Developer: Sega
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 3G, iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sega is at it yet again with the classic Genesis games, this time unleashing Gunstar Heroes onto unsuspecting iOS device owners. Gunstar Heroes is a classic Genesis run ‘n gun game, and one of developer Treasure’s first games. For iOS gamers unaware of Treasure, they are a developer originally formed from ex-Konami developers responsible for games like Contra, who now make some of the most challenging twitch action games you can imagine. Gunstar Heroes is notable for its weapon combination system, insane difficulty and semi-linear level structure, allowing you to play the first 4 levels in any order you want, each with their own twists on the run ‘n gun genre, with the lat half of the game bringing new twists and more hair-pulling frustration.

Sega’s iOS Genesis emulator continues to improve – on newer A4 devices, the game runs perfectly, and on older devices like the iPhone 3G, the game runs with noticeable frame skipping but is still very playable. As well, the emulator now supports Bluetooth multiplayer, a must for Gunstar Heroes, allowing you to try to conquer the game with a friend on another iOS device. Sega’s also updated their other Genesis games on iOS for multiplayer support. One can only hope iPad support is next. And of course, Gunstar Heroes is perfectly represented here, as with Sega’s other iOS Genesis games.

The biggest problem with Gunstar Heroes for iOS is that it just isn’t meant for this platform. Unlike Sonic, which makes do with just a d-pad and one button, this game requires 3 action-obscuring buttons along with the d-pad. First, there is no configuration that works well for jumping and shooting at all. Second, you can’t play in fullscreen mode at all without your fingers obscuring most of what’s going on on-screen, so you have to play in the much smaller original size mode. But really, this is a twitch-action game that requires the kind of precision that only a good physical controller can provide. Gunstar Heroes is hard enough as it is!

Really, because of the controls, Gunstar Heroes is hard to recommend on iOS. The game still holds up incredibly well 17 years later, but the limitation of not having physical controls really harms the game to the point where this is a hard one to recommend. If you haven’t played Gunstar Heroes before, you absolutely ought to play it at some point in your life, just preferably either on the original Genesis or in a downloadable console version, as this game just needs a controller to properly enjoy.

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