Gunstar Super Heroes takes all of three seconds to get going. In fact, that may even be conservative. Once out of the menu system, players are thrust back into an action game they haven’t been in for 12 years. Not all is well though, and the deletion/change of key features doesn’t help this one draw in longtime fans.
With all the explosions, cartoon death, and stunning graphical package, it’s hard to imagine not being engrossed, changes or not. If you’re running for 10 seconds and something didn’t explode, you’re doing something wrong. This is a platform shooter with incredible variety and more explosions than any person could even count. That’s the thrill Super Heroes provides. It’s also what made the original an underground classic on the Genesis.
Unfortunately, for those looking for more of the same, they’ll most likely be disappointed. While the style and intensity is still unmatched, the technique is lost. Easily the most innovative concept of the first game was the weapon system. In it, you could meld two weapons together to create your own blend of destruction. Here, you get a standard set. Both characters have one different (and it’s not a major change) weapon to set them apart. Aside from that, they’re identical. There is no throwing of enemies either, and instead, you’ll have a sword slash for close-up attacks.
There’s no multi-player gameplay this time, and considering how little screen space there is, that’s not a surprise. This game is crammed onto the GBA screen, and there’s little room to maneuver around the ridiculously large bosses. Add in their attacks that can cover half the screen and it’s a little out of hand.
Strangely though, the game isn’t difficult. The addition of the save system is awfully generous for a game that can be run through in two hours, and you’ll have no trouble defeating anything thrown at you. It’s a disappointing change that dumbs down the entire experience, and given the hardcore crowd will be looking for this one, it’s a disappointing design decision.
Super Heroes offers replay though, mostly through the graphics engine. This is one of the most impressive video games ever made from a technical standpoint, using every available hardware trick the GBA can muster. Thanks to the brilliance of the Treasure design team, they actually have gameplay effects too. For instance, spinning the entire map around the player (while barely clinging onto the outside of a ship) could avoid death-dealing missiles. You’ll play through again just to make sure you caught everything.
There’s also some intense variety offered here, something lacking from the original. Fans of overhead and vertical shooters will have their moments, straight-run-and-gun is prevalent, and the unforgettable board game makes a return late in the game. This is the type of gameplay that separates Gunstar from any other shooter on the market.
Most of the changes to this classic are undeniably disappointing and strange. The best parts of the original are missing, and the low-end difficulty will only ruin the experience for the targeted audience. Everything that surrounds that disappointment, including the amazing graphics engine, lets you know this is Gunstar Heroes. It’s not the same, but it’s definitely a more spastic alternative to the solid Metal Slug Advance.