3D Gunstar Heroes (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Aria DiMezzo 04.09.2015 8

Review for 3D Gunstar Heroes on Nintendo 3DS

It's definitely fair to say that people enjoyed the original Gunstar Heroes on SEGA's Genesis / Mega Drive, and it's nice to see a return to form with 3D Gunstar Heroes, after a few mis-steps with some of its other franchises. Anyone who liked the original will enjoy this retouched port, and the price-point certainly makes it a reasonable purchase. While it could be argued that the gaming world is seeing far, far too many remakes, remasters, and ports, that definitely isn't true for a title that just can't be found in contemporary form anywhere else. Cubed3 answers whether Gunstar Heroes still holds up in this new 3D format on Nintendo's portable eShop.

As a strange mix of Contra and Mega Man, 3D Gunstar Heroes brings an interesting collection of ideas together. Like Contra III: The Alien Wars, it's possible to have two weapons, but, in a neat twist, both weapons can be active; their effects are then combined in various ways. Combining the laser with the rapid-fire weapon produces a fast-firing laser, but it isn't always clear what effect the combination has, or whether the combined effect is as good as either of the weapons by themselves.

The Contra series was far more of an influence on the original than Mega Man, although being able to play the stages in any order is a clear shout-out to the Blue Bomber. Defeating bosses doesn't earn their weapons, but there are plenty of weapons to be used, anyway.

Screenshot for 3D Gunstar Heroes on Nintendo 3DS

3D Gunstar Heroes is certainly not bad, but it does have a few notable problems whose existence should have been noticed and fixed before its release. The most glaring is that there is only one chance to choose having the character stand still while firing, and this option comes before the game has even started. While it will seem to most players that being able to freely move while firing is the no-brainer, obvious, and best choice, it's deadly in 3D Gunstar Heroes. Choose "Fixed Shot."

Using one of the otherwise-unused shoulder buttons as a toggle to temporarily hold the character in place would have been nice, because Fixed Shot really isn't much better - with Fixed Shot, the character has all the mobility of an average bologna sandwich. Moreover, it also makes the stand-in-one-place-holding-B-and-rotating-the-analogue-stick strategy a little too viable.

Screenshot for 3D Gunstar Heroes on Nintendo 3DS

Unlike Contra - hopefully, that will be the last mention of that series - enemies don't automatically damage the player by touch; an enemy has to actually attack to do so, which gives the opportunity for melee attacks. These are executed with the same button that shoots, which can often lead to hip-tossing an enemy that isn't a threat, rather than shooting an enemy that is.

Between these two flaws, there is a lot of propensity for damage that gamers don't really deserve, but there is a health system, which is represented by a numeric Vitality score, since health bars are so 1989. This is actually a shame, because a Mega Man-esque health bar would have looked great, and perhaps the useless Score should have been eliminated and replaced with one.

Overall, 3D Gunstar Heroes is a big bag of fun. Players run, jump, and shoot through levels in an order of their choosing, but the second level is inordinately difficult to the extent that it nearly ruins the game altogether. It consists of a three-round boss fight, with no checkpoints. There are also no invincibility frames, although certain bosses get them, which can lead to stun-lock deaths against bosses with annoying regularity.

Screenshot for 3D Gunstar Heroes on Nintendo 3DS

More needs to be said about the Underground Mine, because it's absurd. It really is a three-round boss fight, with no checkpoints or health drops. Worse, there is a random factor: the first round is always the same, but every round after can present a different boss. It might take two tries to win down the first round, and then three tries to take down the second, which will have players fighting that first boss five times at that point, assuming 3D Gunstar Heroes doesn't randomly choose a different one to fight after the player has figured out the strategy on the other. This repeats for a while, and each main enemy has to be fought on each attempt. Even on Easy difficulty, this is a laborious and needlessly difficult task.

The graphics are pretty goofy, because all the characters are super-deformed, but that's part of the appeal. The visuals also have that distinct SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis look to them, and are complemented by a great soundtrack, with boss music in the Underground Maze sounding like it came straight out of Contra III: The Alien Wars, which is high praise indeed.

Screenshot for 3D Gunstar Heroes on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


Ridiculous difficulty spikes that can force players to restart 3D Gunstar Heroes on a lower setting (made worse if the Underground Maze is played last) severely hinder the experience, as does being locked into one of two less-than-ideal mobility and shooting systems. That said, this latest classic revamp on the 3DS eShop is certainly enjoyable and it's tremendously rewarding to finally overcome its challenges. A bit of balancing wouldn't have hurt, since one particular weapon combination outshines all the others by a huge margin, but it's not enough to really hurt 3D Gunstar Heroes. In the end, SEGA has dished out a great romp through levels that do a decent job of mixing up the gameplay and presenting new challenges, all now with a 3D flavour.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


??? (guest) 04.09.2015#1

I am no longer reading Cubed3. This is the second great game (after Super Mario Maker) in two days to receive a ridiculously low score with no real justification. "One of two less than ideal mobility systems"? Moving to shoot works perfectly (and was the default setting in the original) if you are even half-way skilled at playing run-and-gunners of this sort. The other problem seems to be that it's just too hard... Treasure is known, and loved, for making challenging games, but to be honest, Gunstar Heroes is among their most forgiving. Compare this to the bullet hell of the later stages of Sin and Punishment, for example. But I think these two "issues" are related, though: the lack of skill necessary to play the game (and it doesn't demand THAT much skill to begin with) has led the reviewer to complain about the "mobility system" to deflect or explain away his inability to play this game.

Joe (guest) 05.09.2015#2

So because of a 'Good' (this) and 'Very Good' (Maker) rating, someone's going to stop reading the site? Smilie Fair enough. I'd rather read that than constant 9 and 10/10 scores every single time.

Personally, I'm not a fan of Gunstar Heroes. I do like many Treasure games, though. Just not this particular one.

Got it the other week, played it for about 30 minutes and haven't played it since. Contra is more fun to me, despite being really difficult as well. I did like the colourful graphics and character designs, but the rest was just okay to me. I can't really see myself playing it again.

Krusty (guest) 06.09.2015#4

You undermine yourself by playing the 'not reading this website anymore' card, but I would agree with your take on the review.  The review does read like the reviewer just isn't very good at the game. I haven't seen the shooting control system mentioned as a glaring flaw in this game anywhere else before.  The 'three bosses' section in the Underground Mine isn't particularly difficult either so the complaint of 'Ridiculous difficulty spikes' seems to be a rather subjective view also. 

??? (guest) 06.09.2015#5

"Missing out on the Cubed3 awards, a 6/10 may seem one to avoid but it there is some hope for games awarded with this score. Passable but flawed, it works but just doesn't perform enough to be a must have in the genre. It'll bring some enjoyment, but the disadvantages could flip the scales to headache inducing or just simple boredom. This game might not be worth purchasing at full price, but is still one to consider for a rental or at a discount."

Just wanted to be sure to quote here the stated criteria for awarding a game a 6, and to emphasize how completely this score is at odds with both the stature of Gunstar Heroes in its genre (prob. top three or top five run-and-gun, one of the handful of legitimate Genesis masterpieces) and the actual experience of playing the game (headache-inducing? boring?). This is the score you give Legend of Kay on a good day. However, that game scored the same as Super Mario Maker. It's silly and, yes, unfounded to trash this 16-bit classic with two basically illegitimate, half-baked complaints. This same reviewer game Wind-Up Knight 2, a mobile platformer, a higher score (7/10) than one of the best action games of the 16-bit era (and the same score, again, that was given to Super Mario Maker)........ But whatever, man.

videogames (guest) 07.09.2015#6

with all the complaints in the review about fixed shot, it makes me wonder- did you even try the gunslinger mode added specifically to the 3d port? one of the main things it was added to address was swapping between free shot and fixed shot on the fly in the middle of gameplay. it's really useful, as is mega life mode!

also, you can pick the stages in any order you please. i'd suggest going with the minecart level last if it gives you too much trouble, since you'll be going into it with a higher amount of health!

Well, first, you don't have to be great at a game in order to find it to only be good. As it happens, I am on the list of players who have beaten I Wanna Be the Guy and hold 65% of achievements in Super Meat Boy, so I think we can put the "learn to play" arguments to rest, even if they were valid--which they aren't.

More specifically, this is the problem with the 7-10 scale used by most review sites. You've noticed that Cubed3 doesn't score on a 7-10 scale; we use the full 10. A 6 is well above average and certainly good--120% better than average. Nor are games reviewed simply by the contexts of their own genres; the score "6" is not to say "compared to other run-and-shoot, this is a good game" but says "compared to the wide array of tens of thousands of games that exist and comprehensively set 5 as average, this game is above the middle of the crop." The bottom line is that the game I played was not released in the early 90s; it was released this year, and thus must be judged against the standards of contemporary games, and not merely those around for its initial release. It's generally wrong to hold older games up to modern standards, but when they're re-released at a cost, that maxim no longer applies, because being re-released is the equivalent of stepping into the ring with all other contemporary games. In the 90s, absolutely the original release would have been worthy of a better score. With the Mega Man X series behind us, though? Absolutely not. It's still a good game. The question isn't whether it's fantastic against its early 90s peers but whether it's fantastic against its 2015 peers. If your opinion holds differently, that's perfectly fine; it's a great big world out there. In fact, we actively try to supplement facts about a given game with our opinions, because otherwise you end up with a dry, boring review that is more akin to a technical specificaions document than an actual review.

I'll leave you with this:


And this;


One of the guests also quoted the old standard for 6/10. The updated version is:

Missing out on the Cubed3 awards, a 6/10 may seem one to avoid but there is some hope for games awarded with this score. Passable but flawed, it works but just doesn't perform enough to be a must have in the genre. It'll bring some enjoyment, but the disadvantages could flip the scales to headache inducing or just simple boredom. This game might not be worth purchasing at full price, but is still one to consider for a rental or at a discount.

I'm pretty sure this review was posted/scored around the time the change was occurring, but the actual score isn't the important part of a review. Many, many sites have expressed a desire to move away from giving scores entirely specifically for this reason: people fixate far too much on the score. The fact is: I was bored a solid 80% of the time I was playing 3D Gunstar Heroes. "It's boring" doesn't make very good content for a review, so I instead looked into the reasons why I found it boring. The above review is the result. Considering I just completed a re-play of Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3, and Castlevania, without once being bored, it says quite a lot about the style of 3D Gunstar Heroes and whether its simplistic systems were truly good for their time or not. Honestly, even judging the game exclusively against early 90s standards wouldn't affect my score very much; the game is fairly boring. There are lots of vague, esoteric reasons for this--the level designs are all virtually identical, there is nothing to actually look forward to by playing the game. But, again, this doesn't make good review content, because they rapidly spiral into word counts in the thousands, since the statement "there is nothing to look forward to" requires a ton of explanation regarding story and gameplay mechanics--and there's no reason to get into any of that when the gameplay has clear and specific flaws.

( Edited 10.10.2015 04:56 by Anema86 )

Has Anyone Really Been Far Even as Decided to Use Even Go Want to do Look More Like?
Shanobi (guest) 28.05.2017#8

I was looking for a negative review, just to see if this game does have some flaw I never perceived. I found this.
This game is damn near flawless, and this review is a joke, made by either an idiot, or a troll. Sad.
so much for finding solid criticism of Gunstar Heroes. It doesn't exist!

I was looking for a negative review, just to see if this game does have some flaw I never perceived.

This game is damn near flawless

Bollocks. Sounds to me like you spent your time purposely looking to trash any negative review of your flawless game. You might wanna reconsider who the troll is here.

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