first place? It doesn't even function as an extend mechanism. Why should I indulge in those meaningless scoring mini-games in Dice Palace? You'd have to be insane to play the Timeron bullet-dodging game for more than five minutes, let alone the possible hour plus.


I started a thread on Shmups outlining my criticisms and was expecting at least some form of backlash, but instead received some vindication. One guy, szycag, said pretty much the same thing, that it's "meatless" and "feels like a lot of diversions taped together most of the time." FIL gave us a classic line with "Gunstar Heroes is a bit of an example where technological achievement is mistaken for a good game." I don't know, it's like the saying "Treasure's first and best" has turned into a meme over the years that's now grown stale (although lamefaqs posters and corporate games journalists still don't know what's going down in the streets).

The next question would have to be "So why is it still great?"

Well, like I mentioned, the boss battles are just beautifully designed. As szycag put it, Seven Force would be great to wake up to every morning. There's also no denying the game's system is incredibly fun, even though repeated jump-kicks (not as an attack but as speed boosts) and one of the good weapon combinations will get you where you need to be better and faster than tossing bombs and sliding into enemies. But you can read all about its successes in every other article about the game.