Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof (SNES Repro) Review

Received: May 22nd, 2015 / Written: November 9th-27th, 2015
Published by: November 28th, 2015
Year: 1997 | Developed by: Lenar | Published by: ASCII
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  =)   Let's talk action-adventure:
When Nintendo released the third in the Zelda franchise The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (which celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary next year) on the SFC/SNES, not only did it go back to the top-down roots of the first game but it improved and expanded upon everything previously set up in the series to marvelous effect!  =)  So much so that it ended up becoming revolutionary for its time and still holds up very well to this day due the strong impact it left behind, some even calling it their top favorite Nintendo 16-bit game because of this.
And since A Link to the Past came out there have been developers that tried to compete with or had the gameplay structure influenced in one way or another by the aforementioned Nintendo classic, not just on Nintendo consoles but even Sega consoles as well; many have tried, but few have equaled it in terms of quality.  Two notable examples of this were Capcom's Disneyfied take Goof Troop/Gūfii to Makkusu - Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken which was good in its own right (in particular the Japanese version) despite its brevity, and another one was the highly revered bookend of the Gaia trilogy and Quintet's Magnum Opus Tenchi Sōzō/Terranigma (which turned twenty last month) which not only was very successful but managed to be just as good as A Link to the Past (better, to be exact) thanks to its emotional power and incredible quality (this is my Number One favorite Nintendo 16-bit game).  =)  I actually recommend that you play both these games for they are actually both really great alternatives to the Nintendo classic.
But there is another game that shared A Link to the Past's structure which is more obscure than either game combined.  So what do you get when Lenar develops and turns their take on Zelda to a quirky Western with the company behind the underrated Ardy Lightfoot ASCII acting as publisher?  You get one of the greatest 16-bit action-adventure games that never left Japan... officially^~^

On January 1997 the Super Famicom saw the debut of Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof in Japan, but because both the American and European SNES consoles were relatively late in their lifespan (not to mention the transition to the Nintendo 64) we never got to play it at the time.  But luckily in recent years, thanks to fan translators and dedicated Nintendo 16-bit fans, a series of repro carts have been made (not just for America but Europe as well) to ensure that specific Super Famicom games that are generally highly sought after would be played and enjoyed in the comfort of the American or European SNES console (should people not afford the luxury to own a Super Famicom console or import Super Famicarts).  =)
Still given all this background, it's surprising then that Nintendo had no problem releasing HAL Laboratory's Kirby's Dream Land 3 for North America on the Nintendo 16-bit console... ten months after the fact (almost a month shy of '98); it's a miracle all things considered that anyone got to play that underrated and overlooked platformer at all (excepting Europe and Australia, but the Nintendo Wii/Wii U Virtual Console downloadable services rectified that).

There is a story as to how I got this game, but I promise I'll try not to tarry too long.  There was a moment this Summer when I thought of my collection of SFC and SNES games, and (because the SFC slot of my Retro Duo was off and I'm afraid of the thought of modding my SNES because I don't wish to risk permanently damaging it if I misstep; freakin' region-locking, urrgh!!) it was at this point that I came to a sudden realization: the Super Famicom has a superior and much more fascinating 16-bit library than the Super Nintendo.  Oh, don't get me wrong, North America and Europe definitely has worthwhile and interesting games to play on the SNES (and has a sufficient amount of content in of itself), but let's face it: Japan always had the big end of the stick when it came to Nintendo 16-bit games.  =(
So, I wanted to try something different: I wanted to import a game from Japan without actually importing (given the Retro Duo condition)--that's where the repro comes in.  Up 'til then I never ordered a repro cart from eBay before, so this was huge for me.  The good news is that the repro scene inspired a wide selection of SFC hits retrofitted for the SNES, the bad news is that they can be quite pricey, the good news is that prices are varied and the lowest costs I saw were somewhere in the below $50 mark.  Okay, long story short, one of the games I considered first was Magical Pop'n (which normally is outrageously expensive in its original format), but by the time I came back to it it was gone (don't worry, I did procure a repro SNES copy of it the same Summer), so I eventually settled for Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof which I thought was decently priced at $50.  And, as they say, the rest is history.  <=)

In the year 1880 on the fictional Strange Island, located in North America's Western coast, two meteors fell down to Earth, but because everyone was focusing on their meager livings they didn't think much of it and just went on their merry way--that ultimately proved to be their downfall.
Since the meteor incident strange monsters have been appearing out of nowhere and have been attacking nearby folk, and wherever they attacked they left behind a crest with the name "Demiseeds" on it; since that discovery the otherworldly monsters have been named thusly as a result.  Meanwhile, the main character--a young boy whom you can assign a name--goes out of his home Bronco Village to play despite these attacks.
Right at that moment one other meteor came tumbling down to Earth, crashing exactly at the spot leaving a big crater where the boy hero was about to play.  Wanting to get a closer look, he crawled his way in there, and at the point he saw a UFO emanate from the hole, and from the UFO emerged two alien beings, Space Sheriff Zero and Space Sheriff Garu.  They explain that they went after the Space outlaw Demi, who's the mastermind behind all the monster attacks as of late.  Because the aliens cannot last a long time without a physical form, Zero asks if he could "borrow" the young boy's body that way Zero will be in control of his subconscious, to which the boy hero willingly accepts.  So are you actually controlling the boy or Zero?  Or... are you controlling both?  =|  Should I be disturbed by thi-- oh who cares, the game is fun!  =)

Sneaky sneaky sneaky
Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof is a top-down adventure game in the vein of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but with slightly different features (obviously).  The boy hero can roam around in eight different directions, and instead of using swords to battle enemies he uses pistols and guns...... yyyyeah, I can see why it remained Japan-only (that would never fly today).  }8  So anyway, the A button lets you shoot from your gun, the Y button has you use your fist, and holding down the B button enables you to crouch and sneak in any direction.  If you wanted to do the crabwalk or even hold your position regardless where you move just hold down either shoulder buttons (you never know when it might come in handy)--oh, yay, I loved that feature in SoulBlazer=)
And since this game follows the vintage formula of Nintendo's classic you must be wondering: are the majority of the stairs save for one leading to the floor above or below you spiral?  Yep!  Is it possible to jump off thinly-drawn ledges?  Uh huh!  Can you do a charge attack with your main weapon?  Of course!  Are the layouts and dungeon maps Zelda-like in nature?  Definitely!  And can you swim on water and leave behind a series of bubbles should submersion be used in the deep?  You betcha!  Basically Lenar is following the A Link to the Past formula to a T, which is a good thing, not to mention that Ganpuru's controls are about as polished.  =)

Standing by the entrance of a Demiseed Base
If you feel that you're outnumbered or feel you have no choice you can launch a Chrysanthemum Firework or a Starmine Bomb via the X button, but be forewarned you can only carry three at a time, so use them wisely after you procure them.  Throughout the game you'll learn new tricks pertaining to the A, Y, and B buttons (like a combo punch attack or a wild shooting attack where bullets are sprayed every which way), including a surprise maneuver.  Some special items and/or updates can be found inside chests, but occasionally taking out baddies results in goods being dropped: be they money (bronze, silver, or gold), variants of food to replenish your health, a Chrysanthemum Firework/Starmine Bomb, an alternate weapon/punch icon, and a carrot.  When you touch a carrot a horse by the name of Robaton (officially Mono, a fellow Space Sheriff) will drop by and let you ride on him, rendering you invulnerable to enemy attacks (and crushing them) for a momentary period of time--he will only do it outside though, for he doesn't do dark places.

Well crap, I'm trapped in the corner
Your normal gun and fist grants you infinite usage, but should an enemy drop a powerful weapon icon (with rather limited usage by comparison) it'll cycle between the ones that are readily available, and if you touch it while it's on a certain weapon then you'll be stuck with it until you're either out of ammo or when you touch another weapon an enemy's dropped after he... well, dropped.  The powerful weapons in question are the machine gun where bullets spray at a fast rate, the shotgun where it serves as your five-way spread shot, a bazooka which results in a very powerful blast, a flamethrower that eats up ammo quickly but enables you to unleash a scorching flame to singe enemies, a drill arm which you use with your punch to drill into enemies, and a ball-and-chain weapon that can be spun around (it might be hard to accustom to at first, but over time it'll become easier to use).

Go, Robaton, go!!!  ^o^
Even the visuals are influenced by those from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, perspective-wise, but in Ganpuru's case they are much more colorful and wonderfully simple.  =)  I like how distinctive each areas are, from the grassy plains of Bronco Village, to the desert coast located South, the haunted Ghost Town for which completely looks and feels abandoned (right down to the worn and torn houses), the canyon in the Southwestern segment of Strange Island, and even the way the water flows and the way it combs against the beach.  And those are the outer areas, but what really shine in this regard are the interior dungeon areas.  =)

Down at the Brain Lord desert, sentient cacti and
fireworks  =D
The first dungeon has got a good Incan décor going for it (with the poison needles emanating from the wall masks), and the depths of the canyon dungeon are appropriately rocky, with a stream of water at the very bottom floor.  There is one dungeon that has got actual mine cart tracks that conveniently point to the direction of most doors (with lamps sticking on the walls), and one of the latter dungeons is lathered in golden wood; and the great thing about all the dungeons is that they all have got distinctive floor décor, which adds a lot to the dungeon.

Following the tracks is key
The character and enemy designs are simple and to the point, which works fine, plus their colors are perfectly chosen in my opinion.  =)  Among the roster of cartoonish-looking enemies you fight are monsters posing as gunmen, sentient armadillos and cacti, crab men, bats, haunted skeletons, ghosts, and even mimic chests to name a few (don't you just love those deceiving creations?).  The boy hero is quaintly designed and animates very fluidly, plus he's got incredulous over-the-top reactions whenever something is amiss or when he gets hit by enemies (even when frozen or burnt), not to mention his poses are nice; I especially liked how if he held the regular gun and didn't shoot for several seconds he would put it back in his holster automatically (I liked that touch).  Also, he actually face all eight directions when heading in any of the eight directions!  That's so cool and rare in a 16-bit game!  =D  What other Nintendo 16-bit top-down action-adventure game (RPG) had you face all eight directions instead of four?
Right: Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon
...well, aside from those, of course?  =}

I hereby swear to protect this vessel at all costs
The villagers all have simple and amiably distinctive designs: like the wranglers, the fur coat-wearing rancher, the various children, the thin puppet-like weapons instructor Colobutch, and more; I especially liked the boy hero's friend Sarah who's designed and animates in a quaint way and has actually colored irises in her eyes.  Robaton exhibits great animation whenever you either interact with him or when you ride on him, and I liked how whenever you summoned him he drops by and for a couple seconds does a random pose (i.e. peacefully holding a mug of coffee while sitting down, cosplaying as Sailor Moon, wearing shades while pumping muscle) which is absolutely great.  XD

...courtesy of the Chun-Li School of Fighting Technique!
The bosses have all got diverse design at the end of their respective dungeons (or during a potential boss gauntlet).  Among them are a living totem pole out to get you, a Ye Olde English-versed cowboy ninja, a ghost/machine with hammers for arms, and a couple of female fighters wearing Oriental fighting gear (like a certain popular Capcom fighting character).  What I liked was how solidly animated they were and how they would sometimes express incredulous reactions upon being defeated by you.  The final two bosses are also cleverly conceptualized and are detailed wonderfully, but those are a surprise.  =)

Treading on narrow ground
You'd think that since Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof is a Western that it would be encompassed by typical Western music throughout, but surprisingly that's not the case.  Sure, there's a bouncy galloping theme the moment you step out of Bronco Village from the left exit (with a series of strums to boot) and there's a foreboding theme playing when you're near one of the last exits relying on nothing but a flute and a sinister whistling sound (with a menacing composition to boot); but overall the soundtrack is fairly versatile as many segments and dungeons of Strange Island rely on varying genres, which I feel works really great as it lends Ganpuru its sense of atmosphere and mood.  =)  Not to mention it helps give each segment you traverse to their own identity, which is a plus.

In the bottom level of the cave, things are starting
to get real
Bronco Village's theme is very peaceful and relaxing, and I liked its quaintly welcoming composition.  =)  The music for the intro and for when we're introduced to the hero sounds like something that would perfectly fit in a SquareSoft RPG, the former being mysteriously suspenseful and the latter being inspiring and grand near the end.  The theme that plays when you take Bronco Village's right exit is inviting despite its notes' simplicity, but some of the best songs in the game emanate from the dungeons.

One of the examples is the very first dungeon, where the moment you step inside it sounds deep and ambient, as if you stepped into an underground and mysterious temple.  The underground cavern taking place in the canyon is menacing in tone, and the mine theme is quiet and eerie with occasional bells and flutes abound.  The Ghost Town theme is incredibly ominous and fits its abandoned atmosphere to a T, for it starts out silent until slowly, slowly the music becomes louder and louder with a ghoulishly creepy composition to boot (so much so that it honestly gave me flashbacks of the scariest moment in Tenchi Sōzō).  D8  Another example is a playful dungeon theme primarily provided by a xylophone-style sound, and the penultimate dungeon theme is so intense and foreboding it prepares you for the moment (also, it reminded me of one of the themes from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past).

Punching out!
Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof has got two boss themes: the first one is goofy and a bit obnoxious, but the second one is superior and composed in a riveting manner.  =)  I liked how engaging and bouncy Robaton's theme sounded whenever you rode on him, and the main ending theme is rewarding to listen to after finishing the game.  The sound effects are decently chosen throughout; such as the varying sounds of the main hero's punches, the swishing sound effects when you swim in deep water, and the sounds of the steps he makes on the stairs; what I found amusing was how a couple sound effects sounded like they were taken straight from '70s/'80s anime shows.

"Armadillomon says 'Hi', punk!"
This Western action-adventure is a bit on the easy side, but that's not such a problem as there's a lot of things that end up making up for its lack of challenge.  For starters, Strange Island is a fun area to explore, especially when you gain more abilities that enable to bypass previous obstacles, and it's fun to roam around in the dungeons, battle baddies here and there, and discover treasure chests along the way.  =)  Some rooms have forks where regardless of which way you choose to go it leads to the same location, and I love trying to clear out the whole dungeon map.  What I didn't like as much was how after you defeated each boss you would be ranked based on how you performed; come on, man, it was bad enough when the platformer Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage did this, the last thing I expected was for it to happen in an action-adventure like Ganpuru (the highest rank I've gotten thus far is a C).  =(  But hey, you're given how long you took and receive a free life after the results are done, so at least that compensates for whatever ranking you received.

Falling for this game!
Something I found fascinating while exploring some dungeons was how occasionally you would stumble across items you would normally be able to interact with in the Zelda series while in Ganpuru they're simply props.  Some of the items in question are candles, statues, jars, or even blocks (the last of which would be pushed in Nintendo's series); there are also a few rooms that in here lead to a dead end but it's not completely a red herring in some cases.  I think Lenar must have done this on purpose, as a nod to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, for which gameplay structure this action-adventure was influenced by; and personally, if that is the case then I think it's cool that Lenar would openly acknowledge the very game that influenced them.  =)  Kudos!

"Stranger danger!"  D=
Another thing about this game that's really great is that it is genuinely funny, in part due the over the top reactions by either the boy hero, Robaton, or the main bosses, and largely due to the quirky dialogue.  =3  Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof is a lighthearted romp, first and foremost, but there are hints of bizarre quirkiness in the proceedings, and it makes much of it very funny.  I got a kick at reading the fan translators' take on late 19th century vernacular (with A Link to the Past-styled font, albeit outlined in red), like when Colobutch is trying to "learn" you how to use a weapon or two or when you speak with some of the other Bronco Village folk (in particular the rancher).  ...  o~O  Wait!  If this is an accurate account of how people spoke in the late 19th century, does that mean...?  O=
...... ummmm,... moving on!  ...  Please?

"Aaaaah, ghosts, get them off of me!"
There is only one method to save your progress in the game, and that is when your boy character sleeps in his bed in the comfort of his home; which is a quaint idea, and the reason behind that is that Ganpuru is quite a short venture (mainly since Strange Island is a such small cay).  And, that's a shame because it's one of those games where it's fun to explore every nook and cranny, and yet at the same time I just don't want it to end; yeah, the ending is inevitable, but that just shows how much fun and how great the game is altogether.  It's not Goof Troop/Gūfii to Makkusu - Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken short, but the length is sufficient enough (and pretty much everything else makes up for that shortcoming).

I love the Power Hand!  It's so bad!
One of the few issues I have with Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof is that its ending feels incomplete.  Without going into very much detail, there is basically one half of an ending while another half is missing; by which I mean, not all loose ends are tied, and as a result I kind of want to know what else was planned or was supposed happen during the epilogue.  I felt The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past did a wonderful job when it tied all loose ends during its ending sequence; I just wish that Lenar included one more outcome for one of this game's central characters (I'm not saying who, you have to play the game to find out).  It doesn't make the game bad, but a little more would've been appreciated; oh, and funny I mentioned SoulBlazer...

"Oooh, crab, my favorite!"
But the only thing I feel is worse than a game with an incomplete ending (or one that's insufficient) is a game that lacks a credits sequence, and unfortunately Ganpuru is guilty of that as well.  =(  When I played the game for the first time I was shocked when I found out that after the incomplete ending that there was absolutely no credits sequence to speak of; at first I thought maybe it might appear if I leave the game on for a while longer, or maybe the credits will make an appearance if I find every single treasure chest scattered in Strange Island.  Nope!  Just "The End!!" with no extra words attached.  =(  C'mon, man!  Kemco-Seika's Nintendo 16-bit port of Zoom's Lagoon didn't have a credits sequence, Capcom's take on Bonkers didn't have one; what have the people of Lenar got to be ashamed about?
Child abuse played for laughs?  That's in rather poor taste, I think
O.O  Ohhhhh.............. *awkwardly looks left and right*  ...Well,... aside from that what have Lenar got to be ashamed about?  NOTHING!  It's a really damn good game!

"The Bat Lord commands you to stop attacking bats
in video games, or he'll threaten to cancel
Yooka-Laylee for good!"
Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof would've been perfect if it was a slightly longer game and if it had a full ending; but for what it is it's a highly entertaining and charmingly lighthearted game that in my opinion is near excellent.  =)  From the various settings and dungeons of Strange Island and the very simple but intuitive gun-toting gameplay of its main character, plus its very own quirky brand of humor, Lenar created a winner with this Western action-adventure.  And like the aforementioned Goof Troop/Gūfii to Makkusu - Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken and Tenchi Sōzō/Terranigma before it, Ganpuru is a great alternative to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past=D

Intense showdown
I remember first having looked up this game years ago online, and having enjoyed the third Zelda a lot beforehand it seemed like it would be a lot of fun, and luckily for me when I actually got to play Ganpuru this Summer it turned out to be just that: a lot of fun, and more.  =)  I recall years ago when I looked up its original Super Famicom cart on eBay that it wasn't in high abundance and that it cost quite a bit (not $100s, but slightly below that mark), but surprisingly the repro cart copies that have been produced for years are far more common but still cost a bit, which would explain the former's case (as far as I had noticed).  Even so, I'm glad I bought it, for it was a great way to start the Summer for me.  =)

And something I just realized: I got this game on a May!  =O  And it seems to me that every three years I made a milestone as far as ordering and catching up on Nintendo 16-bit games are concerned, on the same month (and I swear, that was not a consciously made decision, just a coincidence).
May 2009; I bought my first ever physical SNES game (and made my first purchase on eBay): Ocean's highly underrated and squirrelly Euro-platformer Mr. Nutz, after years of either having played SNES games over at my relatives and/or friends or digitally on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, several months after one of my cousins lent me his SNES console (which I'll always be grateful for).
RIP Producer Satoru Iwata =(
May 2012; I imported my first ever physical Super Famicart from Japan (back when I got a Retro Duo console that opened up possibilities for me for the past two and a half years): HAL Laboratory's highly obscure and arcade-like A-RPG Alcahest, during that phase as a gamer when I wanted to broaden my horizons and start importing games from Japan.
May 2015; I bought my first ever SNES repro cart of a Super Famicom game: Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof, never having played a repro cart beforehand and wanting to give it a fair shot, being intrigued by the concept of playing Super Famicom games transferred to an SNES cart.
And because these three separate games represented my first purchase for the physical SNES cart, physical Super Famicart, and NTSC SNES repro cart respectively, they all hold a special place in my heart and I'll always have a fondness for them because they all opened up a new doorway for me.  I love these games with a passion, and for that, I hereby dub Mr. Nutz, Alcahest, and Ganpuru as my Terrifically Underrated Big 3<=D
One of the best action-adventures on the Nintendo 16-bit
Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof is a Western action-adventure I highly recommend you play.  =)  If you're in the mood for a fun, lighthearted venture, then I think you'll have a great time with it (if you feel that you can afford it).  Just do not expect there to be a lot of length, and you'll be just fine.  And if you enjoy humor when it comes to playing games, there's plenty of it here and there.  Ganpuru's got great and polished gameplay, an inviting island to explore, and it is non-demanding lighthearted entertainment from beginning to end.  Frankly, I could not ask for a better first NTSC SNES repro cart experience.  =)
My Personal Score: 9.5/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. At least in the beginning of EarthBound when Ness' kid neighbors got physically abused by their father we never saw it happen,... but we did hear it, so yyyyeah, that doesn't exactly make it better.  =(  ......  I'm thankful every day that I was raised by a caring and loving family, and I feel very sorry for those that weren't/aren't.
P.S. 2 Before the year is over I'll share my thoughts on Magical Pop'n, my second NTSC repro cart.  =)
P.S. 3 Time to contemplate getting a Super Famicom console.
"I NEED AN ADULT!!!!!!!"  D8>
♫ I am the man who will fight for your honor,
I'll be the hero that you're dreaming of
We'll live forever, knowing together that we,
did it all for the glory of love ♪
Thank you for reading my review, my readers, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think!  I hope you have a great day, and take care!  =D