my sega experience continues to slowly grow. i finally beat a game on the original sega genesis, gunstar heroes, the first game created by treasure. treasure was apparently created by people who had left konami, and according to this article at hardcoregaming101.net gunstar heroes was developed by several people who had worked on contra iii, a game i had enjoyed but not loved.
although gunstar heroes may have taken contra as its starting point, its variety, unique weapon system (in which you combine two of four types of weapons to make a new one), and cartoony but cool personality make it feel distinctly fresh. in terms of comparing it to the contra series, hardcore gaming puts it well when it says:
- In Contra, your heroes are killed after a single hit, demanding exact precision to dodge enemy fire or overpower quick moving bosses. Gunstar Heroes is much more forgiving, and doesn’t require nearly the same amount of reflexive intensity. While one could argue that it makes their games simpler, on the flip side, their relaxed approach actually make them a lot more fun, where you can concentrate more on the joys that come with dealing expansive amounts of damage without worrying too much about memorizing enemy patterns.
in what has become a treasure trademark the game is full of boss battles, and the screen is pretty much constantly chock-full of bullets and explosions, all at a blissfully smooth frame rate. the game features unlimited continues to further emphasize enjoyment as opposed to frustration, and in fact i played through the normal mode all in one sitting. there’s a lot of variety and a sense of always moving forward, although there’s one section (the dice palace) where the game slows to a crawl because you’re working your way around a board game-type board and, depending on how unlucky you are, you’ll probably end up having to play through the same mini-bosses many times. there’s also a shooter section at the end that feels unnecessary and frankly fairly dull.
overall, though, this is probably the best game i’ve played this year, although it doesn’t quite crack my greatest games of all time list. there’s a sense of sheer joy and fun that comes across, and the game points out the many things the contra series lacks that i never realized i missed, like a sense of humor and a cast of colorful antagonists (actually they’re literally “colorful” in this game, as they’re called by colors such as black and pink). i’m looking forward to trying out the game’s pseudo-remake on GBA, and at some point i’ll have to replay the original and experiment more with the different weapon combos instead of just sticking with the double chaser (and then maybe i’ll be up for tackling the hard modes). my experience with treasure games continues to deepen my appreciation for that studio, and i’m looking forward to continuing to delve deeper into their body of work.