Looking at the NES library, when you think of light gun or zapper games the first game that springs to mind is always Duck Hunt, but there was a plethora of fine gun games on the console, and for me this one is one of the finest. Released in Europe in February 1988, a full 4 years after Japan, what did Japan love for those 4 years that we missed out on?
Well, as the name suggests, this game is set in the Wild West, and your character takes part in a showdown seemingly in the middle of the desert, with cactus and an overgrown termite hill or dirt mount for company. Although you never get to see your character, it seems natural to think of yourself as somewhat of a Clint Eastwood type character, clearing the West of the varmints that pollute the place. It pays to have imagination you see, otherwise I could imagine the character is a dumpy Mario-type character like from the Golf game.
So firing up this game, your treated as per most of the black box games on the NES with a jaunty though short opening music, before being greeted with 3 options. Game A, intriguingly called 1 Outlaw, Game B that even more mysteriously is called 2 Outlaws, and finally Game C, with just the word “Gang”. Now that final option wouldn’t be out of place if the game was released today and was set in certain parts of the UK but for a Wild West game sounds pretty cool, unless the gang was Kool and the Gang, or Gary Glitters “gang” *gulp*
So you choose your option, and this is where the fun begins. No controllers needed, just you, your gun, your cat-like reflexes and your Nintendo. After suitably jaunty yet slow music, your first outlaw meanders across the screen. You’ll notice you have a time on the top right hand corner, the time in which you have to shoot the enemy. As with all good games it starts off at an easier time, but gets progressively quicker. Don’t shoot until he shouts fire, otherwise you lose a life and the screen turns purplish, with your opponent running off shouting “foul”. In this game you get 3 lives, before its game over. The other instance of you losing a life is if your too slow in firing your gun, when your time goes beyond the gunman’s time. So as long as your quick on your reflexes, youll progress to the next level – how simple is that? A nice touch is when you lose a life, your treated to a rendition of Chopin’s Funeral March. Never forget, with these games its the little touches that go the extra mile. An interesting fact as well is that when the enemy shouts Fire, this was the first instance of voices in a NES game, which is impressive for the technology at the time, and something that is taken for granted these days with today’s games.
Game B – 2 Outlaws, does exactly what it says. Instead of having one varmint you get double the trouble to defeat within the allotted time period. A hint, that was pointed out in video reviews, is to shoot the guy with the lower amount of time first before shooting the second guy, though you may have only 0.x seconds between each character. It’s certainly more of a challenge, but for those playing it who think they’re right sharpshooters and laugh in the face of 2 flying ducks, it certainly provides a challenge. Again, it starts off with a more than manageable time to shoot both in, gradually getting quicker and quicker. Same rules apply, 3 lives and thats it.
Finally, we have the intriguing Game C – Gang. Here, you have 15 bullets, and in waves, shoot the enemies in a setting not in the middle of a desert, but at a saloon. Its a good twist, and nice to have a change in scenery. Be warned though, you need to bring your “A” game to tackle this mode, its unforgiving and without a timer running down, you need to be a dead -eyed dick more than ever before. If you miss a target, you don’t forfeit the round, just lose a bullet so use sparingly, theres more targets than you realise.
The graphics are cartoony and colourful, and give a damn-good representation of the lawless Wild West that your helping to clean up. The scowls on the enemies faces when your shot, the ram’s head above the saloon on mode C, the scenery and the detail in the different enemies rather than them looking the same makes you feel like your cleaning a whole town rather than the same face over and over again. The music is jovial and upbeat, well aside from Chopin and his maudlin Funeral March, and sets the scene of the game nicely. Control wise, all you need is your gun, and if you don’t know how to shoot a gun maybe it’s worth checking out Barbie on the NES.
So all in all, its a darn good rootin-tooting ol’ shooter, making good of the light gun, or zapper, or however you call your funky grey (or sometimes orange) gun. The only downside is the lack of a 2 player option, but to try and topple your friend’s score is just enough incentive for a mate to try and compete but alas the score doesn’t save on the cartridge so you’ll lose your score when you turn your console off. If your looking for escapism, and the chance to reenact Dirty Harry and mutter that famous quote, something about being lucky then this is a great game to add to your collection. Carts are still out there in the great retro shops of the UK, with eBay having more PAL-B carts, so if you got your zapper to hand and tire of ducks and dastardly dogs, give this a whirl and get practicing with your Dirty Harry impression. I mean, how can you go wrong with a game that’s featured on Back to the Future 2?
Rating – 4 out of 5