RELEASE DATE: 02/18/1984 – (JP), 10/18/1985 – (US), 02/15/1988 – (EU)
ALSO ON: PlayChoice-10, Wii U Virtual Console (10/22/2015 – EU, 01/07/2016 – US, 06/22/16 – EU)
And all the Japanese children cheered.*
Wild Gunman was the first light gun game for the Famicom. As such, the game was packaged with the Beam Gun, a six-shooter/revolver that came with its own holster. If I had a sweet holster for my Zapper, maybe I would have played a few more rounds of Wild Gunman as a kid, am I right?! Flimsy holster and plastic casing aside, the Beam Gun looks tremendously realistic. Even in the 1980s, I’m not sure America would have been ok with that. Nintendo’s faithfulness to traditional revolver design is one of the reasons why they redesigned the Zapper to resemble something out of a 60s sci-fi movie.
Still the O.G.
With full-motion-video displaying real actors playing outlaw cowboys, the original Wild Gunman strove for realism. Wild Gunman (1984) throws all that realistic trash out the window. Here, the five cowboy sprites are immaculately crafted cartoon characters. You could make up backstories for these characters based on their appearances alone. In fact, let’s do that. Let’s call them The Nameless Ones.
The Scraggly One (also known as the Famous One on the NES cover) – hunched over, unshaven – hasn’t seen a person in weeks, and he’s none too happy to see you. He’s angry and desperate which makes him more dangerous.
The Quiet One keeps his hat tucked over most of his face. It’s hard to see his pupils, but if you do catch them, they have a soulless glint; like him and the devil worked out an agreement long ago.
The Nervous One‘s only fired a gun a couple of times. He’s unsure of himself, but he’s also squirrelly. When shot at, he loses his pants. For him, embarrassment is worse than death.
The Fat One‘s draped in a sombrero and poncho. What does he have under there? He’s a wild card. You know he’s carrying pain, you’re just not sure how intense.
Then there’s The Boss. He’s tall, well-dressed. He’s got money, but how much remains uncertain. He’s disinterested in your presence, but you’re still a threat so he’s come to take you out. Shoot him, and he’ll lose his hat, revealing his bald head – a secret he wanted to remain hidden.
Alas, the sprites (and my unofficial biographies) are Wild Gunman‘s best features. This is one repetitive, monotonous shooting game that only ends when you run out of lives or just grow tired of shooting the same five cowboys. The latter won’t take long.
Round 1 of infinity.
Wild Gunman gives you three options, One Outlaw, Two Outlaws, and Gang. One Outlaw has you shooting – wait for it – one outlaw at a time. Here, a single cowboy saunters out and attempts to intimidate you. Once their eyes shine and the announcer yells “Fire!”, you have a limited amount of time (as displayed on the screen next to “Gunman”) to shoot them. Fire before the gunman shoots and you win. Fire before the announcer yells “Fire!” and you get a foul and lose a life. One Outlaw continues forever, with no discernible goal except “kill more outlaw cowboys.”
Fouls also transport you to a peyote-inspired neon desert landscape.
Two Outlaws adds an additional gunman on screen at the same time. Most of the time, both gunmen will yell “Fire!” at the same time, although occasionally only one will yell it. If you shoot both gunmen when only one yells “Fire!”, you will lose a life and be sent to jail for murder. Two Outlaws also continues forever, because the Old West really was that corrupt.
“But… but I’m such a winner!”
Gang places you in front of a saloon with several windows. Once the round starts, the same cowboys (up to their no good tricks) from the Outlaw portions pop out of each window, begging to be shot yet again. Shoot them all with your limited bullets, survive the wave and your reward from the sheriff is doing it again.. and again… and again.
That’s some bull plop right there.
Are we noticing a pattern here? Wild Gunman asks you to shoot the same five men over and over in different placements and venues, until your trigger finger can’t abide any more abuse. Perhaps we enjoyed such mind-numbing exercise in 1984, but here, today, now? No longer. It doesn’t help that Wild Gunman‘s hitbox is generous to a fault. In the Outlaw areas, you can fire near the gunmen and they’ll be shot. This makes two of the three game options far easier than they should be. Gang is slightly harder, due to the smaller hitboxes and faster appearing cowboys, but shooting the inhabitants of the saloon gets old fast – just like the rest of the game.
There’s a snake in my boots, indeed.