Friday 3 September 2021

Sunset Riders (SNES review)

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: 1993

Sunset Riders is an action game that was first released in the Arcades in 1991.

There's four playable characters and your mission is to eliminate crooks to bring back peace to the valley. You can slide to avoid incoming bullets and your main weapon is a gun that can be upgraded to dual pistols or rapid fire by collecting Sheriff's badges. The horizontally-scrolling stages are an absolute treat thanks to their environmental hazards (such as being able to shoot barrels to squash enemies) and captivating set-pieces (e.g. needing to jump between bulls as they stampede toward you). The slower-paced gameplay is highly enjoyable, as you can take your time to pick off enemies from the best angle and interestingly the duck-and-cover action isn't worlds apart from Shinobi (1987, Arcade). Then there's the vertically-scrolling stages that play great and mix things up by introducing perilous falling rocks. There is a disproportionate level of challenge between the main stages and the boss fights though, as the former offer a realistic challenge while the latter are brutally difficult (at least on Normal difficulty and above). One neat feature though is the Boss Damaging Level score after you clear each one, as it shows the hit-rate in co-op mode which is perfect for some friendly competition and bragging rights! The boss voice samples are also excellent with clear speech that adds to their personality. There are some auto-scrolling stages where you ride on horseback and jump over logs, but they're a bit of a mess due to the finicky controls and the inclusion of enemy wagons that clutter the screen real estate; as a result, you often don't have time to adequately prepare for incoming foes / bullets.

Sunset Riders is a faithful port of the Arcade original and while there are a few lacklustre stages, the majority of the levels are terrific. Carefully planning your method of attack is engrossing thanks to the clever item placement and the ability to battle as four different characters greatly adds to the overall replayability.

Random trivia: In 1992, a version was released on the Sega Genesis that features a number of cut-backs and alterations.


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