Monday, March 12, 2012

Gun.Smoke (NES)




Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Adds something unique to the standard scrolling shooter genre
Cons: Could benefit from additional enemy variety and more power-ups

Gun.Smoke is a single player, top down scrolling shooter released by Capcom for the NES in 1988. Unlike most scrolling shooters which are based in space and you fly some sort of ship around, Gun.Smoke is based in the wild west during the gold rush era in 1849. You take on the roll of a lone gunman who comes to the small town of Hicksville to save it from a gang of outlaws known as the Wingates who have been terrorizing and raiding the town. This game has nothing to do with the television show Gunsmoke, which is probably why Capcom separated the title of the game with a period.
 
To accomplish this goal, you start out with a couple of pistols. By collecting bags of cash, you can eventually buy a shotgun, a machine gun, a magnum and a smart bomb from one of the few NPCs that are standing around the level. The default pistols have unlimited ammunition and shoot as fast as you can push the button. Pressing the B button fires your weapon up and to the left, the A button fires it up and to the right, and pressing both of them at once fires straight ahead of you.
 
All of the other weapons have a set limit for their ammunition, but you can collect more ammunition from fallen enemies or from destroying barrels on the map. The shotgun is nice as it shoots a spread shot that can clear multiple enemies at once. The machine gun fires a continuous spray of bullets, and the magnum fires a strong exploding shot. The smart bomb is particularly helpful, even though it's not a weapon in the same way that the others are. Instead, when you get shot it automatically kills every enemy on the screen instead of killing you. You can only carry one of these at a time, but it's definitely worth it.
 
Other power-ups include a horse which lets you absorb a couple of extra hits before dying (otherwise you die in one hit), a rifle which increases the range of your shots, boots which increase your movement speed a little bit, and a POW icon that kills every enemy on the screen. There are also two different colored pinwheels that give you an extra life or grant you temporary invincibility, as well as a cow skull that you should avoid picking up as it reduces your power.
 
In each of the 6 levels there is also a Wanted Poster that is usually in one of the barrels, or hidden invisible right beside one. You can also purchase the wanted poster from one of the shop NPCs that you come across during the level. If you don't obtain a wanted poster, the level will continue on forever and you will never reach the boss battle. After picking up the poster, you will enter a boss fight the next time the level loops around to the correct place for the boss to appear. Some of these bosses are pretty easy, while others (like the second boss, Cutter Boomerang) can be mildly challenging. I seem to be a giant failure at avoiding his boomerangs and always end up losing a life on him, while I rarely die to the pair of brothers that make up the final boss.
 
Overall Gun.Smoke is a pretty decent shooter, and it has some decent graphics for it's time. From an old western town and an Indian village to a mountainous area and another level with rivers, there's a little bit of variety to the level settings to try and keep things interesting. Unfortunately like most NES titles, there's not much to work with, and on top of that the gameplay is the same throughout so it really doesn't help relieve the repetitiveness any. The background music is actually not half bad, contributing nicely to the overall wild west theme of the game. It's nothing memorable, but it's fitting and worth listening to rather than muting.
 
While there's only a dozen or so different enemies aside from the 6 bosses, at least they all look distinct and different from each other. They also attack differently and some of them move differently as well, but I wish there was a little more variety here. Gun.Smoke could have also really benefited from a 2 player mode, which they unfortunately didn't include. The difficulty level is just about right, but you also have unlimited continues where you can start over from the beginning of any level after you've exhausted your extra lives.
 
Gun.Smoke is a fairly solid game, and one that I break out along with Contra and Jackal for a play-through every once in a while. An easy recommendation if you can find it for a decent price.

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