Friday, May 6, 2016

Wild Guns (SNES) Review

Written: May 3rd-6th, 2016
Year: 1994 | Developed and Published by: Natsume

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit!  =)  Freakin' Wild Guns!!!  =D

Released on August 1994 for the Super Famicom, this Western/sci-fi punk shooting gallery-game created by Natsume saw an American SNES release on July 1995 and would not see a release in Europe until October 1996--the latter of which was not distributed by Natsume but by the infamous Titus Software.  Oooh, man, what a way to go!  =(

Now for those not aware, Titus Software is a company with that terrifying as hell red fox logo (what do you mean it isn't?  Look at it!!) who was not exactly known for developing quality titles during their run in the '80s and '90s until they declared bankruptcy in 2005 and for years have been criticized for their low quality standards to the point where any association with them (whether they actually made or published a game) meant people who judged games by the company on the cover thought it was going to be bad (and in the latter's case it's largely uncalled for).  Legitimately makes me wonder if Titus made a good game before they died.
For example, America and Europe were probably worried that ASCII's platformer Ardy Lightfoot was going to be bad on account that Titus' name was attached as Western publisher when the truth of the matter was that if they played it it's actually not that bad; and Europeans who did not play today's game due to Titus' name as publisher probably felt the same way when again if they actually played it it's not that bad.  =(  Of course if Nastume hadn't gone the lazy route in the European edition of Pocky & Rocky and took out all the words as opposed to translating them (no, really, they actually did that) which made them come across as unreliable distributors in that region this probably would not have happened; would explain why PAL regions received Pocky & Rocky 2 courtesy of Ocean Software (a better video game company than Titus) instead.

Sorry, I'm getting off track, what's this awesome game like?  ......oh, did I just spoil that?  Oops!  =$

In a Western steampunk universe lived a young beauty named Annie who asked renowned space bounty hunter Clint for help.  She tells him that the Kid family abducted her whole family and killed them and that she would pay Clint anything he wants to dispose of these fiends to which he says he doesn't need help.  But he lets Annie tag along anyway when she says her vendetta against the Kid family is personal and claims she might be as good a shot as Clint.  So together they go up against the Kid's forces to avenge Annie's loved ones but more importantly put an end to the Kid's crimes once and for all.

Dodging enemy fire
In Wild Guns you have the choice to take the reins of either Clint or Annie, or both if you have a companion with you, and while the controls and environment might take a bit of time to adjust to it does not take long for them to become second nature.  By holding down the Y button you'll amass a rapid-fire succession of shots to your foes or wherever you aim your crosshairs (and simply press it once to whack an enemy with your gun should they be on the same plane as you); an obscure option is the ability to start a lasso by tapping the Y button and then let go to stop (and if a stick of dynamite is on your plane you can pick it up and throw it with the same button); the thing about either option is that you're kind of left in a vulnerable position since you're shooting or lassoing as you're holding still, so if bullets are coming your way just hold down the Y button as you press the B button either left or right to drop and roll to either side (it's also possible to jump and double jump with B when you're not shooting, but that's less of a thing you'll wind up doing); and if you wish to dispose of all enemies onscreen or deal a huge amount of damage to your boss just press the X button for the big bomb (provided you have at least one of them at your disposal, can only carry up to five).

So, being that this is a shooting gallery style-game this of course means that there will be a plethora of enemies who will pop out left and right and try to take you down, and all it takes to do that is one hit.  And if you're not careful you'll lose them all fairly quickly because unless you keep your eyes peeled or be on your best guard you won't see the enemy fire coming.  Each stage is divided into segments, and mostly you'll have to put up with all the enemies until the time clock reaches zero and once that happens you must take on the mini-boss; defeat the mini-boss and the process starts anew but in a different set environment as well as different foes and once you defeat the mini-boss here it's off to shootout with the stage boss which you have unlimited time to take down.  Between the second and fifth stage you can choose which order you could play them to your heart's desire.  If you lose a life you'll resume right at the spot, but if you lose all of them the continues are unlimited but you'll be forced to start from the beginning of the stage you were playing.

Bar shootout
In each stage you start out with the normal gun which has got an unlimited array of ammo (and you might largely be rendered with it) but every now and then whether you shot a certain enemy or wait for a floating weapon icon to come by to shoot at will be a chance to amass fifty rounds of a more powerful gun; there's shotgun which is a bit slow but powerful, there's the machine gun which will rapidly make bullets fly, and there's the grenade gun which deals a big amount of damage.  One thing to watch out for though, especially if a flying weapon icon has a "?" on it, is the toy popgun which you should empty out immediately because its bullets are so ineffective.  =(

YEAH, go Vulcan gun!!!  =D
There is another gun which you can use in your venture however which is the best weapon in the game, but in order to accomplish that you have to fill up the gauge.  And in order to fill up said gauge you must shoot your enemies' gunfire in order to fill it up... I repeat, you must deliberately aim and shoot your bullets against enemy bullets in order to gradually fill up your gauge--yeah, that's logic.  Once the gauge has completely filled up however you will unleash the Vulcan gun which fires out explosive rounds while rendering you impervious to enemy fire, and so long as you have this ultra powerful weapon in your stead it will slowly deplete the gauge and once it's fully emptied your weapon will either be normal (or any of the previously aforementioned ones) again and become vulnerable once again.  Wild Guns, indeed=D

Time to show this machine the ropes
One of the many things that Wild Guns has got in its favor is that it is absolutely gorgeous in the visual sense.  Each area has got a steampunk sci-fi feel what with all the machinery and modern technology abound, and yet at the same time you get a wildly appropriate Western feel which I'm sure must've been quite the challenge for Natsume when developing it; fortunately it paid off real well.  =)  The areas are so detailed yet colorful at the same time, not just the foreground that you roam around in but the backdrop in which your shooting your gun towards as well.  And while I'm on the subject Natsume's attention to even the miniscule detail is impressive here because when bullets are being shot by you they leave behind a hole or signs of debris depending where in the area you shoot; during the Carson City bar for instance it's possible to not only shoot the bottles which leave behind shattered debris but also leave shot marks on stools, walls, and even the table.  Impressive doesn't even begin to describe that sense of detail; it makes for an authentic atmosphere.  =)

Dynamite toss
I also like the Desolation Canyon with the canyons and full moon in the backdrop and that huge skeleton of an ancient dinosaur smack dab in the middle of it; the inside of the Ammunition Depot looks nifty and the entrance to the Gold Mine looks so modernized and yet it succinctly preserves that old time Western feel what with the railroad tracks leading to it.  The mini-bosses are largely robotic (from the trenchcoat-wearing gunman to that ammo-packed cowbot) with a sole exception (that lanky self-absorbed suavely dressed coward) and their animations are cool for the way they literally break down and explode after their defeat is quite satisfying, and the flashing colors to indicate that they're about to bite it is a really nice touch.  =)

Wild explosive shootouts in the steampunk sci-fi
equivalent of the wild West
Now the bosses themselves really steal the show when you get to them for they are so looming in the backdrop that they are fittingly imposing as they tower over you (except the final two bosses who are only human).  A few examples of them are the machine gun-toting goliath in Carson City, the giant bullet-shooting orb with a spine-like tail as it floats in front of you at the Ammunition Depot, and even a giant mechanical crab creature who's enough to give Pincha from Equinox a run for his money (in terms of intimidating stature) at the final phase of the Gold Mine.  Some nice little details are the way that the Carson City boss faces the exact position you are at and the way the glass shatters when you've dealt enough bullets to the Ammunition Depot boss.  And did I mention that there's a crapton of explosions in Wild Guns?  Whether it be by destroying machinery, executing a wipeout bomb, or seeing the downfall of huge bosses, these explosions are so awesome that not only does it slightly turn the atmosphere red but a lot of the times they're so sizzling they affect the whole setting.  Sweet!  =D

Dodging enemy missiles
The main protagonists Clint and Annie are so well-designed, and despite the fact that they're wearing 19th century clothing against all these steampunk elements in front of them it actually feels right.  Their moving animations are fluid, the bullets actually fly off from their guns as they're shooting (if you look carefully), and there's a welcome sense of follow-through as they land on the ground after jumping.  =)  Their profile shots after you beat each stage are cool, and it's nice to see a bigger version of them during the stage select screen drop into the scene and then jump straight up.  The enemy roster is aptly-chosen as you face off against the likes of various shooters (in one case pixel-sized due to how far their distance is from you), knife men, robotic zombies who sprout from the ground in the Desolation Canyon (I think), literal wing men, and even flying turret guns to name a few.

Let him have it!
Wild Guns' music was composed by Hiroyuki Iwatsuki (who also provided the music for the original Game Boy edition of Spanky's Quest, the Nintendo 16-bit Pocky & Rocky diptych, the game that was supposed to be a Game Boy sequel to the ninja-centric Nintendo 8-bit platformer Shadow of the Ninja before somehow turning into a Ninja Gaiden prequel licensed by Tecmo in Ninja Gaiden Shadow, and the Zen-Nippon Pro Wrestling series) and Haruo Ohashi (who co-composed for Pocky & Rocky 2 and the Nintendo 16-bit Power Rangers games), and the music is so damn good what with the way it deftly blends Western cues with high adrenaline-pumping rock within the same music, for it is glorious=D

Above you!!!
Some of my favorite songs transpire during the Carson City, Desolation Canyon, and Gold Mine stages; but basically the whole soundtrack is good.  The main boss theme is enough to get you pumped up for the action, and the end credits theme is so rewarding and breathtakingly gratifying to listen to after you beat Wild Guns on the Normal and Hard difficulty modes that it alone makes it all worth it.  <=)  The sound effects are varied appropriately enough when it comes to the various guns you shoot from, the explosion sounds are intensely chosen (especially when firing from the Vulcan gun), and I like how whenever you get a new life after every 100,000 points there's an unusually pitched locomotive toot-toot sound.

"Stop right there, punk!"
Wild Guns has three difficulty settings, with Easy being the most manageable of the three and Hard being the least manageable; and yet despite little variations in each setting the difficulty more or less is challenging.  In part because you have to be quick and alert and partly due the fact that there are times when a pack of enemies or gunfire will attempt to overwhelm you should you not be careful.  There are unlimited continues (which is good), and it is largely manageable if you got it all figured out; but the main events that will likely give you the most trouble (as they do me) are the mechanical crab boss at the end of the Gold Mine stage (its myriad bullets, anyway), the main boss from the Armored Train stage, and primarily the Kid and his forces at the end (on account that so much happens at once to the point that you'd better hope you either have enough bombs or have the Vulcan gun to make it through this segment).  There are also bonus stages where you could try to shoot as many targets as you can in the allotted time for points which can only be accessed if you make it through the first two stages without getting a game over and the same goes for the third through fourth stages (absolutely no game over or you cannot access it).

Oh, what are you doing?  o_O
I remember first finding out about this game nearly a decade ago on YouTube when watching gameplay footage of it provided by Shiryu, and combined with what I heard of its praises it made me really want to play it, and (before one of my cousins loaned me his SNES console two days shy of 2009) so I hoped that it would arrive on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console (since it regularly goes for a huge sum on eBay).  But by the time it did come to that downloadable service in 2010 I had kind of moved on from VC downloads and focused on mainly collecting and playing physical SNES carts from eBay; but when I got a Nintendo Wii U console on Christmas 2013 I still kept on largely buying physical carts on eBay but only once in awhile download titles on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console, and on April 2015 I did just that since I still wanted to play Wild Guns out of curiosity's sake (for $8, it's quite a bargain).

"Get off my train!"
The first time I played I had a bit of trouble adjusting to its realm and controls because of the amount of enemy and gunfire leveled against you, but over the course of months after not only taking advantage of augmenting the Vulcan gun gauge (as much as the solution to that makes absolutely no sense) and learning to adapt to its stages and memorizing enemy patterns I found the game to be a lot better and better and for the majority of it I manage to play it just fine (and learned to rely less on enemy wipeout bombs excepting the final boss and just manage with bullets).  =)  And the better I got at the game the more I ended up liking it to the point that it's become one of my favorites.  And since I downloaded Wild Guns on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console you readers are probably wondering how frequently I use its save state feature (if at all); frankly the only time I really use it when playing it is during the final sixth stage (mainly during the final fight of the "Final Fight" which is the most challenging bit of it all).  I'm sure it is possible to get by that segment legitimately (and no doubt its difficulty would be much alleviated with another gamer by your side) but for me it's tough (I have an easier time getting through any of ActRaiser 2's three difficulty settings and can do so legitimately--though to be fair, Quintet's action-based platformer is slow-paced and Natsume's shooting gallery-type game is the opposite of slow-paced), but believe me I do try my best when I get to the finale.

Fire at his metallic face
Wild Guns is an absolute blast to play every once in awhile; its hybrid blend of Western and steampunk sci-fi is very inspired, its sense of detail is impressive, the gun-toting gameplay rocks when you know exactly what to do and how to properly target your shots, its sense of challenge is really good, its adrenaline-pumping frenetic pace and plethora of explosions make things exhilarating, and above all it is a lot of fun to boot!  =D  The only downside is that at six stages it's very short at around thirty to forty-five minutes (give or take how many game overs you got), but you know what: its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, and having finally got a chance to experience it myself I understand why it's got such a cult following (aside from the fact that it didn't get anywhere near as much attention then as it does today) for it truly is one of Natsume's hidden gems.  Wild Guns also has also got plenty of replay value in that aside from the fact that you could choose between Clint and Annie (or both) in any of the four palette schemes the second through fifth stages can be selected in any order (I personally go clockwise from Desolation Canyon to Armored Train) and the harder the difficulty the more complete the ending and credits sequence is.  =)

Victory!!!  =D
Wild Guns whenever it pops up on eBay normally costs hundreds of dollars, which frankly I find to be more understandable than is the case with Pocky & Rocky 2.  Don't get me wrong, I like that aforementioned title (despite the personal issues I have with it) and it is a good game on its own merits as well as a good sequel, but I could not for the life of me find any compelling reason for it to go for hundreds of dollars; Wild Guns on the other hand I completely understand based on all the special qualities I covered (despite also being available on both the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console downloadable services for $8) and to be honest I like it better than Pocky & Rocky 2, but the first Pocky & Rocky is still the best of the Nintendo 16-bit Natsume offerings to me (from the ones I played, anyway).

BOOM!  God Bless this badass game!  =)
If you're searching for a wildly enjoyable shooting gallery video game then you'll love Wild Guns, and if you like blended setting genres combined to one then all the better.  If you're craving challenge there's plenty of it in store for you, and if you desire replay value well fortunately you're getting a lot of that too.  =)  If you can overlook the fact that it's got the cliché amount of stages (six) and its relative brevity then I think you'll really, really, really enjoy it.  It might take awhile to accustom to its gameplay structure and countless obstacles on your path, but rest assured that once it all becomes second nature then regardless of whether you play it on the Nintendo 16-bit console or either Virtual Console services then boy are you in for one ultimate badass experience.  Totally worth checking out!  =D

My Personal Score: 8.5/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. At last, I finally got another game reviewed as I promised I would on my ambitious 2016 Reviews Bucket List outside of Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai back in January.  Two down,... seven to go......  '_'  .........I need to get cracking, the year is going by quick!  Oh, and all screenshots I took back in December.
P.S. 2 This is my second favorite Nintendo 16-bit Western title behind Lenar's Ganpuru: Gunman's Proof which is my number one!  I would say what I thought of Konami's Sunset Riders, but sadly I never played any of its versions (nor can afford to play them).  =(
P.S. 3 Oh yeah, off-topic: go watch Captain America: Civil War, it's really good!  =)
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think!  Have a great Summer, and take care!  =D


  1. An absolutely brilliant game for VC! I agree with you completely. If it's price wasn't so high for a cart I would snag it as well for the SNES... I've considered a repro cart so I can play it on the actual console, but even those demand a bit higher price. The length I find about the same as Rocket Knight, a fav of mine... it's a solid "pick up and play every couple of months" game! :3

  2. Nice review for a very enjoyable game! Fortunately, I picked up my copy of this game a few years ago for under $50, so I have played it and beaten it with a friend on my SNES.

    1. Thank you kindly =) Wild Guns is just awesome!