Wild Guns: A Steampunk Shooting Gallery
Natsume is a developer mostly known for their modestly popular Harvest Moon franchise. However, back before their talents were corralled within the Farming Sim genre Natsume was a fairly prolific NES and SNES developer who produced some very solid titles. Games such as Pocky & Rocky (SNES), Abadox (NES), and The Ninja Warriors (SNES) were very polished affairs, if none particularly groundbreaking or innovative.
This description holds true for the majority of Natsume’s catalogue, truthfully. Most of their games were analogues of more popular titles released earlier. It could be said that it wasn’t until Harvest Moon that Natsume did anything particularly original; perhaps that is why it became their most enduring title. One could say “Whats so bad about a company developing their own versions of popular games as long as they are well done?” and I would agree completely! It just seems that, perhaps in their quest of producing a better Ninja Gaiden or Life Force, most of Natsume’s games suffered as a result of not being able to stand out amongst the crowd.
One can certainly see this in Wild Guns (SNES). On the surface, its another in a long line of Cabal clones. The Wild Guns difference is that it is the most refined of the lot. While watching the game in motion it could easily be mistaken for a Capcom or Konami produced title. Action never slows as you fire at a small army of opponents, explosions come quickly and the environment is fully destructible. The aesthetics are particularly enjoyable: stylized steampunk robots and vehicles blended with the feel of a classic western. Think Wild Wild West, except no Will Smith and not completely abysmal. Wild Guns is an actual fun, enjoyable take on the concept.
The attention to detail is what makes this simple shooter a joy to play. Parts of giant enemies explode as you wear them down. Furniture is splintered, bottles shattered, vehicles destroyed. Natsume really understood what makes games like this fun to play: cheap visceral thrills. To that end, a lot of the appeal comes in blowing everything up. Not to say the game isn’t challenging. Far from it, as a lot of time will be spent dodging enemies and frantically shooting around for power ups to survive. Luckily the control is fluid and responsive, allowing freedom of movement while shooting and employing a handy quick dodge feature. You can even play 2 player co op, which as always does wonders to ramp up the fun factor.
It is always nice to see someone take a tried and true genre and hit on every point that illustrates what makes them so fun and timeless. Natsume certainly does that here. This is an unappreciated gem that should be played. Unfortunately, the game is rather rare. It came out late in the lifespan of the SNES, and went largely unnoticed. The prices for a cart are now exorbitant (no Virtual Console release here). Of course, the wonders of emulation make it a lot easier to experience this title for yourself.
filed by Eric.
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Tags: Natsume, Pixel Dreams, Retro Game Reviews, Retro Video Games, Wild Guns