Gunstar Heroes is a cooperative Run and Gun game released on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis by Treasure in 1993. In it, Gunstars Red and Blue are protectors of Earth, attempting to stop a dictator named Smash Daisaku from collecting powerful Mystical Gems in order to awaken a planet-destroying beast known as Golden Silver.
At least, that's how the U.S. release describes it.
That being, you (partner optional, but highly recommended) take control of either one of Red and Blue and traverse several levels of increasing chaos and explosions. What really adds to the run and gun nature of it, though, is how the two playable characters differ in action, as well as the clever weapons system. Technically, Red is Free Shot - meaning you can run and gun at the same time with the primary drawback being that it's a bit harder to aim in a specific direction (since... you move when you fire); counter to this, Blue is Fixed Shot, he can't move and fire but is capable of firing in all 8 directions. This doesn't seem like much of a difference at first, but when you add that certain weapon combos work better for certain types - it allows for a wide variance in playstyles.
Overall the game is best known for its impressive graphic effects, frantic action, great music, and epic boss fights.
A single-player sequel, Gunstar Super Heroes, was released in 2005 for the GBA, and sets up a new team of heroes (who have the same names as their predecessors) to fight against The Empire once again to stop Golden Silver from reviving a second time.
The original game was first made available post-Genesis on the PlayStation 2 Sega Ages series (with less slowdown) which... alas... is a fine example of No Export for You. However, it is now available for download on Virtual Console, Xbox Live and PSN.
- Advancing Wall of Doom: In the sequel, there's a one space on Black's boardgame where you need to get to the bottom of a shaft before you get crushed to death by a tombstone.
- All There in the Manual: The plot.
- Bait and Switch Boss: This actually happens twice in the game. Once at the halfway point of the game (against the so-called "Final Great Soldier" whose only attack is "Love Love Dancing"), and once at the end.
- Battle Cry: Only for melee attacks.
- Beat Them At Their Own Game: The fastest, yet not the safest nor the easiest, way to defeat Orange in the first game is by throwing him. Since he's an expert melee fighter, he will wrestle you good if you fail.
- Big Bad: The God of Ruin, Destructor, Golden Silver at the first game. The 4 Treasures in Super Heroes. Golden Silver also appears in Guardian Heroes. Actually, it is the Megalith, the self-proclaimed secret fifth gem, who turns out to be the subordinate of an entity known as Outside Space, the TRUE Big Bad. Up to this point, the gems only want to help humanity in the Gunstars' dimension, while Outside Space wants to destroy everything in EVERY dimension. At least, that's what is mentioned here.
- Boss Rush: With a twist; you play against all your old enemies again, but in completely new battles that in most cases don't even resemble the original. The bosses are actually watching your progress on a big board until you reach certain points where they'll move to intercept you.
- Boss Subtitles: Every boss fight begins with a warning, followed by the boss' name and attack names.
- Chasing Your Tail: Black's refight has an attack that sweeps the whole playing field.
- Crosshair Aware: The tiger form of the Seven Force has an attack which invokes this trope.
- Diabolus Ex Machina: Blue's Hard Mode ending.
- Difficult but Awesome: A certain number of the weapon combos are like this - particularly, any of the combinations that are more effective at close range. Some combos are better (but not exclusively so) in the hands of specific characters (like the controlled fireball, a weapon that is arguably better suited for Fixed Shot - see Evolving Weapon below).
- Difficulty Spike: Stage five is arguably the hardest level in the original game because A) you have to fight through a horde of Mooks that will whittle your health down B) you have to fight Smash Daisaku, who would be hard enough if you weren't in a weakened state and C) there are no check points in the stage, which means a game over places you right back at the beginning of it all. Mind you, it's also considered the Best Level Ever since you can completely cut loose against a horde of moving targets.
- Do Not Run with a Gun:
- Optional for the original game - only by selecting Blue/Fixed Shot
- Gunstar Super Heroes consolidates both fixed firing and free firing into one mode; whichever fire button you press determines your movement freedom. It also offers a third firing mode that lets you fix your aim direction but still move.
- The Dragon: Smash Daisaku to Grey. Green fills this role for the Emperor in the final stage.
- Evolving Attack: At the start, you chose your gun type, from Force (Rapid Fire, medium damage), Fire (close range, high damage), Lightning (thin rounds that pierce enemies - and can pierce through certain walls), and Chaser (homing attack, low damage). You can later pick up powerups in the form of the other guns, and create a hybrid weapon from two weapon types, or two of the same. Take for example:
- Combining Fire with Lightning creates what is effectively a Lightsaber, the shortest ranged weapon in the game but has what may be the best damage output as well as the ability to block certain shots.
- Fusing Fire with Force creates rapid-fire explosive rounds that go off either on contact or when you let go of the trigger.
- Fire with Chaser gives you a remote-controlled Fireball that can continually swarm an enemy for damage as well as block shots. It's one most effective with Fixed Shot, as you won't accidentally throw yourself into an enemy while controlling the fireball.
- Not unlike Chaser and Lightning - putting Chaser and Chaser together gives a rapid-fire homing stream of projectiles. The difference is that the projectiles can branch and you can effectively home in on multiple mooks. The damage output suffers for it though.
- Another double-up is Force and Force, which gives the game's equivalent to More Dakka: lots of bullets, increased speed, and increased bullet spread.
- Exploding Barrels: Littered over stage five.
- Face Heel Turn: Green. In the first game, he is Brainwashed, and in the second, faking alliance to avenge his father's murder.
- If you play through Super Heroes as Blue on Hard mode, Yellow eventually joins Green and the two of them take over the Empire.
- Fission Mailed: The File Crash Stage in the second game threatens to erase your game if you fail in the Japanese version.
- Fisticuffs Boss: Curry and Rice in Black's Dice Maze.
- Flash of Pain
- Gainax Ending: The epilogue of Gunstar Super Heroes. Subverted if you play the game in Normal mode, then in Hard mode.
- Gameplay Roulette: The sequel throws a new genre at you practically every level.
- Gender Flip: In Gunstar Super Heroes, Red is a girl (though this was rather ambiguous in the original Japanese version).
- Generation Xerox: The characters in Gunstar Super Heroes all share names and likenesses with the ones from the original.
- Grind Boots: Towards the end of Pink's stage, the game has you sliding down the side of a pyramid whilst shooting Mooks.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Green, in both games. In Super Heroes, he gets better.
- In one storyline in Super Heroes, Yellow does it instead.
- High Altitude Battle: You fight Orange for the first time on a helicopter that's constantly tilting as you fight.
- High Speed Battle: Green's stage takes place entirely while riding specially modified mining carts.
- Invincible Minor Minion: In stage five, there is one mook that hides under a barrel and runs away. The odd thing is that not only is this the only enemy you can't kill, but also the only barrel you can't blow up.
- Kill'Em All: Literally everyone in Blue's Hard mode ending dies a pointless, tragic death. All for the sake of cheap drama and angst.
- Last-Minute Hookup: In Blue's Hard mode ending in the sequel, after they decide to ram their ship to the God of Ruin, Blue tells Red that he loves her.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo/Shout-Out: Pink, Kain and Kotaro are awfully similar to Grandis Granva, Samson and Hanson, Smash Daisaku looks a lot like Bison with Dhalsim's stretchiness, and one of the Phantoms dressed in red looks like a Super-Deformed Silencer.
- Lift of Doom: The battle with Black's hovercraft.
- Made of Explodium: Almost everything in the game has a fiery explosion when you kill it. This includes a plant, a giant caterpillar and a giant gel.
- Mineral MacGuffin: The Mystical Gems.
- Mirror Boss: Green, though not so much in Super Heroes.
- Warning -
- Multiple Endings: In the sequel, and not as a result of branching paths, but as a result of the difficulty level chosen. On Easy mode, the story is simple ('kill the bad guys!'); on Normal mode, the story gets a bit more serious, and there are hints of darker forces; and Hard mode has a dark story. To add, the story also changes depending on the character you chose.
- Nintendo Hard: Sort of. The game uses that very special Treasure formula of making both you and the enemies very powerful with a lot of different moves, and all you really need to do is understand the controls and bosses. Once you do that, every death will be your fault. It's hard, but fair.
- Not What It Sounds Like: Most people think the "seven" in "Seven Force" refers to how many forms it has; it actually references the SNES' Mode 7, since Seven Force is designed to showcase Mode 7-style rotation on the Genesis/Mega Drive. This is why the Seven Force in Alien Soldier only has six forms.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: One of the Dice Game Bosses in Black's first stage - Minion Soldier.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: Pink, Green, Orange and Black.
- Recurring Boss: You fight Smash Daisaku no less then four times in the game. You also fight Green three times, the first two of which are battles against Seven Force.
Smash Daisaku: "I NEVER DIE!"
- Reflecting Laser: The Tiger form of the Seven Force shoots a laser from his tail that does this.
- Sequential Boss: Green's Seven Force. At the higher difficulties, you're going to have to fight all seven forms.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Blue's Hard Mode ending manages to make all the trials you went through completely pointless.
- Shout-Out: The fact that the Four Treasure Gems mention in Hard mode that they come from different dimensions may not seem like much, but if you pay close attention to how they describe the worlds they come from, it may be a reference to previous Treasure-developed games.
- Satoa, the blue gem, comes from an Earth where humans had become exceedingly savage. While it couldn't cure their violent behavior, it could not help but love them. Would you please identify the game in this case, to line up with the other entries?
- Alioto, the green gem, comes from an Earth where humans survived a harsh environment by learning to edit their genetic code, only causing them to become no different than monsters. This explanation could also be a reference to Silhouette Mirage.
- Ruks, the yellow gem, comes from an Earth where humans were often heroes, but disappeared when their labors were finished. His description of his world may be canon to the Stage 24 ending of the game, where Han and the gang defeat the leader of the Earth Spirits, and are taken to the world of the Sky Spirits, as they have abandoned the people of Earth.
- Miko, the red gem, claims to be a peacemaker that comes from a world torn apart by war, but after accomplishing its task, it lost consciousness.
- Skippable Boss: Technically speaking, you don't have to fight all of the bosses in Black's maze. Whether or not you do is completely up to the computer, though.
- Stuff Blowing Up: If something isn't blowing up on screen at any given moment, then you're either dead or doing it wrong.
- Terrible Trio: Pink and her flunkies Kain and Kotaro. Their physiques, shades and token vehicle named after the leader are a rather obvious Lawyer-Friendly Cameo.
- Theme Naming: All of the major characters are named after colors. Smash Daisaku was renamed to "Colonel Red" in the American instruction manual to fit the theme, but this decision was reversed on-screen. He was renamed "General Grey" in Super Heroes, however.
- A Twinkle in the Sky: Pink and her minions, after her defeat.
- Unexpected Shmup Level:
- In the first game. However, this is Treasure we're talking about.
- Also used in Gunstar Super Heroes, but much less successfully.
- Unwitting Pawn: You and General Gray, for the Destructor in the first game and Green and Yellow in Super Heroes for the gems itself in the remake.
- Wall Jump: While not an essential skill for the most part, it's still easy and fun to do.
- The War Sequence: The first thing stage 5 tells you is "DESTROY THEM ALL!!". You should follow its advice.
- Worthy Opponent: Green, in both games.