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Review: Gunstar Heroes - Live By The Gun

Review: Gunstar Heroes - Live By The Gun

November 24, 2010


Gunstar Heroes is yet another in the long line of direct ports with no added features that Sega has been pushing onto the iPhone. Gunstar Heroes is here, in all its 1993 glory, including the same aspect ratio and look.


The features of this bare bones port are nonexistent. It features the original game, unmodified and the same button layout you've seen on every other one of Sega's ports.

The Good

Gunstar Heroes is a game similar to Contra. You control a red or blue Gunstar (no they don't have names) and its your job to blast your way thought the massive horde of enemies that inhabit each stage. To do this you have access to one of four weapons, Force, Chaser, Lighting and Fire. Force has a longer range, while Chaser homes in on enemies. Fire does a lot of damage but has a very short range. You can fire in all directions and can also kick and jump. The game features many, many enemies ala Contra. You have both melee and gun armed enemies coming from ground level on both sides and tons of airborne enemies, raining down fire. Every stage is one long battle from beginning to end, where you rush though the stage as fast as possible, while enemies constantly spawn all around you. Lots of enemies is this game's only good feature.

The Bad

Gunstar Heroes suffers from one of the worst cases of bad controls you're likely to find on idevices and its pretty obvious it stems from a severe lack of testing, as the game's control elements are in about the worst possible place onscreen. The dpad is right at ground level as are two of the buttons, including the fire button you'll constantly be holding down. This means at the default view your controls will constantly be in the way of the ground on both sides of the screen, as you use the dpad and buttons, ensuring your view is blocked on both sides of the screen at pretty much all times by your fingers. This is a absolute fatal error in a game like GH where you're attacked all the time and you need to see whats coming as far away as possible and, super annoyingly your thumbs will block this almost 100% of the time. The "C" button you use to jump is also in a odd position, away from the other buttons, so its hard to react quickly to jump away from fire. It's pretty obvious from screenshots alone that show the buttons that this would be a problem. This is rectified somewhat, albeit in a very poor manner by the game's other view options: a small screen with the buttons and dpad below it. This stops your fingers getting in the way, but the game is condensed in a tiny square, which is both very annoying, as so much screen real estate is wasted and a serious handicap, as it's much harder to see whats happening. This isn't really an acceptable solution and makes this port pale big time compared to the original. The last control method is the accelerometer and it really is a pointless inclusion, lacking both the precise movement required of a game like this and the speed to react quickly. So in short the controls really sink Gunstar in a big way and make the game nigh on unplayable. If the game wasn't a direct emulation of the original this might not have been a problem, but as its not made for the Phone it is. Sound and graphics are not really worth talking about, as they are both exactly like the original, with zero enhancements. The graphics are clear enough, but obviously lack any sort of detail and the sound features the beeps and boops you'd expect and some average music.

The Verdict

Gunstar Heroes is just another direct port with no concern for the nature of iDevices, or good game design. It's just been squeezed out to make a few bucks and at $3 it's laughable. Three dollars will buy you many better games that you'll have lots of fun with and are designed with the system in mind. Buy one of those instead and not Gunstar Heroes.

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