Gunstar Super Heroes, for the Gameboy Advance

Presentation

No complaints here. Menus look great. The cutscenes are always short, and infrequent, as it should be. Character art during these scenes look as sharp as GBA's tiny screen can handle, and everyone looks very expressive and entertaining.

The story really isn't important for this genre so I'm not going to go very deep, but GSH is a sequel to the cult classic Gunstar Heroes for the Sega Genesis. This one takes place 100 years later, and is made up of almost entirely new characters, though many are made to resemble their old counterparts. The Empire is once again out collecting some sacred gems which will awaken an evil power and you have to stop them.

Graphics

I gatta say, this is easily the most impressive looking game on the GBA. At least from what I have seen. The 2D visuals are super sharp and slick. Animation is perfect. There are some flight stages which push the 3D power as well, and are equally fulfilling. This is as good as the GBA will get, right here.

Sound

Decent. Explosions, gunshots, jump kicks, mechanical transforming, etc. It all sounds good. Some of the music stands out and is catchy, and the rest of it will easily be ignored. I wasn't the biggest fan of the first game's music, and this one heavily borrows from it.

Gameplay

This is what Gunstar is about. If you have ever played a 2D side-scrolling, ground-based shooter like Contra on NES, you will know the drill. D-pad moves you, A jumps, B shoots. Beyond that, everything has evolved.

Lets start with the aiming system. It combines 3 totally seperate methods, and it only requires 1 extra button to do this; the R button. You have the standard Contra style aiming, where left and right movements also make you run while you aim that way. But if you hold R, you can shoot in all 8 directions without having your character move from his position. Furthermore, if you hold R while already shooting, your character will lock his aim in that one direction until you let go of R. Using this, you can be shooting one way, while running the opposite way. It is very useful during boss fights, and pursuing enemies.

GSH drops the first game's weapon combination system. You can no longer mix a flame thrower with a laser beam, or what have you. Here, there are only 4 weapons total. 1 exclusive to the Red character, 1 exclusive to the Blue character, and the other 2 weapons go to both of them. The L button switches between your 3 weapons per character. So what did they add to the weapons? A power meter which charges as you fight. Each weapon has a super move which consumes this meter. You activate the move by pressing R twice and holding it the second time. Expect this to splatter the screen in gunfire.

Besides weaponry, you can slide, jump kick, downword kick, uppercut, wall jump, and slice with a dagger. I haven't been able to throw enemies like I could in the original, so I think they removed that.

There are 7 worlds total, each split into multiple short stages. Besides the on-foot levels, there are a couple where you will ride on top of Yellow's ship, and a couple where you will control a flying machine yourself. Both of these stage types offer a 360 tilt control in their own unique way.

Overall

A decent sequel to one of my favorite Genesis games. I wish they didn't remove the throw move, or the weapon mixing system, but it's still pretty good. Unfortunately, the game's length is probably it's biggest downfall. It feels even shorter then the first game, at only about 40 minutes. The game will have more replay value for those who find score tracking addictive, but that's not me. Red and Blue each have their own perspective in the story, and there are also 3 difficulty modes for them. I am told that the story changes somewhat on different difficulties.

8 out of 10

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