NES Review – Gunsmoke

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Gunsmoke is one of those games I had no idea existed until I played it following my collection crusade over the past year. This weekend, I sat down with my twin bro and blasted through some levels. Essentially, it’s a cool Capcom arcade shooter, but unique in that instead of taking control of a space ships blowing up aliens, you are a cowboy for hire aimed at bringing in the bounties on all the wanted men. The game starts of in the town of Hicksville (which is hilarious), and you are tasked with bringing in Bandit Bill Rifle!

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This game is a vertical shooter where you take control of your cowboy. You are able to move around freely with the direction pad, and with the press on B you shoot your guns off to the left, and with A you shoot your guns off to the Right. If you hit both A and B at the same time, you shoot forward.

This game moves fast! Oftentimes the screen is crawling with enemies and quick reflexes (and furious pounding of the A and B buttons) is needed to gain any level of success. I actually really liked the gameplay, and even though I was pressing the shooting buttons a lot, I didn’t find that my thumbs were getting so sore that it was not fun to play anymore. It was fun and action packed!

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Instead of getting points when killing bad guys, you get money, and with this money you can buy weapon and other items from townspeople to help take out more enemies! There is a machine gun (which allows you to just hold down the A or B buttons for a constant stream of gunfire), a shotgun (which is like a spread shot), and even a horse that allows you to move around faster and take an extra hit. This balance between spending your money on upgrades or holding onto it for a high score was a really unique mechanic that really made me consider whether I should take a weapon upgrade or hold off. The only unfortunate part was that whenever you died, you lost all upgrades. I would have preferred that you keep the upgrades until the player at least has a game over – but this might have made the game too easy. As it is now, the player has infinite continues.

The money mechanic also played a part in the level bosses (and how you encounter them). Before you can even face them, a wanted poster must be bought from a townsperson in each level – and these wanted posters are expensive! In the first level, its something like $10,000, and by the third level, the cost was $20,000. To put things into perspective, the Shotgun is $6000 and the Machine Gun is $10,000. I liked the mechanic initially as it allowed me to replay the levels continuously to gain money for upgrades before taking on the boss, but the cost of the wanted posters in the later levels was just so expensive that I could never afford them if I wanted any upgrades (which are important in the later levels for basic survival). I was in a catch-22. I never ended up getting past the third level.

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The bosses themselves are interesting enough. I only fought two of them but they were fun and challenging. They have patterns that must be learned in addition to random enemies appearing on the screen that must be dodged. They only take a few hits, but are only vulnerable during certain times. At the end of each boss, you get a large payout that is usually the cost of the poster that you paid for (which doesn’t make sense, because then the cowboy isn’t making any money in the long run).

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In terms of graphics, they are average as best. The levels are western-themed and span a town, canyon, and in the third level, an aboriginal encampment. The levels are all more or less look brown-looking but its works as it allows the characters and bullets to stand out against the background. In terms of music, the game has some catchy tunes which really helps create the atmosphere of a western-themed game. The sound effects are nothing special but do sound like 8-bit guns.

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In summary, this is a unique cowboy-themed shooter that is quite fun in the early levels but very difficult in the later levels. It introduces some unique mechanics with money and has some great music! The difficulty in the later levels and somewhat bland graphics lower its score. I give this game a final score of 7/10.

Final Score: 7/10

3 thoughts on “NES Review – Gunsmoke

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