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The original Wild Guns was released for the Super Nintendo in 1995 and I’ve only played it a few times over the years. If you can find the original game, there’s a good chance you’ll be paying triple digits for it. Apparently, it’s rare and very expensive. Wild Guns is a gallery shooter set in the old west. I guess you could say it’s a steampunk gallery shooter. You get to shoot bad guys, robots, and even drones, and it’s just extremely fun. Developed and published by Natsume, the same developers that brought us the original, Wild Guns: Reloaded was released for the PlayStation 4 in December, 2016. Reloaded is basically a remastered version of the Super Nintendo game. It supports HD resolutions and includes some enhanced visuals along with new characters, stages, and enemies, four player co-op, and it even supports online leaderboards. I think Jeremy and I spent a good eight or nine hours straight playing cooperatively before inviting two others to join us in on the action. When they’re not around, I’ve been playing by myself, just trying to get better because this game isn’t exactly easy. But, shit, is it fun.
I did purchase the retail version and like many boxed games out nowadays, there was no manual. I only say this because the game does almost nothing to even hint at any form of story so I ended up doing some online research to even see if there is one. Annie and Clint are the two main and playable characters from the original game and apparently Annie is seeking revenge for the death of her family. Clint is a space bounty hunter helping Annie on her quest. There is a main antagonist, known as The Kid, and I have no idea what his deal is but I guess he’s the one responsible for the death of Annie’s family. The story really is insignificant and the two new characters introduced in Reloaded – Bullet and Doris – do nothing to make it more prominent. It doesn’t matter because a game like this is all about the gameplay anyway. Wild Guns is a western of sorts, with stages set in an ammunition depot, gold mine, and Carson City, among others, but you’ll quickly learn it’s not exactly historically accurate. Robots, flying gunships, and drones are just some of the enemies you’ll face, giving the game a sort of steampunk vibe. It’s all very cool stuff and it reminded me a lot of the movie Cowboys vs Aliens, although, there’s no aliens here. But that’s okay because blowing away robots and bad guys is still awesome and the gameplay in Wild Guns is super addicting.
Wild Guns: Reloaded is a gallery shooter meaning you’re going to be shooting a shit-ton of enemies. You can only move left and right and you use the dpad or right thumbstick to aim your crosshair. Other than Bullet, your character cannot move while shooting but you can jump and dodge to avoid incoming attacks. There’s three difficulty modes – Easy, Normal, and Hard – and I’m going to tell you right now, every difficulty is hard. This is not an easy game. You need to complete the game on either Easy or Normal to unlock Hard. You progress through six stages and after completing the first stage, you’re brought to a stage select where you can complete a set of four stages in any order. Each stage has two areas where you need to defeat waves of enemies and a mini boss before proceeding to the stage’s final boss. After beating the first five stages you progress to the final stage where you blast your way through three areas of enemies and then the game’s final boss. When playing in single player, you start with four lives on Easy, and two on Normal and Hard. After losing all of your lives, it’s game over. You can still continue playing, but will have to restart the current stage or you can choose another. If you do choose to continue, you won’t be ranked on the leaderboards. You need to complete the game without using a continue for your ranking to count. I think it goes without saying, Wild Guns feels very much like an arcade game, and trying for a high score is actually in your best interest because after earning enough points, you earn an extra life. Killing enemies rewards you with points, and killing enemies in succession increases your multiplier for even more points. Fallen enemies will sometimes drop gold and silver and shooting these will reward you with bonus points. You also get bonus points for shooting bags of money and from shooting the individual bills that come raining down from these bags.
All of the characters have a standard weapon with infinite ammo, although Doris throws grenades and doesn’t use guns. Each character has a special weapon or bomb that’s extremely powerful and can clear out multiple enemies on the screen but it does use up ammo. You can throw a lasso to temporarily stun enemies and perform melee attacks when specific enemies get too close. Annie and Clint are your basic point and shoot characters that were in the original game but the two new characters can really change things up. Bullet is an adorable dog with a drone that does all of the shooting. The drone can auto lock-on to any enemies within its sights, making combat a bit easier. When you’re not shooting your character will move with the crosshair and when you are shooting, only the crosshair can be moved. However, Bullet can move while shooting, meaning you need to be a bit more careful when using him. The drone does all of the shooting but as your moving the crosshair around, the dog will move as well and if you’re not careful, he’ll get shot. When the drone gets hit, it gets stunned for a couple seconds leaving Bullet vulnerable, but if Bullet gets hit, you lose a life. Doris is probably the most powerful character of the bunch. She’s a big woman with metal arms and instead of shooting, she throws or fires grenades. Holding the attack button will cause her to stock up on multiple grenades, up to a max of seven. Her dodge is extremely quick, she can throw three lassos at once, and can perform some kind of electrical ground pound that acts as a melee attack. Because Doris doesn’t use guns, she doesn’t shoot, so playing as her will take some getting used to but it’s well worth it because if you can master her, she’s basically overpowered and can decimate all enemies and quickly take down bosses.
Wild Guns is all about one-hit kills so mastering the controls is very, very important, no matter which character you choose. Enemies will shoot at you, lob grenades and explosives, and some will even attempt to stun you. When an enemy shoots at you, a reticle appears on your character and as long as you dodge or move out of the way, you won’t get hit. You’re character will also shout “look out!”, indicated by a speech bubble, whenever an enemy fires. Besides basic dodging and moving, you can also shoot enemy bullets and even pick up dynamite from the ground before it explodes and throw it back at enemies. The first areas in a stage are timed and when the timer reaches zero, any remaining enemies on the screen are instantly killed and you then proceed to fight a sub-boss. The final area is always a giant end boss and none of the boss fights are timed. You press the jump button while shooting to dodge and dodging will save your life. When you’re not shooting you can perform a standard jump, and even a double-jump, but dodging is by far the most useful move. You’re basically invulnerable during a dodge and timing is everything. Dodging too early or too late can get you killed. You also need to be aware of your surroundings. Most of the time you’ll be focusing on your crosshair and the enemies on the screen but paying attention to your character is just as important because the reticles that appear on your character are an indication that you need to move. I will admit that it can be hard to focus on everything when things get really hectic, making some deaths feel cheap. There’s many times I died, not because I wasn’t paying attention, but because there was just so much happening that I didn’t see the explosive or bullet that killed me.
At first, I thought Wild Guns would be better as a light gun game but after for playing for a bit I realized it would make the combat way too easy. The challenge really does come from mastering the controls. As I stated earlier, this is a gallery shooter so you can only move left and right. The characters can run when not shooting but they aren’t particularly fast so I found myself dodging more often than running to get to one side or the other quicker. Moving the crosshair around the screen can feel slow at first but that’s why learning to dodge and avoid attacks is important. Enemies will appear from almost anywhere in the environments, including coming in from off-screen and you may not have enough time to get your crosshair from one side of the screen to the other. Moving your crosshair also means your character will move so to move the crosshair independently means you have to be shooting, which means you’ll be standing still, which means you need to be aware of incoming attacks. There’s actually a lot to think about and it all does become second nature once you get used to it. You may not want to move your character to one side of the screen because the enemies are over there but you need to get your crosshair over there to shoot them. This means you need to start shooting and move the crosshair to where the enemies are. But then enemies will suddenly appear on your side so now you need to be ready to dodge at any moment. The gameplay can become fast paced and all enemies follow a pattern. Some run to a specific spot and then shoot. Enemies you can melee always come in from off-screen. Sometimes enemies appear in the windows of buildings. One stage in particular has enemies that pop out of the ground. The enemies themselves aren’t really that difficult, its dealing with multiple enemies at once that can prove to be a challenge. Wild Guns is all about memorizing enemy patterns. Not just attack patterns but how they appear as well. Until the timer reaches zero, enemies will appear on screen in waves. It’s usually the same enemies appearing in the same patterns. First it may be a bunch of guys running in from off screen before a drone appears in the sky, ready to gun you down. This will always repeat, maybe it will be more enemies next time, but it’s always the same pattern. Memorizing boss patterns is also crucial. They always give you enough time to avoid attacks but knowing when to move and where is the key. Most bosses only have a handful of attacks that can easily be memorized and many of them will be accompanied by standard enemies as well.
To aid you in combat are several different weapon power-ups, dropped by fallen enemies and they all contain a limited amount of ammo. There’s a machine gun, shotgun, some kind of grenade launcher, a laser weapon, and a pea shooter that does absolutely no damage. You need to shoot the power-ups to acquire them and because of the pea shooter, you really need to watch what you’re shooting at because you don’t want to acquire it by mistake. The pea shooter feels like an unnecessary addition and it just adds insult to injury. The game would be challenging enough without it and it’s just another thing to think about among everything else. Shooting enemies will build up a meter, located at the bottom of the screen next to your character’s face, and once the meter is full, you are rewarded with invulnerability and a super weapon power-up called the V Gun. I think it’s short for “Vulcan Gun” and is supposed to be a minigun or something. Utilizing this weapon is obviously a good idea as it’s the most powerful weapon in the game and it’s very helpful if you can get it during a boss fight. The meter will drain and once it’s depleted, you lose the power-up. I don’t like the fact that you don’t have any control over the meter. You can’t decide when to activate the V Gun power-up which really sucks. Sometimes I would get it right at the end of an area and once you move onto the next, it doesn’t carry over so it becomes a waste. Another thing I don’t like is that the shoot button is used for too many functions. You hold square to shoot, press it for a melee attack or to pick up dynamite, and triple press it to throw the lasso. I understand why they made the controls very simple but most of the buttons on the PS4 controller aren’t used and I think using another button for the lasso in particular would have been a good idea. There’s too many times where things would really heat up and I would be trying to shoot, dodge, and move, and I would end up inadvertently triple pressing the square button, activating the lasso attack when I just wanted to shoot. You need to release square to throw the lasso and because I was thrown off by the mistake, I wouldn’t do it in time and usually get killed. I found that this problem presented itself more often when playing as Doris than any other character. Because you need to press square to throw grenades, and hold it to stock up more, many times you won’t have time to stock up and will be dodging and pressing square repeatedly to throw single grenades so obviously it becomes very easy to press the button very quickly three times, activating the lasso. It’s annoying.
Wild Guns: Reloaded is really a solid game for the most part. The gameplay has flaws but they’re not too bad and they don’t take away from its addicting nature. Although, I do have some issues with some of the design choices that may or may not be isolated to this remaster since I haven’t played the original all that much to know. There’s two new stages in Reloaded but they can only be played on the higher difficulties. There is no way to play all of the stages in one run. In fact, the two new stages replace existing ones. The new Underground stage replaces Desolation Canyon and the new Flying Ship stage replaces Ammunition Depot. You can play the Underground stage by playing on the Normal difficulty and you can play both of the new stages by playing on the Hard difficulty. This seems like a very odd design choice. I question why the developers didn’t create a new set of stages while keeping the originals intact for all three difficulty modes. This way all stages could, theoretically, be scaled for each difficulty. It’s not like the new stages are even badly designed. In fact, they’re quite creative and a nice change of pace if you’ve been playing on Easy for a while. The final bosses for these stages are extremely challenging and even when we were all playing cooperatively, we got our asses handed to us several times.
The multiplayer is actually the biggest disappointment in Reloaded. It’s obvious that this game has a big focus on cooperative multiplayer and it’s just handled so poorly. For one thing, you get no continues when playing in multiplayer. Once you hit the game over screen, you need to start the entire campaign over from the beginning. Worst of all, you all share lives so if one person is new to the game or just sucks and dies every five seconds, you’ll have no lives to fall back on during the more difficult sections. If you’re not one who cares about high scores, this aspect of the multiplayer is a real let down. At least in single player you can continue playing after a game over, albeit without being ranked but that means you can keep practicing in a particular stage without having to start the entire campaign over. Another problem is that you cannot choose the difficulty in multiplayer. It all depends on how many players. When there’s two players, you’re playing on Easy, when there’s three players, you’re playing on Normal, and when there’s four players, you’re playing on Hard. This means you need three or four players to play the new stages which is not only very disappointing but infuriating as well. If the developers just added the ability to choose difficulty modes, this problem could have been averted. I should also mention that there’s no online multiplayer so it’s not like you can find players across the world to help you out. Multiplayer is local only so if you don’t have anyone to play with, you’re shit out of luck. Then of course, there’s the multiplayer gameplay itself. The original game only included multiplayer for two players so the inclusion of the two extra players here is a nice addition. And it’s exactly what you would expect. All of the characters are on the screen shooting shit. However, if you’re having a hard time paying attention to everything going on in the single player, it gets even worse in multiplayer. There’s more enemies and more ways to die which is to be expected but the screen gets too cluttered which does become a problem. With Bullet’s drone and its reticle sight, Doris’ grenade indicators, and Clint and Annie’s crosshairs, it’s almost impossible to see everything going on sometimes. With more enemies added in and more incoming attacks to deal with, it’s very easy to lose focus. The sad thing is, a lot of the problems with the multiplayer could have been avoided and that’s what’s most aggravating about the whole thing. I can even deal with the cluttered screen but the fact that you cannot choose a difficulty mode in multiplayer is the biggest issue I have with this game. Even with all of these problems, I still had a great time in the multiplayer so I can’t say that it wasn’t fun. It just could have been better.
The original Wild Guns looked pretty great on the Super Nintendo and it looks even better here. Yeah, it looks like a widescreen Super Nintendo game but games like this are timeless and that also applies to the visuals. Everything is vibrant and colorful, the animations look great, especially when the main characters are idly standing by, and I can appreciate the new minor effects added here. The new muzzle flashes and explosions look great, making the combat seem more intense at times. Some stages include parts of the environment that can be destroyed like tables and glass. If you manage to beat the game without using any continues you will unlock retro sound effects. Although, the new sound effects are excellent and I love the way the guns sound. Not all of the guns sound particularly powerful but they just sound cool. The machine gun can really put your bass to work, though, if you have a surround sound system, that is. The music is great and fits the whole steampunk/space western theme the game is going for. I found that many of the songs would get stuck in my head although I did play this for several days in a row and several hours each day. Presentation-wise, it’s a very good remaster without any unnecessary additions to bring it down. We did not encounter or just didn’t notice any bugs and it ran super smooth with no slow down or hiccups.
It’s fun playing older games like this remastered for a modern system, and if it’s done right, it can be just as appealing as the original game while attracting a new audience. Wild Guns: Reloaded is an excellent remaster for the most part. There’s no denying the multiplayer has problems. It’s just straight up disappointing in many respects. I’m normally a single player guy anyway and while there seems to be attention on the multiplayer here, there is still a big focus on the single player. If you look at the trophy list, most of them can only be unlocked in the single player so you can take that for what it is. I, personally, don’t care about trophies and had a great time with this in single player and with friends so if you like gallery shooters, Wild Guns: Reloaded should be a no-brainer. Sadly, it could have been better. The new stages are nice but I think having them tied to difficulty modes is not a very good idea and it makes the multiplayer even worse because of how it’s handled. The original Wild Guns had a multiplayer vs mode which was not included here but I’ve heard people say it was forgettable anyway. Even so, I question why it was excluded. It would have been another gameplay mode and in Reloaded’s case, more would have been better. Oh, well. I haven’t played many gallery shooters but from what I have played so far, I would say Wild Guns: Reloaded is one of the best. The original stages and characters are all here with the addition of some new stuff. It looks great, it sounds great, and it’s only thirty bucks. I’d recommend everybody check it out.