The Basics: Nobody saw it coming. Within a year of Advance Guardian Heroes, Treasure has gone and shocked us again by breaking their "no sequel" tradition and releasing a follow-up to another beloved title. And you can imagine, longtime fans aren't complaining – especially when that title happens to be a sweet little 2D gem by the name of Gunstar Heroes.
Peep online discussion boards or glimpse all the ink that's gone into print – you'll discover the gaming scene has literally been in a frenzy due to the advent of a sequel. Though a few, likely due to the franchise's hibernated state, opted to take a cautiously optimistic stance for what they feared would turn into a disappointment. Well fear not folks, because the "son of Gunstar" offers just as much spark and magic as its old man. Thanks to SEGA, I had the chance to spend some extensive hands-on time with a preview copy in order to bring you a first-hand report how it measures up so far.
First off, let me assure you that the new Gunstar doesn't stray too far from its roots. Treasure wisely decided not to take the common road by reinventing the wheel and incorporating "innovative" elements that could ultimately make fanboys sad pandas. I also know some have been thinking: "Since it's on the GBA, it couldn't possibly measure up to its console brethren, right?"
Let it be known that Treasure truly is a talented bunch. If you've ever played one of their previous releases like Dynamite Heady, Guardian Heroes, Ikaruaga – or more specifically, Gunstar Heroes, you've come to recognize and admire that excellence. Well, that quality remains in full effect here and to this day, their digital wizardry has not ceased to amaze me. When you get a glimpse of the impressive effects crammed into that little cart, it will seem like they've gone and shrunk the Genny. Any conventional type of 16-bit, graphic processing effect you can think of is here – Mode 7, scaling, rotation, and all those other fancy buzzwords I won't bother to recall are all there. And the best part is, the action is always intense; always challenging; always fast. Slowdown? Forget it, you won't find it here. If you're still in disbelief, check out any available online footage and see for yourself.
As far as this chapter goes, the story picks up sometime after the final events of the original Gunstar – evil's ambitions remain wicked as ever. A new villainous league seeks to revive the legendary God of Ruin (fans know him as "Destructor") and now it's up to the new generation of Gunstar Heroes to save the world. Psst, that's you!
What do we think? Well, I am not going to mince words here -- anyone who's a fan of the original NEEDS to buy this game. It's just that simple, and yes, it's that good. On the surface, it's just as easy to pick up as the original. In similar fashion, players can select from one of two characters (named Red and Blue, respectively), but in an interesting twist – doing so now will leads to distinct paths as you progress. And when you factor in the fact 3 different difficulty levels are available, 3 difficulty levels x 2 characters = 6 different storylines. Go replay value!