The original Gunstar Heroes was a complete unknown to me, but it sure made an entrance with a bang. A lot of bangs, even. More gunfire than a Call of Duty title. Colourful, cartoony and absolutely action-packed, I liked it. And now it gets a sequel for the Game Boy Advance in Gunstar Super Heroes.
History keeps repeating, and when bad guys are bad, good guys need to be heroes. Trigger fingers at the ready - not that you'll need to release them once you start to squeeze...
The game takes place long after the events of Gunstar Heroes, but that's something I picked up from Wikipedia, rather than any cutscene. The dialogue is minimal and I don't know who these people are, except for that they're named after colours.
Like Gunstar Heroes, we can choose to be Red or Blue, with a differing storyline depending on whichever hero we picked, so I read. Unlike the first game, however, we can cycle through our three weapons - a gun, a shotgun kinda thing, and a laser - with the Left shoulder button, firing away with the Right. And there's a lot of firing. There's no reason to not be shooting something, really.
Running and gunning is what Gunstar Super Heroes thoroughly enjoys doing, though it is one or the other. Enemies come from nowhere and don't stop coming from nowhere for a long time, it seems, but you can rush through stages if the exit is open and waiting for you.
We don't have to do anything more complicated than staying alive here, and through big brutes and emplaced weaponry, we can jump around, shooting up and diagonally until the threats disappear.
A few screens in and we're already faced with someone who looks rather important. General Gray is a bad guy - he wears purple, see - and disappears with whatever it was that he came here for. I don't know where 'here' is, other than Earth, and I don't know what it was he came for, the plot is incredibly light on details.
We get a call that Yellow is in trouble, and have to rush back to help out, after dealing with a few vehicular mini-bosses first.
Oh, and one giant vehicular boss. Shouldn't he be called Yellow? No time to wonder, as he picks up Yellow in her ship and tries to use it as a weapon to smash across our heads. Some running to the side, some shooting of his hands and Yellow is flung free. A lot more shooting of the face and some dodging of some attacks and this big bad robot is toast.
And that's the first level, brief though it was. Explosive from start to finish.
While the controls are fine and simple to use, Gunstar Super Heroes is let down by its plot. Everything is told to us as though we know more than our characters. Should we have read a bit of backstory first? Should we have refreshed ourselves on the events of the first game? Can we dive straight into this one without knowing what happened before?
I'm beginning to think not. Certainly, I'd have an easier time of knowing what's going on with some prior knowledge. Maybe the manual fleshes it out for us. Shame I'm emulating, then.
I'm not a huge fan of this art style while we're at it, but that's just the cutscenes. The game itself looks rather nice and is a great refreshing take on the original. Still cartoony, but not as goofy looking.
Further Fun Times
To prove that point, the second level starts with you on top of Yellow's ship as it gets attacked by aerial forces. Moving left and right rotates the ship around, so I spent much of this section defying the laws of physics by not falling out of an upside-down aircraft.
Shooting your weapons enough will charge up a bar for a more powerful attack, but truth be told, I never found the button to actually unleash all that built up power. I'm sure it would have come in handy, and I know it would have looked fantastic. These graphics just don't ease up. Something always seems to be happening - or exploding.
Back on land, we have to make our way through mercenary forces trying to stop us from finding some kind of crystal. I believe its related to the first game, but I've not gone through it to know for sure. There are a bunch of them, and we don't want them falling into enemy hands. I at least managed to work that out from the sparse cutscenes.
There really are a staggering amount of enemies for you to deal with in Gunstar Super Heroes. No matter what I blow up in the hopes they'll stop, they just keep coming. Should they surround you, you'll have to kill them quickly and hope they drop some extra health.
I didn't look at my health too often, on account of either too much going on at once, or too low a difficulty to worry about. Let's all count down how long that way of thinking will work well for me.
I can't even remember how I found myself here, and I don't know where here is, but I soon work out that moving around this place will rotate the entire level, and that things are lurking in the scenery that don't like it when I collect chickens.
Why on Earth am I collecting chickens? Is this a bonus stage or something? And what is the warning that I'm about to be attacked, other than that I've just grabbed a chicken? These monsters literally come out of the walls before I have time to react to them, and now I've actually seen that my health is just 6hp. I'm done for.
Sure enough, I was killed. I don't know what happened to the chickens. Even if I were to be told of their purpose to me, I don't think I'd know what happened to them. This is just mad. We even fought a giant vegetable, like in the original game. Is this a remake of sorts?
Gunstar Super Heroes is definitely full of action, and it's the kind of action that most of us can pick up and play without much difficulty. But it's also got a story that doesn't make much sense, a main character whose one expression seems to be shocked, and gameplay that catches you off guard.
And yet it's alright. It's almost fun. I wasn't enjoying every second of it, but I could see myself picking it up again, no problem. Much like Gunstar Heroes, the only obstacle I had was my skill level. The plot isn't an obstacle, it's just forgettable, and the game itself is on the criminally short side of things, apparently.
So if you want a run and gun game that you probably haven't given any thought to, definitely check out Gunstar Super Heroes. It won't be amazing, but it'll be good while it lasts, and is, I guess, yet another GBA title that I completely missed out on back in the day. What was the point in me even owning that handheld?
The ability to throw stuff has disappeared, but melee attacks have been expanded. Not that you want enemies to get close enough to use them, surely...
Gunstar Super Heroes, developed by Treasure, first released in 2005.
Version played: GBA, 2005, via emulation.