Sunday, March 20, 2011

Retro Obscuro- Gunple: Gunman's Proof

My own personal take on the game.

I've always found it surprising that Zelda clones are few and far between. Since Ocarina, we've seen a handful of games lift their gameplay from Nintendo's storied franchise, sometimes with excellent results (Okami), other times with lamentably bad ones (Darksiders). On the Super Nintendo, however, there are noticeably fewer. Games like Secret of Mana and Terranigma may bear passing similarities, but the actual formula of A Link to the Past was never really copied.
At least, not the in the US. Over in glorious Nippon, ASCII Entertainment gave the world the gift of Gunman's Proof. Abbreviated as Gunple (or Ganpuru), the game was the last work of Japan only developer Lenar, released in early 1997, the grim winter of 16-bit gaming. At first glance, Gunple appears a shameless ripoff of Nintendo's classic, but beneath the surface resemblance is one of the most amusing adventure games to grace the console.
Expect to see this face alot...

Gunple is set in the American "Wild West", or at least a ludicrous Japanese interpretation of it. The entire game is set on Strange Island, I suppose named due to the anomalous nature of an island occuring in the middle of the American mid-west, in the year 1880. In terms of plot... well, I'll let the game's script do the job for me:
"In the year 1880 a pair of meteors came streaking down toward the Earth.They landed in the American West, on Strange Island. One would think this would cause a huge ruckus...But the people of that era were so busy scratching out their meager livings that no one thought much of it, and the incident soon passed from memory."

Not exactly the most dramatic story, but it gets the job done. The meteors turn out to be alien beings, run amok on earth. The first is a malevolent force, called Demiseed, that is causing monsters to appear all over. The other meteor is the interstellar sheriff, Zero. To pursue Demiseed, Zero inhabits the body of some overweight cowboy kid, and thus the adventure begins. There are shades of Earthbound at work in the writing and story of Gunple, and the game is consistently wacky and amusing.
Look familiar?

As I mentioned earlier, the game could at first glance be mistaken for Legend of Zelda; the characters, environments, menus, and HUD all look pulled straight out A Link to the Past. Even the structure, several dungeons scattered over a large overworld, appears to be taken from Nintendo's franchise. These similarities, however, only persist until players enter the first of the game's dungones, at which point the key difference becomes apparent; there are no puzzles. No push blocks, no items, no lighting torches, no nothing. There isn't a single room that can't be solved by annihilating every enemy in sight. The dungeons are filled with treasure of all sorts, but none are usable, instead contributing to your score. Essentially, Gunple is an action game.
It's a hell of an action game, too. Your chubby little cowboy, whom I affectionately nicknamed "Gun", has some downright nasty weapons at his disposal. Initially, you'll be restricted to a meager BB gun of sorts, but killing enemies can lead to powerful upgrades; a machine gun, flame thrower, and even rocket launcher, to be specific. Not only are these powerups devastating, but their anachronistic nature is downright hilarious. Unfortunately, ammo is limited, and these powerups do run out fairly quick. Luckily, the standard BB gun can be permanently upgraded, eventually to a powerful silver magnum, in a very Master Sword-esque side quest. Secret techniques, such as a charge shot and spread shot, can be learned from wandering gunmen, predating Twilight Princess' Hidden Skills by a decade! Gun is also able to perform some nifty hand to hand attacks, eventually culminating in an awesome, golden gauntleted uppercut, acquired from a balding Ryu clone deep in the mountains. There are additionally screen clearing bombs to find, and , most interesting, your hero can at any time be sprawled facedown on the floor; a combination of evasive maneuver and hilarious animation. He can crawl around in this embarrassing manner, and any errant bullets will fly right over his head. It's a cute touch, and makes combat a bit less frantic.
Baron Alps pulls out the big guns.

Of course, the hallmark of a great Zelda game is memorable bosses, and Gunple really delivers in this regard. Not only are the bosses large and visually unique, but they even have personalities! Gun will engage in conversation with each of them before the battle begins, usually culminating in a good deal of humor. Bosses of particular note are the Fighting Sisters, twin debutantes that reveal themselves to be ass-kicking Chun-Li knockoffs, Psycho Ninja Brazil Circle, brandishing twin shotgun katana and referencing Gundam with his Ninja Colony Drop attack, and finally Baron Alps, a flying gunfighter whose poncho hides some serious high tech weaponry, including a Gundam X reference. They're all generally amusing.
Despite the sad fact the Gunman's Proof was never officially localized, thanks to excellent translation group Aeon Genesis the game is fully playable in hilarious English! Or, for those who prefer to watch, there are numerous play throughs available on Youtube! Until somebody steps up to get this awesome game on Virtual Console or remade, these are pretty much the best options. I strongly encourage anyone that loves the SNES, loves old school Zelda, loves Earthbound, or just plain loves good games to take the time to experience an overlooked gem from a bygone age. It may not be the most original game around, but Gunple: Gunman's Proof has all the charm of a Nintendo classic.
Japanese cover

Relevant links:
Aeon Genesis' fan translation of the game
A quick video of the game's intro

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