For a while now people have been telling me to try Sunset Riders out, and while I wasn’t ignoring them I just couldn’t be fucked paying the exorbitant prices for a copy in the UK. Fortunately I have found a Spanish retailer that will post to the UK meaning I was able to get this for £35 including postage, which is a saving of about £60. So WOOOOOOOOOOO!
Anyway, the game came highly recommended, so prepare for me to shit all over your dreams!
Sunset Riders is a Run and Gun with some depth. You run along the regular 2d plane shooting enemies with 8 directional shooting on a 45degree arc. However, a relatively simple and easy feature is that there is usually a second plane of movement, adding not just depth of movement and enemy attack patterns, but also secrets. The two planes are introduced to you on the first screen, so until you figure out you can jump into the background you are stuck. It therefore teaches you what you need to know almost instantly so it doesn’t come out of the blue like in Disney’s Hercules and frustrate you, and feels like great Mega Man X game design.
Levels have a pleasing mixture of styles, in that you’re not always running left to right, as some have you on a horse, while bonus stages add a nice 1st person shooting element, as well as some right to left hot mountain climbing action! It means it mixes thing up just enough that over the 8 levels you never really get sick of the same thing like I did in Metal Slug.
The bonus stages come out of nowhere and at first reminded me of Alien Storm, but these are basically a whack-a-mole style mini-games, as you don’t move a cursor to aim instead you press the direction the enemy are in, nobody shoots at you. The bonus stages only serve for bonus points, and a little harmless competition between you and your potential player 2.
Sunset Riders is pretty hard, but nothing too insane. Everything is one hit and you’re dead, but everything is much less frantic than Metal Slug or RoboCop vs the Terminator. So while there will be a lot of things to dodge, it usually feels fair. Bullets move slowly, and on bosses you need to get the movement routine correct to avoid trapping yourself in the shit. It means while you may get frustrated on sections, you can see why, and you’re not dying from not having lightning fast reflexes.
Bosses usually have some kind of henchmen with them, and thankfully these stop spawning after you kill a certain amount of them. It means while bosses start difficult, they will get easier. This really is a relief as there is nothing worse than endlessly pissing lives away and feeling like you’re not getting anywhere.
On “easy” you gain extra lives based on your points total too, so there is a nice learning curve for newbies, however lives are not gained on “Normal”, and “Hard” disables any extra lives cheats you may have entered so to beat the game properly, you need to git gud, though again, it has a nice learning curve for newer players.
Now the first time I played the game I just assumed the 4 players were fundamentally the same, except that 2 has crappy pistols, and 2 had awesome shotguns. However, paying more attention, the characters hold their guns differently. It means that Steve holds the gun as though he is looking down the sights, and therefore shoots higher, and Billy shoots from the hip. Same with the two shotgun users; Bob, shoots from eyeline, Cormano shoots from the hip. While this doesn’t sound like much, the line of fire makes sections much easier/harder for some enemies. I can’t kill the Level 7 boss as a hip shooter as an example, but then, I am shit at almost everything.
It means that in local multiplayer you can balance things out and basically overpoon. Though if you’re lucky enough to find an arcade machine and 3 buddies 4 player will be a wall of giddy death as you blast all asunder.
I really enjoyed Sunset Riders, I was surprised it was a run and gun, as it had been sold to me as one of the best Beat ’em Ups, however, I wasn’t disappointed. The graphics are pretty good and hold up like any good 16bit game does, you get enough enemies on screen to make things interesting, the 2 planes for movement add surprising depth, and the soundtrack is FREAKING AWESOME, so go listen to it.
I honestly don’t think you’ll find another Run and Gun this fun.
Pros: Music is fucking awesome, digitised voices are best of 16bit era, still looks good.
Cons: Some bosses can be frustrating on solo play with certain characters, Sir Richard Rose’s face. Chief Wigwam is a cunt.
Back in the day:
Mostly scoring high 80s Sunset Riders was very well received, with particular praise for the humour, the setting, and the music.