Gunstar Super Heroes

Frenetic run n' gun shooting action explodes on the Game Boy Advance.


By Joseph Jackson

When Gunstar Super Heroes was first announced, had you stopped what you were doing at the time and listened carefully, you would have heard the celebration that was happening around the world as hundreds, no, thousands, of old school Treasure fans burst into cheers over the news that one of Treasure's most revered 16-bit classics was finally receiving a long awaited update.

While the idea of an old school classic receiving an update might not be at all surprising, the fact that this was a sequel from Treasure no less was what made it all the more surprising. Reason being, if you've been gaming at a seemingly hardcore level since the 16-bit era, then you might already be familiar with Treasure's history and know that the company was basically founded on the principles of offering fresh new gameplay experiences as opposed to doing yearly updates, rehashes, sequels and whatnot - which is why some of the ex-Konami staff broke away from Konami to form Treasure in the first place.

And no matter how hard and long you Google search, you won't find much in the way of an actual gaming 'series' listed under the Treasure label. For the most part, games developed by Treasure usually have their own distinctive style and unique gameplay mechanics that help set them apart from the pack - which is why often times Treasure games have been referred to as "instant classics".

And while Gunstar Super Heroes doesn't sport anywhere near the type of big budget production values found in many current-gen games with their fancy lighting effects, high polygon counts, and whatnot, what it offers instead is so much more as the high-octane, frenetic run n' gun gameplay will no doubt provide fans of action games with more than a satisfactory twitch gaming experience. And if you happen to be one of the few people not familiar with the classic original, just think along the lines of a more colorful version of the Contra series - back when it was actually still a great series during the 8 & 16-bit era!

The storyline behind Gunstar Super Heroes takes place many years after the events that transpired in the previous game. Players will have the option of taking control of characters, Red or Blue, two seemingly reluctant heroes that make up the elite unit codenamed, "Gunstar Super Heroes". Given the Gunstar name as a way of honoring the previous Gunstar Heroes, the Gunstar Super Heroes were formed by the "3EYE" (the 3rd Eye) organization on Earth in order to thwart the "Empire's" evil plan to use an ancient relic to resurrect the destructive God of Ruin who was originally defeated after a long arduous battle in the original Gunstar Heroes.

The destruction of the God of Ruin not only eliminated a great threat to the world but also resulted in the creation of 4 new moons that began orbiting the Earth. After many years had passed, all of the moons were eventually colonized and the Earth - along with its orbiting moons - enjoyed an era of peace and prosperity. All was well, until now...

With the Empire setting its master plan in motion with the creation of a mechanical moon that looms ominously over the planet, Red and Blue spring into action in order to prevent the evil God's return. In order to do so they'll have to battle their way through 6 action-packed levels filled with frenetically fast-paced shooting action that'll have then battling their way from the Earth to the four moons, with a final showdown taking place on the Empire's man-made moon.

The gameplay of Gunstar Super Heroes retains much of the winning elements that made the original Gunstar Heroes such an instant classic, with the more advanced specs of the Gameboy Advance making for a more visually impressive outing for this update. Playing as either character, players will engage in a number of side-scrolling shooting missions as they blast their way through the enemy onslaught. The action is fast-paced, and the enemies quite plentiful as they come at you at an almost non-stop rate, leaving it up to you to press the action and blast your way into each new area.

With that said, players can look forward to lots of running n' gunning, platforming-styled action through a variety of creative levels designs that aren't just littered with swarms of enemies but also sprinkled with nostalgic elements that not only serve as nods to the original Gunstar Heroes with a retooled version of the original's opening level, but also pays homage to past Sega classics with a few familiar sights and sounds.

While the majority of the levels consist of side-scrolling running 'n' gunning action, Gunstar Super Heroes has enough variety thrown in to keep things interesting all throughout the game. In addition to the side-scrolling shooting portions players will also pilot a ship in the omni-directional shoot-em' up portion of the game, ride on top of a spacecraft and shoot down enemy ships while rotating the background Mode-7 style, and even engage in a number of mini-game-like scenarios that will have players rescuing chicks (baby chickens, not babes!) as well as running the gamut in the mysterious Black Fortress's board game. In short, Gunstar Super Heroes packs more gameplay variety into its short 6 level setup than a lot of bigger, flashier titles do with their lengthier quests.

In addition to the various low and mid-level enemies, as well as the automated weapons and contraptions players will have to contend with throughout the game, Gunstar Super Heroes is also host to a number of cool boss battles that maintain the game's speedy pace while providing additional challenges for players to overcome. The boss battles are both fun and challenging and will keep players on the move, constantly avoiding attacks while trying to launch their own offensive onslaught.

Thankfully with the hectic pacing of the action the game features a pretty solid control scheme that's quick and easy to learn, allowing players easy access to the variety of moves in each character's arsenal. While there aren't any power-ups to obtain other than health replenishing and Supercharge items, Red and Blue are equipped with 3 types of projectile weapons that players can switch between with a simple tap of the button without interrupting the flow of the action.

While the weapons system works a little differently than it did in the original Gunstar Heroes, the three weapon types are powerful enough with differing characteristics that allows each weapon to be quite effective in different situations. So often times you'll find yourself alternating between the three, trying to find the most effective weapon to get the job done quickly. Fortunately the shooting aspect of the game is made all the more easier with both movement lock and aiming lock features that allows players to remain shooting in a fixed direction while running back and forth, as well as remain in a fixed location while blasting enemies all around you.

In addition to the normal firing characteristics of each weapon players also have access to additional firepower in the form of the Supercharge feature. All of your guns are equipped with a Supercharge function that enables them to discharge more powerful blasts, and each weapon's Supercharge is governed by a gauge that gets depleted with each use. Recharging the gauge can be accomplished by simply acquiring the supercharge items left behind by defeated enemies or taking out enemies thrown your way until the gauge is maxed out or begins flashing to signal the availability of your supercharge weapon.

While the main emphasis of the game is on running and gunning down everything in sight, your characters are also equipped with a number of attack moves in addition to their guns. Players can perform a variety of moves from a simple jump, to various types of jump kicks that include a 'side kick', 'drill kick', 'drop kick', and a 'triangle kick'. Players can also attack low with a slide attack, send enemies flying with a jumping uppercut, and even slash nearby enemies with their blade.

With the type of insane action present all throughout Gunstar Super Heroes, players are treated to some great 2D visuals that seemingly push the aging GBA hardware to its limits. Visually, Gunstar Super Heroes is a very fine looking GBA offering with bright, colorful graphics, detailed backgrounds, lots of on-screen action with plenty of explosions. In addition, some nifty Mode 7-like scaling and rotation effects are used to good effect in the game.

Along with the solid visuals the GBA's sound processor gets a pretty decent workout as well, registering all of the insane action with lots of explosion sounds, short speech samples and a surprisingly solid soundtrack that fits the action well.

Overall, Gunstar Super Heroes is a great follow-up to the legendary 16-bit classic. While the game is pretty short with only 6 levels to complete, the challenge is there and the gameplay is certainly varied enough to keep it from becoming the least bit repetitive.

Graphics Sound Gameplay Depth Presentation OVERALL
8.3 7.8 9.0 8.0 8.0 8.7

It appears Treasure has been making quite a name for itself on the Gameboy Advance. As was the case with the GBA version of Astro Boy, Treasure has shown the GBA some love with another stellar effort in Gunstar Super Heroes. Bright, colorful graphics, solid sound, and superb gameplay brings it all home for this latest Gunstar offering. If you're a fan of side-scrolling action games similar in style to the Contra & Metal Slug series then Gunstar Super Heroes is definitely worth a look.

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Gunstar Super Heroes
Gameplay footage   (Nintendo)
2.07m 17MB DF, SD, 30

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