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Critical Reception: Treasure/Sega's Gunstar Super Heroes

This week's Critical Reception looks at the Treasure-developed, Sega-published Gunstar Super Heroes for the Game Boy Advance, a follow-up of sorts to Treasure and ...
This week's Critical Reception looks at the Treasure-developed, Sega-published Gunstar Super Heroes for the Game Boy Advance, a follow-up of sorts to Treasure and Sega's classic 1993 Sega Genesis title Gunstar Heroes. Perhaps considered an anachronism in this age of 3D console gaming, the classic 2D side-scroller has nonetheless found a place on the portable GBA, and hasn't lost its step, if Gunstar Super Heroes is any indication. The game picks off where the original let off in terms of critical reception, falling into open game reviewer arms as it scored an average 88% rating, according to game review compilation site GameTab. The game's actual plot, as detailed by GameSpot's Greg Mueller, is relatively unimportant, stressing action cliche: "The evil Empire is poised to resurrect the God of Ruin using a mysterious artifact. Enter the Gunstar Super Heroes, an elite team of soldiers charged with saving the world." However, the player has a choice of characters, between Red and Blue, as Mueller also details: "Red's primary weapon is force, which is a machine gun type of rapid-fire weapon that shoots plasma energy. Blue's primary weapon is lightning, which fires a concentrated beam of electricity. There are also different story sequences depending on which character you use, but for the most part Red and Blue are the same." Regarding how the game actually plays, 1UP's James Mielke explains it straightforwardly, noting that "...it's non-stop action to the Nth degree. Uppercuts, flying kicks, three different weapons (which are cycled through using the L-trigger button) and more attacks are unleashed with a few presses of the GBA's buttons. Enemies large and small come at you from all sides. ... It's awesome." Visually and aurally, the game pushes the relatively limited Game Boy Advance hardware to pleasing results. IGN's Craig Harris remarks of the title: "This game wouldn't be nearly as fun or energetic without the team's insistence of being over the top and excessive in its visuals. There's so much zooming, scaling, and rotation going on, and the game never chugs when there's a half-dozen characters jumping around the screen at the same time." On audio, GameSpot's Greg Mueller mentions that the sound in Gunstar Super Heroes "...is great for a Game Boy Advance game. You'll hear a constant barrage of noise from all the gunfire and explosions, which really helps to kick up the intensity to make you feel like you're a one-man army taking on hundreds of enemies in a final series of battles to save the world." Overall, there were not many complaints, with Mueller feeling the game is a bit short but tempers this criticism by suggesting that "...though Gunstar Super Heroes is short, it isn't unexpectedly so, because this isn't the kind of game you could play for hours on end. If you tried to do that, your thumbs would be worn raw." Also, IGN's Harris mentions another possible wish-list item missing: "The only thing missing here is a cooperative multiplayer option, because it seems like a missed opportunity what with two characters to play and its Contra-inspired game design." With such few minor points, it's no surprise that the game was so critically well-received, marking a rare original IP game later in the Game Boy Advance's lifecycle. With Treasure's long experience and expertise with such games, Gunstar Super Heroes is sure to be picked up by side-scrolling aficionados, though its wider Western sales success on a platform dominated by younger, license-friendly players is not certain.

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