GameSpite Quarterly 8 | Gunner's Heaven/Rapid Reload

Clearly inspired by Treasureís Genesis masterpiece Gunstar Heroes, Gunners Heaven (released in Europe as Rapid Reload) is a frantic, cartoony shooter where players run from left to right blasting the holy heck out of robots, fox-like soldiers, and anything else that happens to get in their way. Boss encounters are frequent, and typically feature some kind of large, multi-segmented mecha not dissimilar to those seen in Gunstar. Just like in Gunstar, players can hang from certain platforms and execute a throw maneuver by attacking while directly next to or on top of an enemy. Again mimicking Gunstar, players have access to a variety of different weapons, from shooter standards like machine guns and lasers to more exotic fair like flame shots and wave blasts. Unlike in Gunstar, though, each of the two playable characters always has access to four specific weapons that can be switched between at any time. While this certainly makes the playerís character more versatile at any given moment, it does eliminate the experimental fun in Gunstar that came with combining various weapon types and discovering which resultant combination shot worked best in which level.

In a way, this change encapsulates why Gunners Heaven doesnít quite live up to the high standard of its inspiration. Media.Vision did a fine job capturing the style of Treasureís masterpiece, but it nevertheless failed to transfer Gunstarís manic soul to its own game. Upon playing Gunstar for the first time, the typical gamer, even those familiar with other run-and-gun titles like Metal Slug or Konamiís own Contra, is usually completely lost. He has no idea what weapon combinations do what or which levels are best to start with, and the absolutely insane amount of onscreen action combined with the heroesí more complex move sets is completely overwhelming. In contrast, Gunners Heaven is much more approachable, and an experienced gamer should have a firm grasp on gameplay in a few minutes. Of course, the more time one spends with Gunstar the more one realizes how absolutely engrossing the game is, due in no small part to its aforementioned complexity. Having a firm enough grasp on Gunstarís mechanics to go toe-to-toe with Seven Force, the gameís infamous giant, transforming robot boss, is a transcendent moment in oneís game playing career. Gunners Heaven, on the other hand, remains pretty much the same gameplay experience at the end as it was at the beginning. Though the game certainly has its fair share of tense moments, as any good run-and-gun should, it lacks the unrestrained wildness of Gunstar Heroes, and its simpler mechanics serve to make it a good, but not great, action game.

By Mike Zeller? | April 19, 2011 | Last: WipEout | Next: GunCon