Wild Guns: Live & Reloaded

Friday, February 9, 2018 at 9:02 pm Comments Off on Wild Guns: Live & Reloaded

Metal Slug: Missing in Action updated recently with some debug menu gubbins for 7 and XX. Still holding out for that debug menu in Metal Slug Advance! Anything to close the book on that game!

I’ve been playing a heck of a lot of Wild Guns lately, both the SNES original and the fancy-pants Reloaded edition. For some reason it’s simply pushing all my buttons, it’s the exact type of game I want to play at this point in time! It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s intense, and it pushes me to play better with every attempt. I’ve finished the game on the hardest difficulty with all characters in one credit on both versions now, and I’m still playing it… partly because I don’t know what to move on to next! Bot Vice, maybe?
I’m still kicking myself for short-changing the game’s new content in my last “Some games I played in 2017” post, though I’m shocked there still isn’t a good list laying out all the changes and differences yet. The game’s been out for over a year! Not that it’s a huge deal, the preview trailers do a decent job of showing the highlights, but I’ve been playing both versions so much I want to get it down just for posterity.

[+] 2 New Playable Characters
Ya’ll know about this one, surely! Bullet, the dachshund with a robot buddy emphasises manoeuvrability; he can move freely while the robot’s targeting reticule is locked, and even be carried to the top of the screen to outrun incoming fire. A bit of a tricky character to adjust to; the lock-on aiming makes landing shots on fast-moving targets an ordeal, and you have to guide the robot into position to melee close-range foes, but the freedom of movement and crowd control is a bonus.

Doris is all about explosives – weapon pickups are just score items to her, her every attack is like a stick of dynamite! You can charge it up for a larger blast radius and multiplied score bonus, and she can fire three lassoes at once in a tri-shot. Her default movement is sluggish and her unique electricity attack used to block enemy shots requires good timing to work, but her damage output is enormous and her dash, once mastered, is a life-saver. I also love her to bits and am infuriated at the lack of fanart for her. Am I gonna have to start commissioning people?!
Clint and Annie’s previously full-screen bombs are now somewhat directional, though I think Annie’s covers the most range of all characters. All characters have eight colour schemes, four by default, and a new one unlocked for every time you complete the game as them.

[+] 4-Player Multi-Player Support
The other big selling point! No longer just a two-player game, you can drag an extra buddy or two as well along for the ride. I’ve yet to play this myself because I’m a johnny no-friends (i jest, but nobody’s willing to play! you play Dark Souls yet you haven’t the guts for Wild Guns? cowards!), but it sounds a treat. It comes with some quirks regarding difficulty though – see omissions.

[+] 2 New Stages

You won’t see these if you play on Easy – playing on Normal will replace Desolation Canyon with Underground, a stage set in a spooky-themed smelting facility, while Hard will drop Ammunition Depot for Flying Ship, a ride through the skies fighting airships, hot air balloons and Cho Aniki dropouts with propeller-hats. They’re great stages with unique new challenges; Underground is shrouded in darkness, forcing you to shoot to disperse the mist, while Flying Ship features large foes with tiny weak spots you have to target while avoiding huge barrages of fire.
I’ll say it now – if you’ve enjoyed vanilla Wild Guns, these two new stages and two new characters are worth the cost of admission. If you’re going to be replaying the game with the various characters and difficulties, it adds up to a lot of engaging playtime.

[+] 2 New Items
Everything else is just gravy at this point! A brand new weapon is the Laser gun, which fires a constant stream of energy wherever it’s targeted. It lags a little behind your cursor, but it’s quite good at mopping up any shots coming your way, and ideal for sinking large targets in record time.
A new score item is also introduced: a big fat money bag. Blasting certain baddies or environmental details will spawn this; shoot it to bounce it up into the air; three times and it’ll explode into dollar bills, which you can shoot to collect for score bonuses. Reaching certain scores awards you extra lives, so you don’t want to miss out, but landing shots on it without getting sniped can be tricky. Some old-school arcade design!

[+] Larger Screen + Revamped Graphics & Audio

The game’s been upgraded from 4:3 screen ratio to 16:9 (or 256×224 to roughly 480×270 if you want pixel resolutions). This means most of the backgrounds have been partially redrawn and rearranged to spread things out to fill the screen. Previously bland backdrops like the tank fight in Desolation Canyon are given a total makeover, and screens now feature new objects to interact with – Ammunition Depot has two cannons on its first screen, Carson Town has two gas tanks on the roofs you can blow up for bonuses…
Not just the level art, most graphics have gotten a bit of a spruce up. Clint and Annie’s clothing blows in the wind during their idle animations, the victory art has been extended to show more than just their head and shoulders, and the stage select has gotten a facelift. This does mean we lose the larger sprites of Clint and Annie previously used on that screen, but that’s only of note to dumb sprite nerds like me. All the music has gotten new arrangements as well, and you can unlock the option to use the original SNES-chip tracks by completing the game on one credit.

[-] Bonus Stages / V.S. Mode

The bonus stages (played after the second and fourth stages) are dropped, as is the 2-player competitive version in V.S. Mode. It’d be a nightmare to balance it to accommodate the three different play styles (never mind four cursors on-screen!), and the game does play faster without them (not to mention extra lives seem to be awarded more frequently this time), but it’s a bummer to lose the little relics of its arcade design mentality.

[-] Multi-Player Difficulty Select
The bigger omission going by discussions in the Steam community is how the difficulty in multi-player is tied to how many people are playing: two players is Easy, three is Normal, and all four is Hard. As such, there’s always two stages that are locked-off to a certain number of players – a fearsome foursome will have to forego Ammunition Depot and Desolation Canyon, while a gun-slinging duo will miss out on Underground and Flying Ship, the two brand-new stages! Players no longer have their own lives stock, but use from a shared pool, which surprised many a let’s player. This was probably an easier solution than programming a dynamic difficulty that adjusts based on the setting and the number of players, but it’s a bit of a blow.

[=] Adjusted Difficulty

By its very nature of supporting 4-player, making it widescreen and being rebuilt in Unity, the game’s difficulty couldn’t be unchanged from the SNES version. The game can be quite intimidating at first because the screen feels so big – there’s a lot of enemies on-screen, and what feels like a lot of incoming fire! It’s actually not that overwhelming – Hard difficulty in Reloaded is slightly more relaxed compared to the SNES original, where five enemies are sprung on you almost instantly in the first level.
It feels like some allowances are made for the player’s survival. The stun-lasso works on all bosses now, though only slows them down instead of freezing them in place, and seems to do a better job of erasing enemy shots (not to mention the extended range on Doris and Bullet’s stun moves). Rapid-fire shots targeted at the player seem a little more avoidable, and rolling or jumping straight into bullets feels less common. Those last ones are conjecture, but it sure seems that way!

Some bosses have brand new attacks, including the Carson Town robot hurling a truck at you, and the Desolation Canyon tank firing bullets in addition to mortars. However, some stages actually have less action going on – the Armored Train’s boss would throw dynamite often as a precursor to taking pot shots, but in Reloaded will only use it as a lead-in to his dashing slash attack. The trench coat gunmen in the final stage used to throw dynamite as they ran past, an attack that made them more of a threat, and the wider screen means there’s more safe space between the turrets on the final fight.

The game’s still a tough cookie to crack and packed with rock-hard challenges, particularly the Flying Ship boss and the penultimate screen in the final stage, but I’d dare say Reloaded is actually a bit easier than the SNES version? Getting a one credit clear on Hard in the SNES version still has me on the edge of my seat – the Armoured Train and final fight stages are so tough! – but it feels a lot more attainable in Reloaded.

That said, Wild Guns Reloaded is still a tremendously fun game, one I’d recommend to anyone nuts about anything arcade-like. Does it supplant the SNES original? Well, not entirely – the adjustments to the difficulty and multi-player make it worth your while to still play both versions with different expectations. It would be nice if the game had some accessibility options – more lives for multi-player or a level select on the main menu so you could practise levels as much as you pleased.
I’d argue the difficulty and shared-lives meant YouTube spotlights on the game did a crap job of ‘selling’ the game – the Super Best Friends, the Game Grumps and Jim Sterling all did videos on it and barely managed to finish two levels, hardly showing off any of the new content. FlawedRed seems to be the only channel with proper-ass playthroughs. It’s a game you need to get acquainted with to show it off well, and blind first-runs aren’t much fun to watch!

The game is coming to the Nintendo Switch soon and has seen a couple of minor updates so far, so there’s a possibility Natsume will make some adjustments in future. I confess I’m kinda itching for an extra hard mode – I’ve blazed through the game on all difficulties with Doris, but I’m still holding out for that extra challenge! Ah well. Get the game if you haven’t already!

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