Thanks to Natsume Inc for the review code
Title: Wild Guns RELOADED
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 04/17/2018
In this enhanced remake of the crazy rare 1994 SNES shooter, you take control of Annie, Clint and their two new friends, as they set out to take out the leader of a criminal gang in an effort for revenge!
Being a remake of the Super Nintendo game, the game uses the same 16-bit sprites that it did back in the original, at least for everything that was already part of the original. In terms of the new characters, enemies and stages, they’re designed in such a way that their appearance doesn’t clash with the older stuff at all, which is really surprising and a case of one of the most accurate 16-bit throwbacks I have seen to date, all thanks to the developers sticking to the same art style with a bit of polishing here and there. (including things such as wide screen and crisper pixels)
The music is also outstanding, with high quality remixes of every track from the SNES original, leading to a ton of memorable themes to be listened to. There’s even the original SNES OST to be found in this game, but good luck listening to it, as unlocking it requires that you beat the game without using a single continue. (Beginner Mode doesn’t count) Still, at least it is a satisfying reward for taking up the challenge, and the new OST is so good it doesn’t feel like a punishment to not have immediate access to the old OST.
Wild Guns Reloaded is a Gallery Shooter, akin to NAM-1945 or Cabal, where the main goal is to fire at all the enemies on screen and dodge their attacks. Clearing out all the enemies will advance you to the next phase of the stage, usually after a miniboss fight. The game offers four characters to choose from, two of them being the traditional characters from the SNES original, while the other two, Doris and Bullet offer their own twist on the formula, with Doris being able to charge a grenade attack that increases the score multiplier depending on how many grenades you fire, (and of course, dealing a lot of damage if they all hit the same enemy) while Bullet is able to move and jump around freely as his drone companion brings up a crosshair that autofires toward any enemy that gets in the way. These characters are great for beginners as they Doris does a lot more damage than any other character while Bullet is the best at avoiding enemy fire, which does lead to a bit of an easier way to play the game if you so choose. All four of the characters also have the option to launch a blue lasso by mashing the fire button, which will slow down enemies and make them much easier to hit. However, some enemies will try doing this to you as well, so be careful! You can jump and dodge out of the way while holding the fire button, which is key to getting out of tricky situations, and if all else fails you can unleash one of your bombs with the X button in order to deal devastating damage to bosses and clear projectiles away from some parts of the field.
Multiple difficulties are available for you to tackle in this game, two of which directly impact the stage select by swapping out the old SNES stages for the two brand new ones exclusive to Reloaded. Beginner and Easy mode follow the same stage structure as the SNES original, with Beginner offering infinite lives for you to plow through the game with and practice the stages. (Understandably, you cannot save your hi-scores to the leaderboard on this difficulty) Medium and Hard swap out one to two stages with their newer replacements, and all difficulties above Beginner will only allow you to submit your scores to the leaderboard if you refuse to continue, which does allow you to choose how you want to play at the very least.
New to this version of reloaded is a Boss Rush mode. Here, every single endstage boss from the eight stages are available for you to fight against, all in a row with a limited amount of lives. Obviously, this is for the hardest of hardcore players only, but it does lead to an interesting challenge to take on if you so desire, (Keep in mind however, that before the game launched to the public this Tuesday nobody was able to record their score for this mode on the leaderboards, if you want a sense on how fierce this challenge is, yet I saw a few people who had obviously 1CC cleared the main game!) but it is the best way by far to practice your skills since the bosses are the hardest part of the stages anyway.
There’s also a local multiplayer mode with co-op for up to four players, and the biggest hope I had for this version of Wild Guns Reloaded was for them to fix a huge issue that made it not a good game for a group of friends to play with together, especially since they bothered to add an even easier difficulty to the single player mode, (something I didn’t think was too necessary as you can beat the easy mode just fine with enough continues and practice) and that issue came from the fact that if your shared pool of five lives is emptied at any point in the entire game, then you must start from the beginning of the game, no matter what. This records your scores on the leaderboard without fail, yes, but it also makes the multiplayer absolutely punishing for all the wrong reasons, and also comes off as a confusing decision as the single player mode doesn’t really force this requirement and only makes it an optional thing to go after if you want the retro BGM option or more costumes for the main characters. It would be totally fine if they wanted to make it like the single player where you had to beat a single level in one go, (continues booting you back to the beginning of the stage) since trial and error is a thing that can gradually lead to mastery of the game, but outright forcing the only multiplayer options to be 1CC only makes it so that if a single friend isn’t as skilled as you are, then you won’t be getting anywhere in multiplayer to speak of. Don’t even get me started on how this will likely turn out in four player mode, as all the players must be in sync (and even if they are, if they all play as Bullet then it’s very easy to mix up where your crosshair is even located)
I’m disappointed to say that while they did make the aforementioned quality of life updates for the single player in the form of the two new modes, they did not change the multiplayer mode in any way, shape or form. This means it still forces you to 1CC the game on multiplayer, it still forces you to share five lives across all players, and you can’t even take on the boss rush mode with friends, something that would at least lead to a fun way to get challenged together. This is just a huge missed opportunity, especially since the original SNES version allowed you to continue infinitely like the single player mode does in this game, which makes the continued exclusion of this feature completely baffling. This could have been another stellar addition to the Switch’s local multiplayer catalog, but since the local multiplayer keeps out anyone who isn’t already a hardcore master at the game instead of teaching them through trial and error, (meaning that you are better off having your friends play in single player for a while before teaming up with them) the local multiplayer is pretty much the worst part of the entire game, and I’m just baffled they didn’t even bother to at least allow the boss rush to be multiplayer compatible if they wanted to keep a hardcore experience. Or heck, since they promoted the beginner mode so much, allow that as an option for multiplayer, alongside the normal, 1CC challenge we have now.
In conclusion, Wild Guns Reloaded is a competent remake of the SNES classic. Adding some enhancements over the PS4/PC versions of the game, this could have finally been the ultimate version of Wild Guns, fixing the balance problems for the multiplayer mode while making the game both a bit more accessible to newcomers, and challenging to veterans. While the Beginner Mode is a good way for some training, and the Boss Rush mode is an excellent way to put your skills to the test, both of these things don’t apply to the multiplayer mode, and for some baffling reason, the forced no-continue rule for that mode STILL applies in this Switch port, even though there’s no reason they couldn’t have made an option to make the multiplayer a bit less stressful, or at least allow continues like in the SNES original so that the hardcore can continue to play multiplayer for high-scores while others can just play via trial and error for the fun of it with a group of friends.
So somehow, Wild Guns Reloaded on Switch managed to improve areas that didn’t need much improving in the first place, while ignoring the multiplayer aspect that really needed improvement the most. Considering how this game is still being priced at $30 digitally and physically for the amount of content on offer, (even if it offers one of the best remixed soundtracks of a retro game to date and is addictive fun when playing solo for hi-scores) along with how they just didn’t succeed in making it fit the Switch’s multiplayer-central nature, I can’t really recommend this title to anyone outside of hardcore hi-score chasers and fans of games in this genre. It is an amazing experience when going solo, and anyone can pick up and play it, but add another player into the mix, and everyone must be on your toes, for better and for worse. I give Wild Guns Reloaded a 6 out of 10.