We've selected Gunstar Heroes for On-File's first game of the month, and for good reason... this intense Treasure shooter stunned most of fandom with its unique gameplay and impressive special effects. Not everyone was blown away by the game, however... the notoriously cynical Todd Lintner lambasted Gunstar Heroes in his fanzine MASTERminds, calling it shallow and "redundant". We'll begin with a more positive review of this Genesis classic, brought to us by Brian Pacula of The Good, The Bad, and the Eight-Bit.

From The Good, The Bad, and The Eight-Bit #7
Reviewed by Brian Pacula

On utopian planet Gunstar-9, there is a crisis. Traitor Gunstar Green has made off with the four peace keeping crystals (how come all game lands require four crystals to keep them from falling into chaos? Why is that?), so of course his loving brothers must blast him to kibble to recover them. How? Select from a vast array of weaponry and combine them for more firepower.

Once you take the gems from the thief's charred, writhing, near-death body, the baddies kidnap yer best gal Yellow. Save her and you get to board a starfighter, lead an assault on the enemy's battleship, then enter it to destroy the legendary golem, Golden Silver. All in all a typical day.

Gunstar Heroes is incredible! Sega, get a clue! Hype this cart to death, it's one of the few that deserves it!!! The action will blow your mind, even if you don't LIKE action games! The bosses are great, ranging from the innocuous Curry and Rice to the lethal Seven Force, Green's mighty morphin' warmech. Scaling and rotation run rampant and are just as good (if not better) than on the Super NES. This game is one of the best I've ever seen on ANY system.

From Fantazine #5
Reviewed by Patrick Reynolds

Treasure, the development house full of refugees from Konami who defected to Sega, is aptly named indeed. Gunstar Heroes had me constantly looking at my Genesis to confirm that, indeed, that's where those graphics were coming from. This game is proof that Genesis owners have been dealt a raw hand for three years. Sure, there have been great games for the system, but this is evidence that they could have been better!

Gunstar Heroes is a lot like Contra, but with greater originality and more options. For example, at the beginning of the game you can choose whether you want a character who can fire and run at the same time, or one who has better control over the 360 degree range of firing. I found that the fixed fire option worked better for me, because there's so much going on that if you need to move around to accurately aim your weapon you'll get hit a lot more often. Also, the game's four basic weapons can be combined with one another for a wide variety of super weapons. Grab chaser and rapid and you'll get a rapid chaser, or just get two of a kind for a more powerful version of that weapon.

Technique is important here as well. Aside from the usual run and gun action, the heroes can jump kick or belly flop on enemies, slide, and block unfriendly fire. They also climb like monkeys, jump off walls, and can grab opponents and throw them into walls or other baddies. They can even throw each other into the enemy! These are versatile guys.

The main bad guy is an M. Bison look-alike with a mean streak and an evil laugh. You face off with him several times throughout the game, but he's probably the least impressive of all the bosses you'll come across. Especially unbelievable is level two's Seven Force, a huge robot that transforms up to seven times depending on the difficulty level. On normal alone, fighting off five of his forms is one of the most intense battles ever seen on ANY system.

Then there's Black's Dice Maze, where you roll dice to move across a board game. The only catch is that each stop is a boss fight!!! Luckily, there are "happy item rooms" to replenish your health and change weapons.

I could go on about all the scaling, rotation, and other effects to be found in Gunstar, but I don't want to ruin all the surprises for those who have yet to play the game. Absolutely the best Genesis game ever released in terms of overall impression, Gunstar Heroes does for the action genre what Street Fighter II did for fighting games.

From MASTERminds #13
Reviewed by Todd Lintner

With this game, Sega tries to make up for all its recent mistakes, like Jurassic Park and the acquisition of the Barney license. Gunstar Heroes takes your basic side-scrolling Contra rip-off, gives it a fresh new look, and makes everything blow up real big. In intensity, it rivals even the Thunder Force series, and at times its speed threatens to break the Sonic sound barrier.

The narrative is completely derivitive of just about every shooter on the market: You must save your homeland from evil forces. At the start, you must choose from two characters (in two player mode, each person is one or the other), Gunstar Red or Gunstar Blue. Red can shoot while moving, almost a necessity, while Blue can only shoot while standing still. He appears to have no other attributes to make up for this, making him the choice for a player who isn't satisfied with just playing on the hard level.

Unfortunately, Gunstar Heroes received a lot of pre-release hype from GameFan, the only magazine that I know of that reviews games "optimistically". Try thinking of us, the people who do not think so optimistically of you after we buy a game you gush over only to discover that it's a piece of crap. Of course, they don't have to blow fifty plus dollars on every game they get, do they? Sorry for getting off track, but it does apply to this game. The scores GameFan gave it were way too high, and when E. Storm said, "I'm sure I'll go back to it often, for years and I'm quite sure you will to [sic].", he must have been at least temporarily insane. Sure, everybody at the Summer CES thought it was great, but that's because they had little time to play it. Once you've beaten it, you'll never want to lay eyes on it again. I don't care if I completed it on the Easy level, missed some forms of the bosses, or saw a weaker ending. All Gunstar Heroes is good for is short-term fun, with or without a friend. So it goes without saying that you should rent this. But after all the explosions die down and all the breathtaking special effects become mundane, all you're left with is a redundant shoot 'em up.

From Matrix3 #6
Reviewed by Jeremy Statz

How many people out there remember the original Contra? Now how many people remember the more recent Contra 3, which had excellent ideas but come up short in the fun department? Well, it took a while, but a company- and a newcomer, at that!- has successfully combined themes from Contra, Strider, and Mega Man. The result is Gunstar Heroes, one of the best Genesis games ever.

I won't bother with the archetypical storyline. Suffice it to say that the result of the story is a gunfight of unbelievable intensity, with amazing special effects and impressive weaponry. Yeah, I think you get the idea.

You start the game by choosing whether to use fixed shot (which means that you can't move while firing) or free shot. Using fixed shot gives you an advantage while fighting some of the bosses, but tends to break up the gameplay, so I suggest the free shot mode.

Then you start the game. It's a side-scrolling shooter in the Contra vein, but with enhanced, well, everything! The weapon system is done in an unusual style: you can have up to two weapons at once. These can be used in tandem to create a third weapon... a combination of rapid or laser will create a rapid-fire laser, for instance. All in all, there's about twenty different guns in the game.

The really cool thing is hitting enemies with gunfire. In Gunstar Heroes, everything explodes violently and spectacularly. When I say everything, I mean it! Even the smallest enemies let loose a very satisfying explosion when destroyed. And the bosses... WOW!

This isn't one of those games that only throws a few enemies at you at once. At times, you'll find over twenty things on screen gunnin' for you in Gunstar Heroes. This does tend to slow down the Genesis, but there's so much going on that you probably wouldn't notice unless you were looking for it.

The sound is spectacular as well. I liked most of the music, although some of it is a bit uninspired. But it doesn't matter because most of the time you'll hear nothing but gunfire and explosions. When you do have time for a breather, that more than likely means one of the truly amazing bosses is on its way.

The bosses in Gunstar Heroes are unbelievable! Some of the special effects have never been done before on the Genesis. Rotation and scaling run rampant, and the animation is as smooth as possible. The bosses range in difficulty, with Seven Force, which has up to seven forms that need to be defeated seperately, being the hardest.

As I'm sure you can guess, the graphics are great. They aren't realistic or anything- they aren't supposed to be!- but they shine with a consistantly high quality that adds to Gunstar Heroes' luster. The highlights of the graphics and animation are, of course, the fiery explosions that fill the screen on such a frequent basis. Many of the larger enemies have chaining techniques used for their animation, such as the aforementioned Seven Force.

Overall, I have nothing but compliments for Treasure and this technological triumph. The only area of the game that could be significantly improved is the differences between the characters. When you're playing a two player game, the characters look too much alike. This is a minor problem, though, and should be taken lightly. I highly recommend this game to anyone and everyone. Wow.

From Project: Ignition #8
Reviewed by Josh Lesnick

It takes a lot to get ME to like a shooter, as I pretty much avoid them at all costs. The Contra-type shooters are the worst, though... they always require memorization throughout the game and because one hit will massacre you, I spend too much time worrying about getting hit to have any fun.

Enter Gunstar Heroes. First: you have a long life bar so you don't have to worry about dropping dead every ten seconds. Second: the weapons are the best I've ever seen in a shooter and the method of combining them is brilliant. Third: the attention to detail is superb, the explosions are perfect, the special effects are nothing short of stunning, and there's even a level played entirely on a monitor that's viewed by the villians, which produces a unique effect. Fourth, the game is FUN! You get to blow lots of things up and it's got bosses which require technique (and NOT memorization) to defeat! And fifth, sixth, and seventh... two player simultaneous gameplay, two methods of control (I prefer fixed shot, myself), and unlimited continues (why the hell do people complain about this? I HATE starting over!).

I never fully explained the items on my list, but it shouldn't take an idiot (Mike Judge? Todd Capriotti? Oh, and especially Tom Kalinske?!) to figure them out! To sum it up, the only reason I can't call Gunstar Heroes game of the year is because I'm a biased, shooter-dodging RPG chugger (Shining Force! Shining Force!), but if you dig shooters, BUY IT NOW!. But if you're like me, just rent it.

From Video Zone #26
Reviewed by Chris Kohler

After hearing about this game and how great it is for five year now, I finally had to buy it now that I had a Genesis. After countless fan-eds (especially Jess Ragan) had extolled its virtues, I didn't think it could possibly live up to its reputation. Impressively, it did. Gunstar Heroes is nothing less than an incredible game. You and a friend guide little super-deformed characters through five fast-paced stages. The game plays similarly to Contra, but not only is it more fast-paced, it's also more fun. The different weapons available are widely varied, and you can carry two at a time or combine them if you want to create different super weapons. But most of the time, you won't be concerned with weapon strategy- you'll be too busy blasting everything in sight as you dodge enemy fire. Gunstar Heroes is the epitome of mindless fun and proves that, if anyone at Sega had a brain, the Genesis could have won its battle against the Super NES.

From Project: Ignition #8
Reviewed by Jess Ragan

Spare no details. That's obviously what Genesis newcomers Treasure were thinking when they created Gunstar Heroes. While it's true that Gunstar Heroes' main attraction is its frenetic, Contra-style battles, it's hard to ignore the game's incredible special effects. When Treasure skipped town on the rapidly declining Konami, it's obvious that they took along a nice little bag of Genesis tricks that their former employers never bothered to use.

We all know about Gunstar Heroes' intense, mile-a-second action, but what most people fail to mention is the vast number of little things that make this game a true work of art. Treasure realized that fighting the game's hordes of crazed mining robots would get repetitive after a short while, so they actually gave them personalities to help offset that problem. These little guys are everywhere, but the fact that each one actually thinks of ways to attack you makes them easy to warm up to, just like the fuzzy stars of Lemmings. If you look carefully, you'll find them pulling guns from their holsters, sleeping on the job, and cheering on their superiors... it's almost a shame that they blow up so quickly!

There are tons of details like these throughout Gunstar Heroes, and that alone seperates the game from mindless shooters like Contra. Is it any wonder that it's my pick for the best game of 1993?

From Video Universe #8
Reviewed by Ara Shirinian

Treasure has done the impossible with Gunstar Heroes, mixing incredible visuals with equally incredible gameplay. SInce this is an action-platformer game, I'm not going to bother with describing the bland plot that many of these games have (including this one). But Gunstar Heroes is no ordinary game. When you turn on your Genesis, you're greeted with some awesome pseudo-3D, pseudo-scaling and rotation efects. But they're so well done I had to check under my system to see if someone had slipped in a Sega CD while I wasn't looking.

There are about seven levels; you can choose the order in which you select the first four. There are unlimited continues, so it's not too hard to finish unless you use the highest difficulty setting... ugh! You can also pick up four different weapons which can be combined or used seperately You also get to choose between "free shot" and "fixed shot" (ie being able to move when the fire button is pressed or not). The problem with this is that in some places, it's better to have fixed shot, and in others, it's better to have free. Guys, it's called a six-button pad. Sega has one now. Those extra three buttons aren't there for decoration.

Considering the limitations of the Genesis, the background music is very well done. But remember, it's still the same old sound chip inside, and it's not CD quality by any stretch of the imagination.

There are lots of bosses. Instead of a life meter, the bosses' hit points are displayed with numbers. Not that that's amazing or anything, but it's this and tons of other little details that make Gunstar Heroes so good. The two player option is great, but I wish Treasure added an option to turn off the ability to throw your friend, which happens about 32,678 times per game. It happens even more if you play with someone who isn't exactly your best friend. This is supposed to be an attack maneuver, but it never really does anything advantageous.

I've got some whining to do about the control, too. It takes getting used to 'cause it's waaay too easy to jump off walls when you don't want to, landing you right into... you guessed it, that enigmatic infinitely deep pit at the bottom of the screen. Also, the ending is only average. But I'm being waaay too picky. Gunstar Heroes isn't a game you'll get tired of in a few days... It's a refreshing change of pace from the standard action game. Too bad those Treasure guys don't like to make sequels.

From Sub-Zero #5
Reviewed by Chris Dyer

After buying this for a mere $20 (ha, ha, ha!!!), I can only say that I was TRULY amazed! Gunstar Heroes has awesome special effects and the BEST graphics I have EVER seen in a 16-bit game! This even has Mode 7 effects... MODE 7 EFFECTS!!! Great music! Perfect gameplay! Perfect game!!! You absolutely HAVE to see the bosses! They kick butt! Get this NOW!!!




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