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[AC] Gun Master

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[AC] Gun Master

Unread postby Pretas » 16 Feb 2013 17:40

Early work in progress, just wanted to get something on here. Will edit as it progresses.

Metro was one of the many small-time Japanese developers of the nineties who came and went, often recruited by companies like Banpresto and Namco to work on their minor projects. Their self-published 2D action title Gun Master holds the questionable distinction of having birthed the category of "Treasure wannabe" games, preceding 1995's Gunners Heaven, 1997's Panzer Bandit, 2004's Chaos Field, and 2012's Code of Princess.

While they may contain some original ideas, all of these games unapologetically borrowed their mechanics (and often graphics) from some of the most popular titles of cult action game developer Treasure, whether it was Gunstar Heroes, Guardian Heroes, or Ikaruga. This isn't necessarily a bad thing--solid concepts are solid concepts, even in the hands of lesser developers. Spend some time with these games, though, and it's clear that none of them were made with the meticulous care of a Treasure game. In both respects, Gun Master fits this description.

In 1994, Treasure was a young studio, having not yet released their groundbreaking masterpiece Alien Soldier. The only Treasure games available to Metro at the time would have been Gunstar and McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure, so you can probably guess which one they chose to steal from. The influence is immediately obvious. Your character has all the same moves as the Gunstar crew: eight-way gun shooting, throws, a slide attack, two varieties of air kicks, hanging on platforms, and platform climbing attacks, although he (or she, on the 2P side) also has a standing melee combo. Metro was ahead of Treasure themselves in one sense. Gunstar placed heavy emphasis on its many boss fights, but Gun Master consists entirely of them. There are no normal stages to speak of, though zako enemies will appear at times.

(more stuff here)

3/5 stars
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Unread postby icycalm » 16 Feb 2013 18:21

Ummm... give us a heads-up when it's done then. Not much point in giving feedback to a work-in-progress. I know I posted half-finished reviews of Torment and Eternal Darkness recently, but that was only so people wouldn't think I am bullshitting them. Generally speaking, I'd like to avoid it, and especially in this forum, where I am really expecting to see only finished works.
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Unread postby icycalm » 16 Feb 2013 18:25

And P.S., you have utterly lost the direct, immediately attention-grabbing tone of your review on gamengai. This feels like I am reading a Wikipedia article, which may be okay with extremely important games, in which the reader has more patience for this sort of thing, but not for stuff as mediocre and unimportant in the greater scheme of things as this. I would advise you to copy-paste the gamengai review in here, and simply add a few lines here and there to flesh it out. Rewriting it is a mistake and a waste of time. You are making the error I advised you to avoid making.
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Unread postby Pretas » 16 Feb 2013 18:48

I'm glad I posted this unfinished version then, so I would know better than to waste my time on completing a long and unnecessary review. I'm going to need to make some significant changes to that Gamengai post, though, because I've found that some of the information in it is simply incorrect. I had less than an hour's experience with the game when I wrote that, but now I've had the chance to play it a good deal more and experiment with the mechanics.
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Unread postby icycalm » 16 Feb 2013 19:03

Cool, we'll all be looking forward to it, I am sure. And cool avatar, man.
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Unread postby Pretas » 18 Feb 2013 00:22

Here you go. Tell me if this is direct enough in tone, and if there need to be any more improvements. I'll take down the Gamengai post once you give the all-clear.

Gun Master is a side-view 2D action game created by the otherwise unremarkable Metro, one of the many small-time Japanese arcade developers of the nineties who came and went. Its mechanics and structure are strongly derivative of Treasure's Gunstar Heroes, released a year prior. Although it's a very focused game (far moreso than Gunstar) with razor-sharp controls, the experience is undermined by its poor balancing.

The game one-ups Treasure's boss-centric action titles by consisting entirely of fourteen boss fights, with a single type of weak zako enemy occasionally appearing. You start out in an easy practice match against these grunts, and can then fight the next dozen bosses in any order before advancing to the final confrontation. The game ranks each boss' difficulty with one to three stars, but this is largely meaningless, as some one-star bosses are far tougher than certain three-stars. For the most part, your character's versatile moveset is unapologetically swiped from Gunstar, with all of the same air kicks, slide attacks, throws, platform hanging, and eight-way gun shooting. The game expands on these with a few more techniques, such as a standing melee combo, guarding, wall climbing and a dashing series of kicks. Every action is as tight and responsive as it should be. You can even perform the famous fireball motion for a more powerful gun shot. So Gun Master is pretty complex and unique by 1994 action game standards, even with its obvious inspiration.

All of the bosses are very creatively designed, with no recycling to be found, and they're all bursting with personality. You'll fight memorable characters like a sexy witch performing acrobatic kick specials, a pair of ninja twins piloting a crab mecha, and a mustachioed general who transforms into a huge flying, fire-breathing snake man. Every fight requires its own strategy, and some take place in unusual situations, like in constant freefall, or while automatically running during a chase. On paper, all of this would be a formula for an incredible action game. Unfortunately, there are some serious flaws that hold it back from “forgotten classic” status.

The difficulty is completely sporadic. Bosses are either inconsequentially easy or brutally punishing. Against certain bosses, you're practically invincible as long as you're blocking. Even if you take a significant amount of damage from a boss, you recover so much health after winning a fight that there won't be any lingering consequences. You can also find pigs running around in certain fights, which will turn into health-restoring pork when killed. These don't appear in the tough fights where you actually need them, though.

The bosses that cannot be stunned or knocked down are usually much harder, since you're often forced to rely on your underpowered gun against them, which can lead to prolonged, aggravating battles of attrition. The transformed snake man is the worst example of this. Invulnerable and damaging to the touch, his long tail keeps him protected from both gun and melee attacks almost all the time, forcing you to wait long periods for a brief and risky opening where you won't be able to do much damage anyway. Similar bosses like Taurus, Leo, and Cancer are also grueling slogs. Still, the enjoyable controls and imaginative boss designs make Gun Master reasonably worthy of your time.

3/5 stars
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Unread postby icycalm » 20 Feb 2013 02:47

Yep, this is it. With only a single, but rather considerable, problem. You make no comment at all on the fact that all the stages are essentially selectable at the start, and that's like, the first thing that pops out when I read your description of the game. Compared to this one characteristic, everything else about the game is a detail. Like, you could critique that one aspect and not say anything about all the rest, and you would still have a higher review than the one you gave. It's like Josh's review of Guardian Heroes: not a single word on the earth-shattering decision to go back to a single plane for a brawler. The fact that these games' number 1 characteristics did not touch you guys at all is an utter mystery to me, since you both seem to be quite sensitive to all the rest. In your case, it has been demonstrated time and again that such a degree of flexibility is greatly damaging to enjoyment: even GTA, which is supposed to be the king at this sort of thing, does not allow you to choose all the missions right from the start. Or Super Mario World, etc. You basically get two directions, but you can't just pick the penultimate stage right at the start screen. Or look at what Cave did with Esprade: they tried to copy Psikyo by randomizing the selection of the first few stages, and when they saw it didn't work they gave it up for good. And what this game does is 100 times worse than that!

But anyway, if this aspect didn't touch you there's nothing more to say about it. Manufacturing an opinion on the matter "because icycalm told me to have one" is humbuggery, not criticism. So we are going to do the same thing I did with Josh's Guardian Heroes review: it's going online, and when and if I try the games I'll add a "second opinion" bubble with my own take on it, in which I'll chiefly touch on the aspects you guys didn't, provided the rest has been dealt with acceptably -- which I've no reason to think it hasn't.

Only thing I want to ask you is to take a few pics at the game's native resolution, preferably in some lossless format like png, of the Japanese version of the game, if it has many of them, and post them here for me. Then maybe we can get ronan to process them with his super advanced method he's been discussing with Recap here: http://postback.geedorah.com/foros/view ... 226#p16226

I'd ask you to avoid spoilers with the pics, but given how retarded the general stage design is, there's no need to lol because there's nothing to fucking spoil.
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Unread postby icycalm » 20 Feb 2013 03:15

Here's Josh's Guardian Heroes review for reference:

http://insomnia.ac/reviews/saturn/guardianheroes/

It actually does mention the single-plane business, but it does not analyze it anywhere near as deeply as I would have liked, and going over the draft's thread in the Staff forum I note that I actually had to ask him to make substantial changes to the relevant passages to adequately highlight this aspect of the game. In any case the proof is in the pudding: how many games tried to follow Guardian Heroes' formula? Almost none. Even Treasure themselves gave up on it for the sequel -- though it must be said that Kamiya did a fine job of it with Viewtiful Joe. So, the hows and whys of these attempts and their degree of effectiveness needs to be analyzed, and the Guardian Heroes and Viewtiful Joe reviews is the proper place to do it.
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Unread postby Pretas » 20 Feb 2013 05:21

I was definitely aware of how the excessive flexibility in progression was detrimental to the game, but I felt it wasn't important enough to warrant discussing in a concise and direct review. I think this particular game isn't long or involved enough for it to matter all that much.

Here's some native-resolution .png screens:

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Unread postby icycalm » 20 Feb 2013 07:47

Pretas wrote:I was definitely aware of how the excessive flexibility in progression was detrimental to the game, but I felt it wasn't important enough to warrant discussing in a concise and direct review. I think this particular game isn't long or involved enough for it to matter all that much.


What a load of fucking rubbish. I can't believe I wasted all this effort on such a pretentious loser. Get lost, dude.
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Unread postby icycalm » 20 Feb 2013 07:52

It's like, he's already stupid and a bad critic for not noticing the problem in the first place. But to deny its importance ONCE I'VE FUCKING POINTED IT OUT TO HIM means he's fucking BRAINDEAD. He actually thought that the lies would make him come out on top! I mean how fucking stupid do you have to be to think like that?!
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