For years, Sega has teased the gaming public with the prospect of a Treasure game compilation. We’ve all been salivating, and with good reason they’re one of the most well respected development teams in the industry, consistently producing games that are both artistically creative and incredibly fun to play. Finally, as part of the Sega Ages 2500 line, we’ve received the Gunstar Heroes Treasure Box, most likely published to capitalize off the recent release of Gunstar Super Heroes for the Gameboy Advance. This collection includes three of their Mega Drive/Genesis games – Gunstar Heroes, Alien Soldier and Dynamite Headdy.
Treasure games were often known for their insane graphical effects, often pushing the limits of the Genesis far beyond what people thought it was capable of. Most bosses consist of several individually manipulated sprites, which allow for some impressive animation. Combined with some impressive scaling and rotation effects, which were usually only seen on the Super Nintendo – they produced some of the most fantastic visuals of the 16-bit era.
Gunstar Heroes is often regarded as one of the best games on the Mega Drive, and with good reason. It could easily just be classified as a Contra-clone, but it’s more than just your standard run-and-gun. Just a few seconds into the game, you fire your weapons and see that everything blows up real good. There’s a nice selection of weapons, over sixteen in total, along with slew of jump kicks, slides and throws. Combined with chaotic two-player action, some clever levels (one of the bosses’ hideouts is a board game) and breakneck pacing, Gunstar Heroes is the one of the best examples of 2D action bliss, and still outclasses the GBA sequel.
The other games on the collection are no slouches either. Dynamite Headdy moves away from the shoot-em-up action of the other games and instead focuses on platorming. Taking place in the vibrant backstage of a theater, you control Dynamite Headdy, who can get replacement heads to obtain a variety of different powers. One is vacuum cleaner that lets you suck up enemies, another is a spiked ball that lets you cling to walls, still another is a hammer to deal some extra damage. Despite it’s bright and colorful graphics, Dynamite Headdy is just as challenging as Treasure’s other games, although there’s a tragic shortage of continues.
However, the focus is almost entirely on boss battles, as the actual stages only last perhaps thirty seconds. There are over twenty huge enemies to fight, each of them demonstrating the mastery of Treasure’s art and programming departments. However, Alien Soldier does come with a bit of a learning curve. The main character’s sprite is huge, and it can be difficult to dodge all of the projectiles without getting hit. Additionally, since your weapons can run out of ammo, you’ll need to switch between them pretty often B but the action doesn’t stop while you’re fiddling with the controls. Once you get a hang of the weapons, and learn how to speed dash properly, you’ll be kicking ass in no time.
Both the Japanese and Overseas versions of each game are included. While Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier are mostly the same, there are several cosmetic differences between the releases of Dynamite Headdy, which is interesting to see if you’ve only played the English version. There are also sound tests, art galleries, manual scans, and super replays. One of the most interesting is an original design document for Alien Soldier, which is, unfortunately, entirely in Japanese. There’s some neat stuff, especially the artwork that reveals Gunstar Hero’s original name to be "Blade Gunner", and the unlockable artbook "Lunatic Gunstar". Also hidden within the Treasure Box are the Game Gear versions of Gunstar Heroes and Dynamite Headdy (just highlight the "overseas" version on the selection menu and hold right on the d-pad to unlock them.) Both games are admirably downsized, although both are filled with slowdown and flickering. For the hardcore fans, Sega also included a Prototype version of Gunstar Heroes, featuring rebalanced gameplay, altered text, different sound effects and other small alterations from the final release.
All three titles are run through an emulator, which appears to be the same one as previous Sega Ages games. There are plenty of display options that let you fiddle with the resolution and filtering. Regardless of what you choose, it looks a lot nicer than the Genesis does running through composite cables. The gameplay is pretty much perfect, with no noticeable slowdown or graphical glitches.
Unfortunately, the sound is far from perfect. Most emulators still can’t properly reproduce the FM synth of the Genesis, and long time fans will definitely notice that the music sounds a little off. Sometimes the instruments don’t sound right, sometimes certain sound channels are louder than others. Some sound effects also have some annoying static pops. It’s never unlistenable, especially since there are usually so many explosions drowning out the music anyway, but it’s definitely inferior to the original games.
The Gunstar Heroes Treasure Box is also missing two of their other Mega Drive titles, McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure, which was surprisingly decent, and Yu Yu Hakusho, which is pretty similar to Treasure’s recent Bleach DS game. Both of these were probably kept off due to licensing issues. It would’ve been nice to see some more of their games like Radiant Silvergun and Rakugaki Showtime get re-released, but one can dream, can’t they?
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0
Nearly all of the menus are in English, and the Overseas version of all three games are included.
Unless Sega bundles it together with some other titles, it’s unlikely to leave Japan.
+ Pros: Three of the most excellent games on the Genesis combined into one package, with plenty of bonus material
– Cons: Sound emulation is kinda iffy
Ironically, it’s Alien Soldier that’s the gem of this collection. Think of it this way B the Japanese version often costs around $200 in the aftermarket. You can get that here at a fraction of the cost, along with two examples of the finest that the Mega Drive has to offer. While purists may stick their noses up at the sound quality, and the game collection isn’t as robust as most Western game collection, any gamer who enjoys 16-bit action titles will find a lot to love.
Written by Kurt Kalata.
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