Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Gunstar Future Heroes

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Electronic Theatre ImageGunstar Heroes is an incredibly well renowned title. Having launched on the Mega-Drive in the early nineties to much praise, a sequel to the title reportedly entered production within days of completion. However, developer Treasure went very quiet, very quickly, and hopes of a second outing in the 16-bit era were quickly dashed. In a hope to appease the huge Gunstar Heroes fanbase – with copies of the original title rarely garnering less than £100 in auctions – a deal was bridged with Ubi Soft in-charge of brining a conversion of the original title to the Game Boy Advance. Launched on February 18th 2005, Advance Guardian Heroes on the Game Boy Advance received mixed reviews, as newcomers to the series enjoyed its fast-paced balancing-act of skill, accuracy and blind-adrenaline rushes while fans of the original wondered how the title managed to fail to recreate the beautifully simplistic gameplay of the Mega-Drive original on a system far more powerful.

            Now, some twelve years after the original’s release, Gunstar Future Heroes enters the playing field as a true sequel. With the might of the Game Boy Advances’ 2D Electronic Theatre Imageprocessing capabilities, the only wonder is if it will be able to continue the mad-cap blasting mayhem without the original Co-Operative Mode.

            For those new to the series, Gunstar Future Heroes is a 2D Side-Scrolling Shoot-‘Em-Up. However, not all of the Levels in this edition actually scroll sideways, or even in any direction. To begin with, given the removal of the Co-Operative play, you are given the choice to play as either Red or Blue; both play the same but each has two specific weapons. The first and last two Levels are strict in their play; however the mid-section of the title allows you to progress through the Levels as you wish. Each Level has two or more Sections – acting as a Checkpoint should you fail in your mission or simply wish to replay a specific Section of a Level.

            The game plays as a pure Shoot-‘Em-Up – your only objective is to shoot the thousands of enemies vying for your blood on your way to the end of the Level, and a Boss encounter or Electronic Theatre Imagetwo. The B Button executes a close-combat slash attack with a single press, whilst holding will align your firing in the direction your are facing or pressing the D-Pad, while the A Button jumps. There are several alternatives to the basic formula; including Levels in which you are mounted on a shuttle positioned central to the screen, and pressing left or right will rotate the shuttle in the direction desired, and R-Type­-esque Levels in which you are given control over your direction of movement with the L and R Triggers.

            For most of the game, you have but three ranged-weapons at your disposal. Each Red and Blue has two slightly different weapons based around the same principle. Your basic weapon Electronic Theatre Imagehas a rapid rate-of-fire and can shoot a full-screen length, a secondary weapon has a target-seeking augmentation, but a much weaker impact and the third has a short-range but is a highly devastating weapon.

            While the game may only feature a handful of Levels – seven to be precise – the title is much like recent releases StarFox: Assault and Yoshi’s Touch & Go! and Pac’N Roll in that it returns to some of the earlier values in videogames; namely the High Score Table. The longevity of the title is certainly not hindered by its limited Level selection as the replay value simply can’t be beaten.

            Gunstar Heroes looked a picture when it arrived on the Mega Drive , with colourful Electronic Theatre Imagevisuals and the Mega-Drives’ best attempt at stealing the SNES’ Mode7 thunder. Now, however, technology has all but disgraced the first title’s attempts, with Gunstar Future Heroes pushing the Game Boy Advance to its limit. The visuals are still colourful, but much more defined than their predecessors’, and each of the backdrops looks stunning. More than this though – the scaling and rotation techniques truly have to be seen to be believed. It’s clear that the SNES and Mega-Drive never had the metal to produce effects that the Game Boy Advance is pushing in its stride, however it soon becomes apparent that the PlayStation would probably fall-short of the mark also, with the 2D technology it houses being more than five years the Game Boy Advance’s junior.

            Gunstar Future Heroes has had quite a development spell, and it’s easy to see why. The abilities of the Game Boy Advance have been implemented in every way imaginable – while keeping true to the tradition of gameplay over graphics. Gunstar Future Heroes is an essential purchase for not only fans of the original, but fans of Shoot-‘Em-Ups, the Game Boy Advance, and the games industry in general.


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