This week I bring you something a little different. A comparative review of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis versions of the classic side scrolling shooter, Sunset Riders
Sunset Riders is a truly unappreciated and unknown gem, even my good friend Twelve had never heard of it which came as a surprise me to tell the truth.
Sunset Riders was created by Konami both as an arcade machine and on console. Interestingly enough the different releases also varied greatly. The Super Nintendo version allowed up to two players to choose one of four characters each whereas the original arcade machine allowed for up to four players. The four characters were Billy who fired pistols, Steve who also fired pistols, Bob a shotgun wielding cowboy (who strangely was the only one of the four not wearing his hat, choosing instead to let it hang on his back), and Cormano, a Mexican poncho-and-sombrero wearing gunfighter also toting a shotgun. The Super Nintendo version however changed some of the sprites in one level from the cartoony Native American Indians to generic cowboy sprites. It also changed some of the level mechanics from the original level. The girls you meet along the way were also more conservatively dressed than in the arcade version. The Sega version, which also had an arcade machine version, only allowed for a choice between two characters (Billy and Cormano), entirely omitting any reference to the other two.
The levels in the Super Nintendo version are much closer to the original four-player arcade game than the Sega version. In the Super Nintendo version there are eight levels each with a final boss, one level consisting only of a boss fight directly after a boss fight. The Sega version however only has four levels, each divided into two sections. Section one ends with the rescuing of a girl and the second with the boss fight. The boss in the second level, which is one of the later levels in the original, has been replaced with a boss from an even later level in the original. Each boss in the game has a simple pattern but what makes most of them so hard is the interference by normal sprites as well.
One of the other things that is sadly lacking in the Sega version is some very neat high quality (for Super Nintendo at any rate) voice clips before and after each boss fight. In the Sega version the dialogue is only written whereas in the Super Nintendo version it is both written and spoken. The only voice clip in the Sega version (apart from the odd scream) is when rescuing the girl at the end of the first section of every level. Upon rescuing the young maiden she promptly jumps up, hugs you, plants a kiss on your cheek and exclaims “Thank you nice boys!”
The dialogue spoken when killing a boss ranges from the silly “Asta la bye-bye”, to the corny “We had a blast” (spoken by a bomb hurling duo) to the plain, “Adios Amigos!” to the really simple “You got me!”
What is nice about the Sega version is some of the touches that they retained from the arcade which the Super Nintendo version didn’t, like catching alight when hit by a flaming arrow or lantern, keeping the original Native American Indian sprites and the correct name for the Indian chief boss. In the Super Nintendo he was renamed to Chief Wigwam whereas the original arcade version and the Sega version have his as Chief Scalpem. The biggest and most positive change in the Sega version is that when using a continue you resume play from where you died whereas the Super Nintendo version forced you to replay the entire level even if you died in a boss fight.
While in many ways the Sega version appears to be a more polished game at first glance, quite the reverse is actually true. In many places the game seems patched and unfinished with high amounts of detail in some areas while others are very bland. The colouring is drab compared to the brighter Super Nintendo version, the characters skin tone looks as if they all got dipped in caramel (or got a REALLY dark tan) and some of the funny animations have been removed to name but a few flaws.
The bonus levels are handled differently as in the Super Nintendo version there are only two bonus levels in the game whereas in the Sega version of the game collecting a star that appeas in each level would allow the players who got the star to play a bonus level after each mission. In the original/Super Nintendo version the player enters a first person “Shooting Gallery” style screen, having to hit enemies that pop up in one of eight different locations and get progressively faster. The Sega version took the horse riding mechanic from the original and turned it into a mini game where the player is running along behind a wagon with a woman tossing out coins and 1-Ups while the player tries to collect them all.
Over all, the gameplay is fun (the Sega version being a little harder as the bullets travel much faster), its fast paced and fun, the fun-element of a run-and-gun has not been neglected and the premise is simple yet highly effective. You are warned at the beginning of each level which boss you will fight at the end, the Super Nintendo version having eight bosses while the Sega only has four bosses. As you progress the reward gets higher and higher with each boss. A fun element that they added that increases competitiveness in two-player mode is that the player who dealt the greatest percentage of damage to the boss gets the reward. It doesn’t get split between or allocated to both players, making for some furious gun fighting at the end of every level.
Another great thing about these games is that the levels are entertaining and distinctive. You never feel as if you’re simply running through a recoloured version of an earlier level. The levels cover everything from trains, plains, wild west towns mountains and even a mansion. Lots of enemies make even the simplest levels quite tricky at times, not to mention other dangers such as rockslides, stampeding bulls and falling barrels. In certain places haning barrels can be shot and dropped onto enemies below, but be careful that you are not too close or you may get squashed yourself!
If you are a fan of the run-and-gun genre of games then Sunset Riders is a must play. It’s fun and addictive and while it doesn’t have much replay value it is great for wasting a few hours and just having some fun blasting cowboys!