Wild Guns is a video game developed by Natsume for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in Japan on August 12, 1994, North America in July 1995, and Europe on October 30, 1996. The game was published by Natsume in Japan and North America and Titus Software in Europe. This game was originally supposed to be released in North America during the third quarter of 1994, but it got delayed to 1995. There were even a couple of North American magazines that reviewed the game in 1994 despite its eventual 1995 release, which probably baffled some poor souls back then. Luckily, since we live in the future, we no longer have to worry about the delayed release date of an old SNES game. Games like these are now referred to as Cabal shooters, because they play similarly to an old arcade game from 1988 called Cabal. Stylistically, Wild Guns is reminiscent of another arcade title by Konami known as Sunset Riders, but the game play is closer to Cabal. Regarding the game itself, Wild Guns is one of the best games on the SNES that nobody knows about. More people know about it nowadays, but still not nearly enough.
Set in a world that combines the wild west with steampunk, this game features both cowboys and robots. If that's not awesome, then I don't know what is. The story of Wild Guns is about a young and beautiful woman named Annie and her quest for vengeance. The poor lass had nearly her entire family brutally murdered and kidnapped by the ruthless Kid family. Now Annie wishes to obliterate the bloodthirsty gang and rescue the few members of her family that remain, but she can't do it alone. To accomplish her gritty goal, Annie seeks out the aid of a renowned space bounty hunter by the name of Clint. In case you're wondering, no, he has no relation to the famous Spaghetti Western actor, Clint Eastwood, though perhaps that's where the inspiration for his character came from. Clint informs Annie that he doesn't need her help in dealing with the miscreants, but she assures him that she's just as capable with a gun as he is. The daring couple then set off to handle the Kid family in a manner that isn't too kid friendly, since it involves lots of killing.
You can choose to play as either Clint or Annie in Wild Guns. Both characters function identically, so the differences are purely cosmetic. All action in the game is viewed from behind the characters, kind of like a third-person shooter, except in 2-D. The d-pad is used to move the crosshair around the screen as well as control the character's movement. That may seem unwieldy, but if you hold the fire button down, your character will lock in place as he or she rapidly shoots bullets, allowing you to move the crosshair without moving your character. Tapping the fire button will have your character throw a lasso at enemies to briefly stun them, because that's what cowboys and cowgirls do. You also have access to a limited quantity of bombs that can clear the screen of enemies and severely damage bosses. Clint and Annie both die in one shot, so they must perform various evasive maneuvers to survive, such as jumping, double jumping, and rolling out of the way of enemy attacks. The roll is particularly useful, as you're invulnerable while doing it. A nice touch is how your character says "look out" when they're about to be shot, giving you an indicator on when to dodge. Also, flashing targets appear on the screen to show exactly where enemy bullets will go, further aiding in your dodging. Normally, a game like this controls best with a light gun or something similar, but Wild Guns manages to make it work on an SNES pad quite well.
There are a couple of power-ups you can grab while you're maniacally blasting away at foes. The power-ups are all different weapons, mostly firearms. Your standard gun has unlimited ammo, but is hardly the most powerful thing at your disposal. Whenever you pick up another weapon, it will temporarily replace your standard gun until it runs out of ammo. Power-ups include a shotgun that shoots out in a spread pattern, a machine gun that shoots even faster than your standard gun, a grenade launcher that shoots, well, grenades, and the peashooter. With the exception of the puny peashooter, all of these weapons are drastically superior to your starting gun. On top of all those, you get a Vulcan if you build up the meter at the bottom of the screen. The Vulcan is by far the most powerful weapon in the entire game, boasting the fastest firing rate and highest damage output. Unfortunately, possession of the Vulcan only lasts for a few short seconds, so you need to make the most of that catharsis. The coolest thing about the Vulcan, though, is how you get it; in order to fill the meter, you must destroy enemy bullets with your own. This is great game design, because it rewards players for skillful play. The power-up system in Wild Guns is streamlined so that you never have to break your concentration away from the unfettered action.
After completing the first stage, you'll be thrown onto a stage select screen not unlike Mega Man. Each stage is divided into multiple short segments that will last until the timer runs out, at which point a mini-boss will appear. Killing enemies will make the timer count down faster, enabling you to reach the mini-boss sooner. This means you can either wait it out in hopes of surviving the onslaught of enemies or kill as many as you can. It's an odd way to structure a game, but you probably won't even notice this is going on during the crazy, nonstop action. Co-op and versus mode are both available for the choosing in Wild Guns. Versus mode is a simple mini-game where you and a computer or human shoot targets to see who can get the most points within the allotted time. This mode isn't too great, because it merely rehashes the bonus stages from the regular game. Co-op is where it's at, though, as it allows you to work together with a friend to blast through the game's main stages. Wild Guns is super fun on its own, but is doubly so with a pal.
Every segment of a stage will take place in a different location and typically feature different kinds of baddies. Enemies will come at you from all sides of the screen in a number of creative ways. Some gunmen will hide and walk around in bushes, others will pop up from the water in scuba diving gear, and some will even roll up to you in mine carts and take a swing at you with a hammer. Because there is a mixture of human and robotic foes, there is a large amount of enemy variety. For example, there are cowboys that ride robotic horses, and I don't think I need to say anything more to demonstrate how spectacular that is. There are also times when enemies lob dynamites at you, but you can counter this by lobbing the dynamites right back at them, which is neat. Further adding to the fun is the sometimes destructible environment, like how you're able to break the windows of a building or shoot the bottles in a bar. All of this is presented to you in amazing graphics and absolutely stellar music. The stages in this game are sublime.
Bosses in Wild Guns are positively wild. They can range from gigantic robots armed with Gatling guns to cowardly humans that pathetically crawl along the ground to avoid being shot. Every boss is imaginative and entertaining to fight, like a giant tank equipped with a flamethrower, an enormous robotic crab, a man with a jetpack, or a dude that stops to comb his hair in the midst of a firefight. Not all of the bosses will assault you in a straightforward manner; some will stun you while their lackeys attempt to deal the final blow, so each boss will employ a different strategy against you. The bosses also give you plenty of opportunities to fill your Vulcan bar by showering the screen with bullets that you can shoot out of the air. The only lame thing about the boss battles in this game is that some of the bosses get recycled later on. That's a relatively minor issue, though, because most of the bosses are original and awesome. Additionally, it's only the mini-bosses that get recycled; all of the main bosses are still unique.
This game is cooler than Kool-Aid. Superb graphics, superb music, superb controls, superb enemy design, superb boss design, and superb stages; everything about this game is superb. The cowboy and steampunk themes act as a perfect backdrop for the brutal destruction that goes on in this game's many colorful stages. Being able to destroy shots with your own bullets is an exhilarating feeling, especially since it not only helps your survival, but it also potentially gives you access to a weapon of mass destruction. As if that all weren't enough, this incredible package can even be enjoyed with a friend. Wild Guns is fast and furious fun.
Check out my website for more reviews!