9.4

Wild Guns review
Cowboys, robots and bounty hunters. Call Hollywood!

Summary:

Don't you just hate it when a really good game isn't being recognized by everybody? You know, those underground gems you spend ages trying to dig up, but can't because you don't know where to start? Wild Guns is one of those. Without the wisdom of Youtube and some of their members (ie. Happy Video Game Nerd), most of the underground games of today would be undiscovered. You wouldn't be able to figure out that Dr Jeckyll And Mr Hyde on NES sucked noodles until you played it, though consequentially, you wouldn't know what the hell a Wild Guns was. You'd think it was a cruddy shoot em up or first person shooter, but lo and behold, it's actually a fixed third person shooter and definitely the best of the genre with a grand total of 5 games in it, and one of the best that its host, the SNES, has to offer. If you're getting tired of Contra 3 and Super Mario World, look ahead - Wild Guns is there.

Not really much to say as far as the story goes. Basically, a woman by the name of Annie has to track down a bounty hunter called Clint to help her get revenge against a murderous gang of cowboys for killing a family member of hers. What's the catch? The gang has a bunch of steam powered machinery at their disposal, and they're not afraid to sic them on our two heroes. It's like something out of the steampunk genre (something that takes place during the era where people used steampower - 19th century - and usually involves some sort of fantasy or science fiction plot, and this game has the latter going for it), and it's not too often you get games with stories in this genre. So what do I think? I think it makes for a pretty good story, whether it's used as a steampunk or western movie, I wouldn't be too fussed, because it sounds like an excellent concept for either one and would make for quality entertainment. Not necessarily thinking material, but a great way to justify the action.

Wild Guns plays like a fixed third person shooter. Pretty much, you're in a fixed environment, shooting enemies down before they can shoot you (and there's the one hit death rule applies here, so watch yourself), until the time runs out. And when that time runs out, out comes a boss. Kill it to proceed to the next section. Rinse, lather and repeat for section 2. Section 3 is typically the main boss, and they really love to show their stuff with missiles and rapid gunfire.

So because it's fixed, a different sort of movement control comes into play here, with you controlling both the player AND the cursor. This takes a little while to adjust as the cursor is quite sensitive (especially compared to the player), but thankfully, the first level isn't that hard (unless on the hard difficulty setting, if you chose that in the options menu), so you can adapt to the different movement controls and get the feel for the game. The rest of the controls are standard - jump, shoot (hold to keep shooting), freeze lasso (rapidly press the shoot button - I know, it sounds stupid, I think it needs its own button too) and dynamite attack, and these should be easy to get used to, as it's usual for games like Contra 3. And even if they're not to your liking, you can switch the scheme in the options menu. Always awesome, that menu.

Don't worry, there's always a decent sized artillery to fall back on. From shotguns, to grenade launchers, to machine guns and even ping pong ball shooters. The ping pong ball shooters serve as an extreme annoyance, especially when you pick them up by accidently shooting where a recently destroyed enemy or flying icon is. Thankfully it's not all that common though, because the other weapons sound interesting. The main difference is either range (shotgun), power (grenade launcher) or speed (machine gun) when compared to the normal magnums our heroes start off with, and unlike the magnums, the other weapons have limited ammo (50). Nah, don't need to be too conservative, since rounds don't last long anyway, and there's always more weapons to collect anyway. There's always a sense of satisfaction when you kill enemies and bosses with these weapons, since they make you feel like a badass.

But you know what weapon makes you feel like a real badass? The vulcan cannon. This gun only lasts a certain amount of time, but it lets you shoot shots of immense power, killing everything quickly, and has infinite ammo. Did I almost forget... invincibility? Now that's being rad! The way to get it is pretty neat - just shoot enemy bullets. Yes, our heroic duo are that badass, they shoot bullets to gain power. I shit you not. When that green bar fills, unleash total hell. Just... just make sure you actually manage to shoot that bullet, or else you're history. Remember, one hit, you're dead! Better stack up points by killing everything in sight (100000 points = 1up).

Another way of unleashing total hell has to be the use of dynamite. With the press of a button, everything blows up for a couple of seconds, killing everything in sight. It kind of baffles the mind how that much dynamite is set that quickly, but it's a video game... roll with it. It feels very satisfying destroying everything in sight with such awesome looking and sounding explosions.

I guess I should talk about bosses now. To say the very least, they're good. The main bosses are definitely interesting. From giant robots, to high powered steam trains, and even to the boss of the gang, the main bosses will strike as fierce robots, possibly in it for the enslavement of the human race. They can pack a whallop with missiles and gatling guns and even flamethrowers, meaning you really need to keep your wits about you. The section bosses aren't too bad either, even if some are repeated. They seem rather basic, but technically speaking, all bosses of this type usually are, and they serve their roles very well. Some of them are even kind of tough to beat. But generally speaking, all of the bosses don't follow SPECIFIC patterns per se, but they have some attacks that they use repeatedly, so memorization of each of these attacks will help you greatly.

Let's talk graphics for a sec. They're actually very good for a 16-bit title. Sure, there's none of that mode-7 crap that other games like Pilotwings and Contra 3 use, but this game doesn't need it. What we have in front of us is very, very good. There's immense detail in the sprites, managing to really stand out against other SNES titles. There's also a decent variety of enemies, and only a few are palette swapped, so really, the sprites are very well done. Backgrounds too. They're not just filler pieces - they're damn awesome. The colors used remind me a lot of the old west, or at least as they're portrayed by western TV shows. Not too colorful, and not too dull either. Lots of effort put into this.

The one thing that makes this game really go is the soundtrack. Energetic, pulse pounding, heart beating, blood pumping, intense, and other adjectives used to describe fast paced and upbeat music, like what's used in this game. The soundtrack makes the gameplay twice as good. Try playing this game without the soundtrack. Still fun as hell, but doesn't have the same feel, you know what I mean? It's the thing that gives this game feeling!

It's just amazing what obscure games can offer. It's also amazing that the companies were unable to market such awesome games too well, leading them to obscurity. It's rather annoying, but at the same time, very satisfying when you manage to take a bite of the golden sandwich. It tastes awesome, and feels even better because you unearthed something that not many others have. Sure, the Happy Video Game Nerd's review probably made this game a lot less obscure, but still, compared to the likes of Super Mario World, this game is still obscure, and I'll never know why Natsume couldn't market this too well... Oh well, it's out there now. With a pulse pounding soundtrack, amazing graphics and action-packed gameplay, you pretty much owe it to yourself to play this game.


Breakdown:

Gameplay: 5
Most of the time is spent shooting down cowboys and robots. It's executed quite finely, and even though it sounds repetitive, trust me when I say... it's far from that. It always feels fresh with each different level. Definitely awesome how you can get an ultimate gun by just shooting bullets, adding a risk-win system to the game. More interesting. The satisfaction of annihilating bad guys with bombs is always high. Just love to arcade-y feel of it.

Controls: 4.5
Love the layout. Easy to memorize, and even if you don't like it, you can always change them in the options menu. Also very responsive and tight, so it won't get annoying. If there's any little problem worth pointing out, it's that the freeze lasso should have its own button.

Story: 4
A nice steampunk story (which you don't see much of), and one that would make a great concept for a movie, but since you only really get this from the instruction booklet, the story is practically invisible.

Graphics: 5
Sprites are quite detailed and nice to look at, and the colors match the wild west setting.

Sound: 5
Soundtrack is intense and energetic, and makes the game even more interesting than it already is. Basically, it makes the game more "wild". Sound effects are good to hear, especially the explosion sound, which sound a lot like an actual explosion compressed to a 16-bit sort of file.

Lastability: 4
It's sad to say that this won't last all that long. Unless you crank it to the hardest difficulty setting, Wild Guns isn't that hard of a game and doesn't have many stages (has 6 in total). You might be able to beat it in a weekend or a dedicated afternoon. It's the perfect sort of weekend rental or that sort of game you play, love, forget, then rinse, lather and repeat, and the multiplayer aspects aren't going to keep you coming back for very long.

Funfactor: 5
Managing to make you feel like a badass is one thing. Managing to make it seem fun is another... thing that it accomplishes! It never feels too hard or too easy, which means no frustration unless you just suck at gaming. The 2-player simultaneous play adds many flavours of fun, despite not being long lasting. To quote Natsume's subtitle, it's "serious fun".


Bottom line:
Wild Guns is a hell of an experience. Can't go wrong with this game, and there aren't that many of this type either, so it's not as if you can just purchase a game like it, but it's better or just as fun. Wild Guns is one of a kind, and one of the best SNES games, so if you call yourself a retro gamer or are interested in retro games, you owe it to yourself to purchase this game.

4.7/5.0

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