To start things off, I'm going to start with one of my all-time favorite games that I played through countless times as a kid, and still do when I get a chance to fire up my cousin's old SNES. I am going to write about one of Konami's lesser known games, Sunset Riders.
This game started out in an arcade cabinet but was soon ported into the SNES and Genesis consoles. Although I have never played this game on the arcade system, I have played both the SNES and Genesis versions over a hundred times. Not even joking. Honestly, this game doesn't take a whole lot of time to play through, it usually takes about 25 minutes to get through the whole thing by yourself, sometimes a little quicker with two players. It is just so fun that you just want to keep playing it over and over again.
Interesting to note that the SNES and Genesis versions are not identical games. The Genesis version has multiple stages in some instances before you get to the stage boss, the mountain stage being one that I remember vividly due to its music that only appears in that version of the game. There are more villains in the SNES version and you can be more characters as well. The money values also vary slightly from one system to the other. For all intents and purposes, I will show the villain wanted posters from the SNES version.
So, where to begin, let's start with who you get to pick to be! You get to choose one of four heroes as shown below.
Actually I am kidding, you would obviously choose Bob or Cormano because when you get two shotguns, the spread the guns put out is extremely helpful a la the spreader in Konami's classic shooter Contra. My brother always chose Cormano, in part because of his dual shotguns and the other main reason that when you are on horseback and shoot back it looks like he is smoking a huge cigarette. I always chose Bob, because, well, yeah, a shotgun.
However, I also played Billy a ton as well because he is not only BILLY THE F'N KID, but blue is my favorite color. Hence why no one I've ever known has chosen Steve, because he is yellow, and NOBODY ever chooses yellow because they are lame (case in point: HUFFLEPUFF = MEGA LAME!). But in seriousness, playing as Billy sometimes is a challenge due to his pistol shooting. And by that I mean that one shoots diagonally all the time. Both his pistols do not shoot in the same direction. This can be extremely beneficial at times, and at others (Boss fights by yourself) is sometimes a pain in the ass.
When playing two players, as my brother and I did a lot, we would be Billy and Cormano a lot because the nature of the gun play were very compatible with each other and is really effective. Granted, whoever was Billy was most likely to get shafted in collecting the wanted money on the bosses. Which naturally was me, so being the guy with pistols sucked.
But if you really wanted to lay waste to the bad guys in the game, then be Bob and Cormano and you will mow through all the gangsters and bosses. This is where the multiple play-ability comes in, you can try out the different characters and get used to beating the game in multiple ways.
Now that you've chosen a character (NOT STEVE), let's get into the game! I first want to say the soundtrack for this game is absolutely stunning. In fact, you should listen to it as you read this post, and just YouTube Sunset Riders OST for SNES or Genesis, whichever your preference. you will probably finish listening to the whole thing by the time you are done reading this blog.
So after you choose your guy, the first thing that pops up is this wanted poster:
This is your first target, and honestly, there is absolutely no set up to why you want to defeat these bosses. Maybe that is a good thing that there is like no story. But I envision this game basically as the precursor to the Red Dead games where you sometimes act like a bounty hunter and track down guys for the price on their head. But I actually like making my own theories as to why these guys are bad guys. My guess is that Simon Greedwell is, well, greedy...
Okay I know that is dumb and you don't need to be a genius to figure that out, but this guy makes you want to get rid of him when you show up to his hideout and he comes out and says to you, "It's time to pay!" You basically look up at him and say, "How 'bout I give you the finger and say no!"
But before you get to fight this guy, you progress through a classic side-scroller that looks something like this below:
Before you say anything, yes, I know, somebody ACTUALLY chose Steve. But this was the only sreenshot I could find that could get the vision I wanted. First you will notice that the bad guys, depicted with the red bandanas covering their faces like the fools in the movie Tombstone, because honestly, nothing screams BAD GUY like a red bandana on your person. Must have been a western stereotype or something because it seems like bad guys in western movies always had red bandanas.
The other thing you will notice is that Steve, the pistol-wielder, is shooting in two directions, and this goes back to what I was explaining earlier. His bullets are the green ones and in this particular instance, shooting in two directions is extremely useful as both bad guys are going to eat lead. But see, you ALWAYS shoot in two directions at a 30 degree angle, and when fighting ONE boss who is only in one spot, it is really annoying.
So once you progress through the first level, you get to jerk Greedwell and he tells you it's time to pay, and you shoot his barrels out and kill his goons, then shoot him enough that he falls from his balcony to the street and with his dying words says, "Bury me with my money..."
At this point, if you are playing multiplayer, one of you wins the $10,000 reward for hitting the boss the most. The game will show you the percentage of damage you did to the boss and it is winner take all, you don't split it between you. Pro tip: Cormano always wins.
You then move onto the next stage and you see the wanted poster of who you will get to face at the end of the round. The second level features a change in the gameplay to an extent, to which you move to horseback as the screen moves without you having to progress your way forward.
Enemies will be all over, on the tracks, along the bottom on horses, in covered wagons that appear in front of you with guys throwing logs out the back to trip you. Sometimes trains show up with guys in the windows and stuff. Once you get to the end of the horseback riding, your rider does a masterful flip forward off the horse and you find Mr. Boss man for this stage, Hawkeye Hank Hatfield.
As you look at him on the train platform, he begins the duel with the classic line, "Draw Pilgrim!" and then he hides behind the boxes and crates like a little bitch. You pretty much end up taking out all his minions first, as you should do in every level (they repopulate every once in awhile), and eventually he gets out from the behind his cover and you gun him down to which he says, "You got me..."
Then you get to do a fun little bonus stage that pops up for you to collect more money and you get to shoot bad guys almost exactly like Marty McFly in Back to the Future.
They pop up and you press the D-pad in that direction and fire and if you hit them they cry out and fall dead. If playing two players, each kill has a distinctive cry so you know who gets the kill as this happens pretty fast. You have to be a crack shot like Marty in order to get them all later on in the game.
You then move onto round three where you get to fight the Dark Horse.
Now, growing up in Nebraska, you quickly look at that guy and say, "Holy smokes, we get to fight Herbie Husker, except he is on a horse!" Now this might be traumatizing for young Husker fans, or extremely fun for people who don't like the Huskers, but that is up to you.
However, one thing for sure is that he is not very good at foreseeing the future as he looks at you at says, "You in heap big trouble!" Yeah, okay buddy. Except I'm not your buddy, I'm here to kill you. After a fight that can get interesting as he is on a horse and you aren't, but the trick here is to keep jumping from ground to balcony because bullets for some reason don't kill you when doing this maneuver. After you kill him, he finally becomes Captain Obvious and says, "Me in heap big trouble..." before he slumps over on his horse and his horse carries his corpse into the sunset. Heh, jackass.
Right after you see your reward get transferred into your Swiss bank account, a woman gets thrown out of the tavern doors in front of you. Being the hero of the west, this is something you just can't stand for, so you rush to the aid of the damsel in distress that tells you there are terrible men inside. After you console her, you run inside the tavern to find out that the nefarious Smith Brothers are inside.
These bosses don't have a level that makes you work your way through, you pretty much just join in the fray except for Green Smith to say, "We're going to blow you away!" These two then throw crap at you, the Greeny throws bombs and Blue throws fire at you. You have to dodge all this and their goons that hang in the chandelier, but after you kill them both, the one left standing shares his last thought with you, "That was a bang!" then falls to the floor and blows up. He pretty much spontaneously combusts, which is awesome, because it somehow happened in 1880.
You then get treated to a showgirls dance routine celebrating the victory and they tell you that there is a huge reward out for Richard Rose and that he has three sidekicks with him. First you think, this Richard Rose sounds like a flake, and he pretty much is, but you figure you will take out his band of misfits first. It is fun though because you don't get to see their faces until their levels, so you picture some sort of disfigured badasses that you hope to fight. And well, maybe I guess.
First up is this oddball dude named, El Greco. Which I think is Spanish for 'The Greco'. Or at least I think that's what it is. You pretty much think to yourself that he is about to become El Deado.
You fight your way across a train full of those same old bad guys that are easily dispatched, they really do have Stormtrooper aim. And not the kind that Obi-Wan Kenobi told you how accurate they are in A New Hope, that was some hype build-up that failed to materialize, much like the hype for Independence Day: Resurgence. But that is neither here nor there, so when you get to the engine of the train, El Greco is standing there in his sombrero and poncho just waiting for you. At least he has the politeness to greet you when he says, "Adios, Amigo!" Oh what the hell, what a jerk, he is already telling you goodbye and implying it is you who is going to die.
Then he pulls out a steel shield and get this, A WHIP! HE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A GUN! What a loser! He brought a WHIP to a GUN fight! This is Richard Rose's first line of defense?! What a cakewalk, after dodging his whip, you finish him off to which he says yet again, "Adios Amigo..." So he basically is the Groot of Sunset Riders... Great, you have one line. After he says the only thing in his vocabulary I guess he then falls onto the tracks and the train just continues to run him over.
Then you get to do another bonus round and be a crack shot before you head into the mountains and you face the guy pictured below. I think the image is enough to describe why this game would have to change the name in this day and age.
Yes, you face Chief Wigwam. I guess this is slightly better than the arcade version in which his name was Chief Scalpem? But anyway, this is where I remember the Genesis being different, in the second stage of the mountain you killed Native Americans, but only the same bandana-donning gang members in the SNES version.
You eventually make your way through the mountain pass dodging careening boulders and baddies and get to a stone circle where Chief Wigwam jumps in and says, "Get ready for a Pow-wow!" This is one of the more difficult boss battles as he jumps around and throws three knives at a time making them hard to gauge to dodge. If you get too close to them, he basically stabs you to death, so you have to slide around and get shots in when you can.
Once you land enough hits on him, he falls to the ground and says, "I'm Pow-wowed out..." and just before you put the killing blow into him, his sister runs out and tells you not to kill him as he was just following orders. Whatever those orders were, who knows?! But I don't really care, I just pocketed $60 grand so there's that.
The next level starts you out on horseback again, this time through the woods and you essentially fight the same way like the second level. But halfway through this level, you jump off your horse and proceed on foot to the outer wall of Richard Rose's fortress and find the ugly ass dude named Paco Loco atop the wall.
I guess he gets to be second-in-command because he has a machine gun. Which is I guess as good a reason as ever, I mean Richard Rose's other two sidekicks had a whip and a set of knives. I would put the dude with a machine gun over those guys too. But you get to his fortress and he looks at you and shouts out, "Aye, Chihuahua!" and proceeds to open fire at you.
This guy has a lot more angles that he can shoot at you which makes no place safe to shoot from and he also has the high ground. Adding to that, there are minions popping out of the trees above you and throwing bombs at you, which gets annoying fast. You just have to stay on the move and taking shots when you can until you finish him where he falls off his wall down to you feet like beached whale. You think he is dead until he sits up and cries out, "Hasta la bye bye!" before he fires of the last of his rounds and finally falls down dead. Funny, didn't take him for a drama queen with that face for radio.
After watching Paco Loco die, you place TNT at the base of the wall to the fortress, blow it up and sneak in to go find Richard Rose. For some reason the inside of his fort is filled with ankle deep water. To be fair, I'm not sure there were too many plumbers back in the day that could have fixed a clog, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. You then progress to the second half of the final stage with is scaling the walls to the top of the mountain to the mansion where you find the man, the myth, the legend, Richard Rose.
Well, excuse me, SIR Richard Rose, I wonder what he did to get knighted in the wild west. I guess I should trust him, he greets you with, "Cheerio old chap!" as he throws a rose down then enters his mansion and appears behind a guarded stone balcony. Here you have a crap ton of extra gang members to kill that show up very frequently, and Rose shooting at you with his bullets coming in extra fast.
The thing I learned to do here is always perform one of the moves that you are invincible while doing, sliding or jumping between balcony and ground, while firing off shots quickly in between at either the gang members or the stone around Rose. You have to be patient here or you will lose all your lives rather quickly.
Once you eliminate the stone barrier around Rose, all the nagging gang members disappear and you finally get to face this dude mano-e-mano. He runs around really quickly and shoots at you a lot, but since you are in the groove of jumping and sliding, he shouldn't put up too much of a fight.
Then he lets out an agonizing wail of death and falls face down... only to get back up? As you begin to cuss under your breath, he laughs at you and reveals he had a metal plate under his suit just like Clint Eastwood in Back to the Future Part III did. And before you correct me, I know the real Clint Eastwood did it, but so did 'Clint Eastwood' in Back to the Future Part III. So there.
So once again, you have to kill him a second time, except this time he is much faster and shoots a lot more. And I do mean A LOT more. Sidenote: I love how the ammo has no meaning in this game, every gun has infinite ammo! It's basically like putting in the cheat code IDKFA in DOOM and getting all guns and ammo!
Finally after he falls a second time, he looks at you and says, "I say, bit of bad luck..." then falls face down dead on his lovely rose-patterned carpet in front of his mansion. After this, you collect your cool $100k and ride off into the sunset. Then you can start back at level 1 to face Simon Fatwell again and off you go in your never ending conquest of beating stereotypical western characters.
So that is the entire game that you can play in the SNES version, the Genesis version only has Simon Greedwell, Paco Loco, Chief Wigwam, and Sir Richard Rose. There are 8 levels in the Genesis version and the first level of the two before the boss you always rescue a damsel in distress. The bonus stage in Genesis features you riding horseback catching coins thrown out the back of the wagon, and I really wanted to show you the crack shot version of the bonus, another reason I used SNES gameplay.
However, both versions feature pretty ladies giving you a good luck kiss when you run into the saloons to pick up your gun power ups! Although the SNES version makes them look like pioneer ladies, the Genesis version features a more 'working girl' kind of look if you get my drift... ; )
Well there you have it, if you played this game back in the day, let me know if you had as much fun as I did playing it. Heck, I still play it when I can. But if you didn't get to play it but want to see it in action, just search it on YouTube and you'll find loads of people have videos of it!
Thanks for reading,