3/2 WA-HO! It's Strange World!


WA-HO!Gunman's Proof (SNES) 

Westerns aren't the most popular subject for video games, and oddly enough, Japan seems to show more interest in the genre than any American developer. (I can't even think of an American-made Western console game offhand, but there was probably at least one for NES.)

     Gunman's Proof (aka: Ganpuru) is one such lovably quirky Japanese take on Western sci-fi. Though it's mainly fluff and parody, it's a fun distraction throughout its duration. It has a visual and storytelling style inspired by Earthbound/Mother wrapped up in gameplay influenced by Zelda: Link to the Past. The main advantage the (technically unnamed) hero (whom I've affectionately dubbed as "The Cowpoke") has over Link, is the fact he's carrying a comically-oversized Revolver of Infinite Bullets. And, as in every action/adventure game since Megaman 4, you can power it up to shoot even bigger bullets, laughing to scorn the way a gun actually works. Your secondary and generally useless weapon would be power punches- the only real use for the power punch would be breaking boulders in your path.

     The Gunpoke is a normal, even pathetic little boy living on Strange Island. One night, a pair of meteors crash into late 1800's-era Earth, and shortly thereafter, strange monsters called the Demiseed begin terrorizing the countryside (as evidenced by pictures of a cactus in streetwalker clothes trying to molest a bystander in the opening.) While playing in the field against his James Galloway-esque father's wishes, 'Poke stumbles upon a toy-sized UFO crashed on a hill. The occupants, a blue and red color coded pair of Space Sheriffs then explain to the young protagonist the details of how the two meteors were actually aliens. Meteor number one was a noted (space!) criminal named Demi, and hot on his heels was the aliens' impulsive partner Zero. Since the aliens apparently can't survive in our atmosphere, the 'poke allows one of the officers to take the keys to his body until Demi is brought to justice. Needless to say Poke's father not only doesn't buy the story, but beats the ever-loving snot out of his son and kicks him out of the house. To prove to the father that 'Poke is a good boy, and fulfill his mission, our Space Sheriff embarks on a quest to bring down Demi and all his self-generated drones.

     The plot's not going to be winning any literary acclaim, since literary acclaimists are all stodgy old British men who don't play video games. But it's as good an excuse as any to kick some alien ass. Among the enemies you'll encounter are strange blackfaced gunslingers (who come to think of it, seem to be Mexican wrestlers in their color-swapped versions), ghosts, and really muscular spiders. Robots and ghosts also make appearances, as do that aggravating staple of overhead-perspective adventure games- reconstructing skeletons. If there's a way to kill them off for good, I haven't found it yet.

     The Ghost (I think his name was Ghooooosssst Saaasssuke or something) is among one of the funnier bosses- he's a recurring character who really, really enjoys being dead and strongly advises 'Poke to try it out himself. His modus operandi consists of ordering improbable Western-themed superweapons via cell-phone and running away. One particularly funny gag involved him baiting you into a mine shaft and making you pay money at several intervals in order to pass, which went into financing his next giant robot. (Unfortunately, you don't get the cash back after killing the robot. But there's not much you actually need money for in the game, so it's okay.)

     Another defining element of the game stems from the humble, randomly dropped carrot. Once you pick up a carrot (having cleared the first dungeon and released him), a bizarre little horse/cow called Rabon(Ramon?) rushes to your side to trample enemies. He's basically this game's invincibility item. He's actually the aforementioned Zero- upon crash-landing, he bumped his head into the horse and can't get out of its body. As an added spoofy touch, every time he appears, he does a different goofy pose, ranging from reclining on a bed of flower petals to posing in a Sailor Moon costume. Yes, a chubby equestrian Sailor Moon cosplayer. Only in Japan, folks...

Say hello to my little friend. And his bazooka.     By visiting the old gunsmith at various intervals, you enable extra weapons. Instead of buying and equipping them, though, you simply make it so enemies drop rotating weapon panels with an increasing number of possible weapons. The Shotgun is the first, followed by the good ol' Uzi. The Bazooka has a decent area effect, and the traditional flamethrower is a high-damage, ammo-guzzling weapon. There are also upgrades to the punch including a drill arm and ball and chain. In addition, reclusive martial arts masters can teach you special moves like rock splitting, rapid punching/shooting, and the Shoryuken.

     It bothers me that I can't for the life of me remember how this game ends, though. I seem to remember it being pretty funny at the time.


Omake Sci-Fi Western Import Mini-Review!

Metalgun Slinger(GBA, Japan)- Following in the slightly more serious tone and style of Trigun and Wild ARMs, MgS is actually one of the better platformers I've played overall. After a owlish sort of thing drops a bizarre tentacled gun into the hands of hero Billy, he proceeds to blast the hell out of the thugs pursuing him, and embark on a quest to bring law and order to the wasteland.

The range of motions your character has is pretty impressive. Running is pretty smooth, there are rolls and backflips, and even a move where he lies flat on his back, pointing his gun up (just THINK of all the times playing Contra and whatnot you wished you could shoot upwards while ducking.) There's also a set of special moves that can be done in a sort of Street-Fighter-like manner (There's even a combo meter for number of shots done in midair, or kills per single attack.) The special moves at your disposal vary with the badge you're equipped with (bear, eagle, etc.) Your special shots are limited to the number of bullets in the bandolier at the top of the screen, however.

The stages progress pretty quickly, but the 'bounties' add to the replay value a bit. Each stage features a segment where the music changes, and you encounter a ponchoed desperado who takes a lot of abuse to put down. Shooting down a bounty, though, nets you a big wad of cash and is just plain fun to do.

The icing on the cake comes from the attractively illustrated cutscenes (character designs ranging from the prerequisite brainy scientist sidekick, to the mysterious, voluptuous female gunslinger. Although I'm partial to the design of the hero and the main girl.) The game also features a fully digitized theme song in the vein of Tales of Phantasia. I sincerely hope Metalgun sees American release some day, but you know, we just can't have nice things...