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Wild Guns Reloaded Review (PS4)

Natsume has released Wild Guns Reloaded for the PS4.

Gamers should be used to a world of remasters and reboots at this point. Since the PS3 and Xbox 360 era developers have been re-releasing games with a few new bells and whistles at a somewhat premium price. The worst of these remasters are the kinds that do little to bring the game into current trends outside of a slight graphics boost. The best are the ones that give fans a new reason to dive back in or allow new players to feel like they aren’t stuck in the past.

Natsume straddles the line with Wild Guns Reloaded. On one hand, it’s a spruced up version of a 1994 game originally released on the Super Nintendo. Unlike other HD collections or “definitive” editions which re-release games that might not even be five or ten years old, enough time has passed to justify the existence of Reloaded. On the other hand, the addition of a new characters and new stages is welcomed but the absence of a few key features lessens the impact of the overall package.

Wild Guns is an arcade-style shooter where players are given a 3rd person view while shooting at enemies and obstacles on a 2-D plane. Like many light gun games of the time you point a crosshair at where you want to shoot and pray that a stray bullet doesn’t hit your character. Set at a blistering pace where one hit kills and lives are limited, Reloaded feels just at home in today’s environment of brutally difficult games as it did in a time where quarters were shoved into an arcade machine to keep the fun going.

The game’s Wild West steampunk aesthetic actually feels quite forward-thinking for its time, especially with the likes of Westworld and Red Dead Redemption in the mainstream. Cowboys fire at players while massive robot bosses dominate the screen. Rather than go for a complete visual overhaul, Natsume kept the original sprites and pixels of Wild Guns and sharpened them up for the high definition generation. “Underground” and “Flying Ship” are two new levels created for this edition of the game and don’t feel the least bit out of place, especially with some neat effects included that are not seen in older levels.

Considering how great the game looked in the first place, it’s hard to deny that this was the best choice when remastering Wild Guns. But even with the care that went into preserving how the game originally looked, a handful of optional or unlockable visual modes including a modernized paint job would make Reloaded a more enticing package. Double Fine has done a great job incorporating a quick transition from new visuals to old in its adventure game remasters and Natsume should have done something similar.

Clint and Annie return as the gun-slinging duo from the original. Their control scheme still remains the same as players can’t move while shooting and aiming. Because of this, players always have to be mindful of where they focused fire and not to stand still for too long considering the frequency of enemies and attacks.

Bullet and Doris are introduced as two new characters with their own unique playstyles. Bullet is a dachshund who uses a robot drone to help it in firefights. Though the drone locks on to a firing position and can’t move until the trigger is released, the long-haired dog can move around and use the drone for a hover jump. Doris is a larger target and doesn’t use a rapid fire gun like the rest of the team. Instead, she tosses grenades that do splash damage or, when the fire button is held, can charge up multiple grenades for a devastating attack. The ability to freeze enemies in place with another combo and a jumping melee attack make Doris a force to be reckoned with.

First-time players would be advised to avoid using Bullet. The dog’s movement and shooting mechanics are effective but work best with a deft hand that can adjust to the frenzy of bullets on the fly. I actually found Doris quite easy to use because her grenades do a lot of damage and cover a larger area. Familiar pick-ups like lasers, rapid fire, and screen-clearing bombs still exist to give a bit of an edge when things get hairy. Fans of the game will definitely appreciate the gameplay changes the new characters introduce as it allows for a new approach to an old classic.

Wild Guns Reloaded is just as difficult as anyone will remember it. Clearing the game without using continues will be a challenge for any player on any difficulty. However, it would have been nice to see Natsume include casual and hardcore modes for the wide range of gamers that exist today, or at least a few cheat codes to further shuffle how gameplay works. An option to use save states, level select from the beginning, or just quit the game and continue from where you left off are unfortunately absent from here as well. Yes, the game is short but these options would have been so easy to implement.

As it stands, the game isn’t completely accessible to newcomers who might not have a faint or fond memory of Wild Guns. This is even more noticeable with the exclusion of online multiplayer. Being able to hop into an online match and switch out characters would have been a great way for players to really sink their teeth into Reloaded and get more enjoyment out of how fast-paced the game is. If you’re going to modernize such an old game or try to convince people to dip their toes in, why not include the most standard multiplayer option around?

Because Wild Guns Reloaded is such a faithful port of a classic Super Nintendo game, I can look past some missteps like a lack of tutorials, customization options, and deep content additions. The two new levels and two new characters will make this enhanced version more appealing to older fans and buffers the overall package and price. However, a lack of accessibility and the disappointing lack of online multiplayer keep Wild Guns Reloaded from knocking it out of the park.

Score: 7.5 out of 10
Reviewed for PS4

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