A Few In the Chamber
In an age of remakes, re-releases, and remasterings, it has become the norm seeing old games get a second life on new gen consoles. Often times, these re-releases go beyond just increasing screen resolution and smoothing out the frame rate by adding new features to modernize gameplay to current standards. Caught somewhere in the middle, it is great to see Wild Guns become accessible to modern audiences but the new features, or lack there of, is rather baffling.
Originally released in 1994 on SNES, Wild Guns supported two player co-op in an all out shooting gallery set in a steam punk western theme. From a third person perspective, the player controls one of four playable characters and a cursor to shoot at anything that moves, essentially playing like a light-gun game only the avatar is visible. The moment-to-moment gameplay is always intense as there is always something to shoot, dodge, or blow up including the common enemy, mini-bosses, and large level capping bosses. The key factor, however, is the title’s extraordinarily high difficulty even when playing on the easiest setting. Clearly, the game is built for co-op as playing solo requires near perfection as beating the very first stage carries a high challenge. Unfortunately, the game’s difficulty doesn’t stagger depending on the number of players present and taking one-hit kills is brutal and frustrating.
The “Reloaded” part of the game’s title indicates that some new enhancements were made, the biggest being four-player local co-op support and the addition of two new playable characters. Each of the four playable characters features an entirely new moveset, like the dog’s ability to move while shooting or that the chubby chick is slow but tosses grenades that clear our large portions of the screen instead of shooting individual bullets, but the complete lack of online support is a huge missed opportunity. Further, there is no option to save your progress, forcing players to complete the first level before the game opens up like choosing a level in any Mega Man title. The lack of a tutorial isn’t a major misstep but ultimately would have benefitted from one as indicating the unique features of each character, how the screen-clearing bomb works, how to kill enemies with a melee attack, and perhaps even providing some background story or customization options would have made the title more accessible.
Besides the two new characters, two new stages have also been added: Underground and Flying Ship. Both feel like they were a part of the original game and fits the overall ridiculous western aesthetic. Too bad some players might never see these stages as the high difficulty and limited lives means players will need to replay stages over and over until they “git gud.” This form of gameplay is definitely a product of its time and feels like it was designed as a quarter-muncher for the arcade.
The lack of overall options is another disappointment. Now that controllers have two analog sticks, it would have been nice to include the option to move with one and shoot with the other. Granted, this could have changed the overall balance but could have potentially overcame the unnecessarily high difficulty factor. While the pixel art looked great back then and still looks fantastic now, a new coat of paint would have been a nice feature. The wide-screen support fits modern aspect ratios but still would have been cool to perhaps switch between and old and new style of graphics like Halo Anniversary or the Monkey Island remakes.
Again, the new features Natsume included in this port is welcomed but also a bit confusing. Why go through all the trouble to implement two new playable characters and four player support but not include online play, controller and gameplay options, new graphics, or additional difficulty factors? At least the name “Reloaded” fits the bill more accurately as opposed to the standard “HD” or “Remastered” tagline as Wild Guns Reloaded plays more like a Virtual Console port than a whole new game designed for new audiences. This gallery shooter is by no means a bad game and is worth its asking price especially if you can play with a few local co-op partners, but can’t help but think this re-release could have been so much more. In the very least, it is nice to see a forgotten cult favorite see new light with a modern audience.
Wild Guns Reloaded is currently available on PS4, PC, and coming soon to Switch.
Not To Be Confused With: the Wild Arms series
Wait For It: a sequel/re-release of N64’s Flying Dragon
Also Try: Duck Hunt on Wii U with Wii-mote controller support