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Title: Gunstar Heroes (2nd Review)
Rom Player: Gens
Reviewer: ragingtofu

Synopsis: Do you like guns? Robots? Explosions? In gratuitous amounts? Do you breathe on a regular basis? If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, go buy your ass a Genesis and a copy of Gunstar Heroes. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Okay, you back? Good. I can't talk about this game without a little nostalgia and general weirdness, so I think I'll get it out of the way now - this game has honestly taken more of my time and thought than any other video game in existence. From the day I saw it at my friend's house as a kid (and then went out and bought it because it had big explosions) to a few weeks ago where I was discussing with a friend it was fully well possible that each character was making fun of a different race of people (Orange? Zanghief? Separated at birth...?). It's also, quite honestly, the single greatest two-player game I have ever had the honor of playing. It's THAT good.

Now, enough of my rambling and onto the game itself. When you start it up, you get the SEGA logo, the Treasure logo, a nifty spinning 3D logo... and finally you get to make the most crucial decision of the game - your Hero and your starting weapon. In case you're wondering what the difference is between Free and Fixed shot, the first lets you run and gun while the second lets you shoot in 8 directions while standing at the cost of moving (although once I got used to it it never bothered me thanks to the "bunny hop" method). From here, you'll get to select your starting weapon - I'll give you a quick rundown. Force is your run-of-the-mill, shoot-straight Contra style blaster. Seeker, as the name suggests, seeks out enemies. Laser... long range, and Fire... short range. You get the idea, right? It's not until you start combining weapons that it gets interesting. From here you get to select your stage. Doc (as I call him) gives you a short run-down of whatever's going on in each stage... if you're just starting I suggest Pink's stage. It's pretty easy and kinda lets you ease into things in a way.

So now you're thrust into the game, trembling with excitement and wetting yourself with anticipation. Well, prepare yourself for a big steaming pile of action! And... uh... change your pants, please. From this point on, you'll be assaulted by an onslaught of robots. A lot of robots. And they honestly don't stop coming. If you move right, more robots, if you move left, more robots, if you STAND STILL, more robots. Hope you remember your survival training. In case you don't, here's what you do. Shoot everything. Throw things. Blow stuff up. It's what makes this game beautiful. Besides your typical shooting, you can also throw your enemies by getting close enough to them and pressing your fire button (B by default) plus the direction you want to throw them in (ever play catch with a robot? Me neither) and watch 'em fly. You can also latch onto things by holding up and jumping, then doing it again to kick up to the upper level. There's not a huge variety of robots you'll face, but it's not really them that you need to worry about. No, it's the oftentimes insane, kick-yo-ass bosses that you'll need to worry about. (Pro tip: Unless you enjoy suffering do NOT take on Green first on Expert level.)

Especially on the higher dificulties, the bosses make [insert your most hated boss] look like a pansy. Some are most definitely harder and more bizarre than others, with Pink's mech, Black's... also mech, Orange's "Break Wind" attack (I'm not making that up) and Green being Green. Okay, so I'm having a hard time explaining them. You'd just have to play to understand.

But back to the weapons - some are more useful than others, but all pretty spiffy. (To get one, duck and hit the fire button.) I'm making the names up, by the way. The Targeter (Seeker and Laser) is a box that basically locks onto a target and... kills it. Then it moves to the next target. It's a pretty effective seeker weapon. The Double Seeker... well, that just blows the crap out of everything really, and kinda un-funs the game in a way. My personal favorite is the Lightsaber (Fire and Laser) - it looks like a lightsaber, it acts like a lightsaber (it stops certain kinds of projectiles) and it's the most powerful weapon in the game despite a limited range. Of course, guns aren't the only things that can be used as weapons - bring your best friend with you and chuck him at a few enemies. It really works wonders.

Not content with having you do the same thing over and over, there's a good variety to the levels. Pink is the standard affair - it's the best level to really get into things with. Orange's stage is a bit more challenging with a constantly changing environment. Black's stage... well, I pray that you don't have to fight Curry and Spice. Green's stage is pretty interesting too, what with the whole minecart thing.

I'm running out of steam for writing this review pretty quick now, since I've exhausted most everything I know (or just can't remember at the moment) about it without wanting to give away too much. The controls are tight and responsive, and everything is crisp and clear onscreen. You shouldn't have many problems finding where you are onscreen amidst the chaos, and two player has surprisingly little slowdown despite the increased number of enemies. Music and sound gets a high score because, personally, I like it. "Hey!" As for originality, obviously "guy running around shooting things" had been done before this, but Treasure really took it to a whole new level.

And there is a story behind this game... if you want to try to figure it out, go ahead and watch the opening. I'd try to explain it but I know someone out there would come down on me for screwing it up. Once again, I have to say it - this is one of, if not the greatest game I have ever played. Often overlooked and definitely a diamond in the rough, it's something that belongs in every serious gamer's collection. And if you have a copy, do yourself a favor. Dust it off, call up a friend, and remember what two-player gaming was all about. Crazy gameplay, strange bosses, and legendary replayability - Gunstar Heroes has it all.

Now where's that sequel, Treasure...?

Best Cheats: There are no cheats for this game. Seriously. However, here are strange... VERY strange... gameplay extras and tips. 1. Fix-Shot Slide: If you're using the "Fixed-Shot" method for your Gunstar, you can hit down while doing an aerial kick for a pointed kick, or roll back, down, foward (think Ryu's fireball, only a longer motion) for a standing slide... thing. Both do more damage than their normal counterparts. 2. Logo Spinner: Hold down on the controler during the title screen to make the logo spin the other way. Fun. 3. Use The Buddy System: Go ahead... toss your friend into the boss. You know you want to. 4. Timeron: Now THIS one... well, you'll fight Timeron twice. The second time, try to see what happens if you run the timer past it's limit of 99'59''59 (yes, that's an hour, thirty-nine minutes, fifty-nine seconds... and fifty-nine miliseconds). If you have the patience and luck, that is....

Game Play: 10
Graphics: 9
Music/Sound: 9
Originality: 8
Overall Rating: 10


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