Pure fanservice, through and through.

User Rating: 8.5 | Gunstar Super Heroes GBA
Gunstar Heroes. The name of that game makes hardcore, old-school gamers soil their underwear with joy. Along with Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega Genesis games like Gunstar Heroes lead the charge against Nintendo in the early 90's. The game at it's basics is an action/shooter/platformer. With a robust combat system (involving combining to weapon's effects to make an entirely new effect), you were thrown into a level with dozens of enemies on screen at a time. If you survived the mass destruction, you eventually made it to a larger-than-life boss.

Treasure, the game's developer, for better or for worse, swore off sequels for the longest time. They claimed they would not do a sequel unless they had the original members of the design team. Finally, sometime last year, they buckled and released a luke-warm sequel to cult-favorite, Guardian Heroes, called Advance Guardian Heroes. This year, they've upped the ante with Gunstar Super Heroes - a sequel to the Genesis favorite everybody adored.

The game plays out basically the same as it's predecessor: You are dropped into a level with lots of guns and a robust combat system at your fingertips. Dozens of enemies swarm you from all sides of the screen - and it is your job to fight your way through the horde until you come to that larger-than-life boss. Control changes have been made, and while some of the more hardcore out there are crying blasphemy - I rather like the changes.

Gone is weapon combination; you now have three weapons on you at all time, and can switch between each one on-the-fly. Use a gun enough and it powers up it's special ability. Special abilities depend on the gun and who you are playing as (either Red or Blue), but all of them are absurdly powerful. Also gone is the grab-and-toss melee maneuver from the original - instead, replaced with a much more robust combat system. Rather than a single melee attack, you can now punch and kick in nearly any direction; I had lots of fun trying to traverse levels using only melee attacks.

Visually, the game is stunning. I'm not making a hyperbole; I literally had to take a break from playing the game because Gunstar Super Heroes is just that visually intense. Screen-filling explosions are the norm here - and the Gameboy Advance never skips a beat. This game pushes more effects than any Gameboy Advance game ever has, and it's beautiful for it. Treasure has truly mastered the abilities of the hardware. Bosses fill the screen, explosions and pseudo 3D effects are everywhere, the game is full of scaling and rotation effects - each level is a showcase of some wholly new graphical treat.

And Treasure uses these visuals for some interesting gameplay. You will find many levels in here that tip their hat in respect to many classic Sega titles; such as Afterburner, Flicky, and even the original Gunstar Heroes, but Treasure has given them new twists: in the Flicky Stage, the entire level rotates around you like a giant wheel, making traversing it an interesting experience. All of these levels seem very confusing and daunting at first, but once you start to learn how they work, everything becomes second nature. And although the game is short (extremely short - we're talking "less than two hours" short), it does offer up multiple difficulties, and each difficulty slightly changes the gameplay mechanics and plot enough to make it worth trying to play through each difficulty in succession.

If I had to find one complaint about the game, it would be that Treasure neglected to include a co-op mode. One of the great pleasures of the original Gunstar Heroes was plugging in a second controller and sharing the mayhem with a friend; not so, here. However, considering the visuals the game pushes, I'm not entirely sure if the Gameboy Advance COULD handle co-op for this game without sacrificing some quality elsewhere.

What we are looking at here is one of the best Gameboy Advance action games ever created. It's extremely intense and immensely entertaining; it is a title you should not miss, and I eagerly await to see what Treasure has up it's sleeve for their next game.

Discussion