Gunstar Heroes review

What type of job opportunities are suitable if your name is Gunstar Red? Training to be a teacher, doctor or librarian is not really likely. No, you are born to be a badass dude with a big gun. Twin brothers Gunstar Red and Blue have been waiting for this day to come. The day of reckoning, the day when they have to protect their home: Gunstar 9.

Gunstar Heroes is a 2d platform run and gun game originally released for the Mega Drive/Genesis back in 1993. I have encountered the game in quite a few formats during the years, and they all share a high level of challenge. The constant barrage of enemies firing at you gets really intense. Mega Man meets any of Cave’s bullet hell shooters. The genre is quite slim, and to my knowledge only the poor port of Metal Slug Touch is available for iOS.
img_1807There is two control schemes available: touch and tilt. The tilt option is too slow, and imprecise to be a viable choice. The touch is not without a fair share of issues either. For one the virtual stick is direct, and if you stray off it Gunstar Red stops moving right away. The second, and perhaps biggest issue is the fact that you cover up important screen estate with your thumb when playing. This to me turns a game that is about skill into a game of chance. When I can no longer keep track of incoming fire there is no way for me to make good decisions. This becomes really evident as you face down any of the superb bosses. Getting stuck beneath my thumb in the corner death is almost always guaranteed.

Gunstar Heroes is a hard game even with excellent controls. When half the battle is getting to grips with them, the game turns into frustration. That is a shame because there is a great game underneath with lots of action, weapons and over the top boss battles.
The port is well made, and the game looks great on the small screen. Some aspects of it feel dates such as the poor backgrounds, and explosion effects. Enemies, and Gunstar Red/Blue are well animated. The bosses are really what the game is about, and those are generally inventive. There is an option to change screen size to a smaller version. This helps with the thumb getting in the way, but diminishes the immersion. Furthermore at least I have problems seeing incoming bullets when playing in puny size.

img_1801The music, and sound effects all hark back to a past day of glorious usage of limited sound chips. Tunes that get stuck in my head keep the action going. You can play your own music as well, but then you loose out on the sound effects as well.
There is a Bluetooth 2-player mode available letting you have the help of a friend. This makes things even more hectic, and confusing. But heck, at least you get to share that confusion with a friend. There are no other online functions available limiting the single player experience. Without at least the odd achievement or high score to get there is a lot of continuing without any rewards.

Gunstar Heroes is a highly challenging game that is hampered by poor controls. There is definitely a lot of action inside, and some highly memorable bosses to annihilate. To those already bathed in the action of Gunstar Heroes the control issues might be a minor disturbance. To those new to the game, or run and gun games this is not a good place to start.

Final Rating


Gunstar Heroes $2.99
Version: 1.0
Seller: Sega America

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