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Sunset Riders is a game I’ve been interested in for a while. I’ve never played the arcade game but I have looked for copies of the SNES version and as of this review, it seems many genuine copies sell for quite a bit of money. My friend has a copy and we played it briefly years ago and even though it kicked our asses, we enjoyed it. Anyway, the decision to play it popped into my head during our time playing through the Turtles beat ’em ups. I said we should play that next and he agreed and said, “but we’re going to die a lot because it’s hard as fuck”. Developed by Konami Gaming and published by Konami, Sunset Riders was released as an arcade game in 1991. A version for the Sega Genesis was released in 1992 and a version for the Super Nintendo in 1993. For this review, we played the Super Nintendo version on the Analogue Super Nt. And we did play it using the actual cartridge.
As far as we can tell, there is not much to the plot. Set in the American old west, the player assumes the role of one of four bounty hunters and their objective is to take down outlaws. You are shown a wanted poster of an outlaw along with the reward money at the start of each stage, and the outlaws are the bosses. Sunset Riders is a side scrolling run and gun shooter. You can move left and right, jump, duck, slide and shoot in eight directions. Your score is money. You earn money for killing bad guys and acquiring pick ups. The SNES version does support up to two players and when playing with another person, the player who does the most damage to the boss earns the reward money. When you earn a certain amount of money, you will be awarded an extra life.
The four bounty hunters are Steve, Billy, Bob, and Cormano. Steve and Billy wield pistols or revolvers, Bob wields a rifle, and Cormano wields a shotgun. One of the most noticeable differences between the bounty hunters is that Bob and Cormano fire spread shots. The objective of each stage is to get to the end and defeat the boss. You move through the stages shooting bad guys and you can jump between platforms and shimmy along ropes. Sunset Riders is a tough game and you’ll need to move, jump, and slide to avoid death. You can find pick ups like money, extra lives, and two power-ups. One grants you rapid fire and the other allows you to dual wield guns.
Thank fuck the Analogue Super Nt supports Game Genie codes and we’re not ashamed to say we entered one that grants infinite lives only after seeing the Game Over screen enough to realize how much we suck. Nevertheless, Sunset Riders is a brutal game and will require practice and skill to master. You can adjust the difficulty and increase the amount of lives and continues you’re given but even on Easy, the game ain’t no joke. And some bosses are just cheap. I was able to get up to stage six on Easy by myself but Chief Wigwam is an asshole and kept destroying me. Sunset Riders is a one-hit kill kind of game. You get hit, you die and lose a life and any power-ups you had. Lose all your lives and you can consume a continue to proceed from the start of the current stage. Lose all your continues and it’s game over. Playing with someone else does make things easier and, in our opinion, is more enjoyable.
For the most part, the stages can be pretty easy to get through after a few tries. As long as you paid attention, that is. You primarily navigate the environments on-foot but a couple of stages have you on horseback. You’ll also get to play through bonus stages for extra money. These have you shooting the enemies that appear on the screen. The stages are not very long and enemies go down pretty easily. They come from off-screen and the backgrounds, they’ll shoot from windows and some even lob dynamite that you can pick up and throw. It’s the bosses that can be a real bitch. They do exhibit patterns you can memorize and some are significantly easier than others, especially when you get their behavior down. Sunset Riders is a game all about practice. It’s the kind of game where you do it right or you die. Move in the wrong direction or jump or slide at the wrong time, and you die. You’ll need to practice and memorize the stages, enemy positions, and boss behavior to avoid the bullets, explosions, and fire among other hazards that can kill you to truly master the game.
Sunset Riders showcases a colorful presentation with some good sprite work and animations. Although, some of the backgrounds appear a little simple. But the stages are detailed and the entire audiovisual presentation does the whole western thing pretty well. From what I have seen of the arcade game, the SNES version doesn’t look as good and some changes were made but from what I understand, it is a fairly faithful port. The soundtrack does feature some excellent and catchy tunes that fit the whole western theme the game is going for and the audio work in general is pretty good. On the technical side, we did notice some slowdown during scripted explosions but other than that, the game ran fine and we encountered no major problems.
Despite how tough Sunset Riders can be, we did enjoy our time with it. In fact, I might even say it’s become one of my favorite western games. It’s the kind of game that offers a rewarding feeling when you overcome an obstacle. It’s the kind of game that should appeal to those that enjoy challenging run and gun shooters like Contra for example. The western setting makes it unique and it puts you in some cool scenarios. From engaging enemies on horseback to shooting your way around a moving train, the action is always exciting. But Sunset Riders is a game that will require practice. It’s the kind of game that will continuously kick your ass until you figure out what you’re doing wrong. It’s the kind of game that doesn’t hold your hand. It’s the kind of game that can lead to frustration if you don’t have patience.
We would recommend Sunset Riders because it’s fun. It’s a charming little western and fun side scrolling run and gun shooter. And it’s even more fun if you have someone else to play with. It’s fun but also challenging. Challenging enough that it may not be for everyone. If you enjoy tough run and gun side scrolling shooters that require practice and skill, Sunset Riders should appeal to you.