Wild Guns: Reloaded Review – The Memory Remains (PS4)
As someone who doesn’t have any sort of nostalgia for Natsume’s ambitious SNES shooter Wild Guns, I was hoping that Wild Guns: Reloaded would make me realize what gamers found special about the 20-year-old game. After all, these sort of re-releases give developers a shot at both celebrating a game’s legacy, and introducing a whole new audience to a game. It’s how I’ve experienced a lot of classic titles over the years such as Konami’s The Simpsons and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, so there’s definitely plenty of value in these updated ports.
My first impression with Wild Guns: Reloaded wasn’t a particularly favorable one as I unsuccessfully searched for any sort of instructions in the menus. I eventually found a way to look at the game’s controls, which explained that this was a three button game (shoot, jump and special), but I didn’t exactly know what I was doing. I figured it couldn’t be too complicated, though, so I jumped into my first attempt at saving the game’s Steampunk-themed Wild West.
This first attempt didn’t go well. I ended up choosing an adorable dog as my character (since why would I choose anyone else?), and that ended up being a mistake as enemies quickly shot my cute dachshund until I was staring at a game over screen. In Wild Guns, it only takes one bullet to cost the player a life, so defense is just as important as offense. That was my first lesson, and this shooting gallery is more about avoiding bullets than shooting them.
Growing on Me
I eventually gave up on using the cute puppy and opted for a gruff looking cowboy instead, since I knew he was the cover star of the 1994 original. To my surprise, this character played a lot differently as he planted his feet while shooting and I could aim while blasting bullets at foes. I found much more success using this character than I had before, and I even managed to beat my first mid-boss. I eventually died on the level’s second stage, but I hit continue as I wasn’t ready to give up.
This sort of push and pull continued as I began to learn Wild Gun‘s mechanics slowly, but surely. I found that I didn’t have to waste my special attack (which involved screen-clearing dynamite) whenever enemies would wander from the background to the foreground, as a simple hit of my attack button would initiate a melee attack. A lot of this learning curve could’ve been avoided with a simple how-to screen in the options, but I still managed to pick things up pretty quickly.
After about 30 minutes of jumping and shooting my way through this trial by fire, I managed to actually finish the first level. It was an intense affair where I managed to destroy a giant robot that had ended my game several times beforehand. I was most excited about just getting to play the game’s different levels, as I had seen enough of the original one.
Wild Guns begins to open up after the first level is completed, as I was then able to choose from four different stages. These ranged from a gold mine to an ammunition depot. These stages are just as hard as the first one (even more-so in some cases), but it was nice getting to switch from one to the other if I was having issues. Sadly, I learned that you can’t quit the game and continue from where you left off later, as there’s no way to save the game. Wild Guns: Reloaded isn’t a long game if you’re already good at it, but it’s absolutely a grind when you’re a new player. Not having any sort of saving options is absolutely ridiculous in this day and age.
While it holds a lot of bad habits from the SNES original, what differentiates Reloaded from the 1994 title is the addition of two additional stages (Underground and Flying Ship) and new playable characters. The new characters are really rad as they consist of an adorable dachshund named Bullet who’s accompanied by a drone (I’m not making this up), and an explosives expert named Doris. Both play considerably different from the original protagonists, Clint and Annie, as Bullet can’t aim the drone while shooting (but can move around while the drone shoots), and Doris throws stacks of explosives at enemies instead of shooting them.
Due to their respective quirks, Bullet and Doris feel more like complementary characters that are meant more for multiplayer play. I was unable to have any success with them solo, as I couldn’t use their skills to my advantage when facing off against dozens of enemies on-screen. They work really well as an assist, though, and it makes sense to select one of them for multiplayer as long as one of the players is using a more traditional hero.
Clearly a lot of work has been done on this enhanced port, which only makes some of the omissions all the more baffling. Natsume went out of their way to add new characters into the mix, yet didn’t bother to add major modernizations such as online play (the four-player co-op is offline only) and the ability to save the game in between levels. It’s disappointing that once I really got into Wild Guns, all I could think about was how the package could’ve been so much better.
Due to the game’s intense difficulty (even on easy), it’s pretty ridiculous that the game forces players to finish it in a single sitting. There are dozens of things that should’ve been tweaked about Wild Arms, and instead Natsume added more content rather than addressing the major issues that held it back. The game doesn’t teach people how to play at all (there’s not even a how-to screen), and there no beginner-level difficulty option to allow players to improve over time. This is pretty much an example of how not to do an update, which is a real bummer because Wild Guns deserves better.
Wild Guns: Reloaded is a decent way to experience the SNES classic, but it’s brought down by some rather odd design choices. The new characters are difficult to use and are probably best left for die-hard players, leaving newcomers to feel left out. No additions have been made from a design standpoint to make the game more accessible, and it’s too difficult for its own good. Check it out if you’re already a fan, but this is a severely disappointing package otherwise.
Review code for Wild Guns: Reloaded provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.