Wednesday, April 18

Review: Wild Guns Reloaded [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While there are many arcade shooters that are well-remembered and have had variations show up on consoles over time there’s one particular favorite of mine that hasn’t really been represented and its name was Cabal. There were some similar titles in the arcades called Blood Brothers and Nam 1975 but for the most part aside from those I can’t recall anything with quite the same feel. Each played more like a light gun game in its setup, with you working in a fixed space, but then you’d move both your character and target reticle with the joystick while enemies swept into view (though Cabal I loved for using a trackball instead). It wasn’t a style without its flaws but I enjoyed it for it being different. Wild Guns Reloaded in many ways feels like a spiritual successor to those games, borrowing its general style, but it then layers in some elements of its own that could go either way for people.

In Reloaded you (and up to 3 friends) will first start out by choosing your hero. For the most part the two in the center, Clint and Annie are the most traditional and straight-forward characters. On either side you have Doris, who rocks a mean grenade launching attack but is slow, and then the wild card, the dog Bullet whose robotic companion does the bulk of the damage and who has a degree of auto-aim to help compensate for the more unorthodox play style. Everyone but Doris will fire continuously when you hold down your fire button, but then if you tap quickly you’ll be able to sort of throw an electric lasso attack that will stun enemies. In the case of Doris she’ll charge up her attack, enabling her to throw up to 5 grenades at once if you’re able to wait long enough. On top of these attacks you then have a jump/evade button you can use to help avoid threats in a few different ways, and a special attack that you’ll need to use on a limited basis. If you’re able to play long enough and chain kills you’ll also eventually fill your meter which will temporarily make you quite formidable but as long as that takes to charge it comes into play pretty rarely unless you’re playing a pretty long session.

As you make your way through each area you’ll first tend to go through a timed phase where you’ll face a variety of enemies. Most of these into come view only briefly and you’ll need to generally shoot them a few times to bring them down. In general, you’ll be able to evade their fire if you don’t stand in one place too long and evade periodically, but as quickly as they can come and go you’ll generally be more successful when you’re familiar with the layout and places enemies tend to appear. You’ll always want to be on the lookout for power-ups, as they tend to make your life far easier even if they’re always limited in their ammo. In particular, if you’re able to get to a boss or grab ammo during the fight these can turn the tide of battle in your favor quickly as long as you can manage to stay alive. Every phase of each greater stage will tend to have a mini-boss of some kind to deal with and then at the end you’ll face off against the typically-formidable final boss.

While, for the most part, this all seems to be pretty typical on the surface it is the variations that both make it distinct and a bit aggravating at times. The most irritating aspect of the game is the lack of proper introduction it provides you to get started. If you go into a menu there’s a very brief summary of what each of your buttons do but the nuances between characters, the benefits and power of using your stun move, and anything more advanced you’re left to experiment with and figure out on your own. I worry this may actually turn some people away from the game before they even get started, especially if you’re trying to play with your friends. The second major shortcoming I found to be the controls, though for the most part this was an issue with the classic arcade games this is modeled after as well. Tying movement and aiming to the same joystick simply has downsides and creates unnecessary issues for control at times. I’d actually prefer that someone experiment with this style going with a twin stick setup instead, allowing for full and fluid movement while being able to aim at all times as well. While this setup can be managed it does at times create situations where you’re struggling to stay alive to the point where you simply can’t even hope to hit anything at the same time. I’d be tempted to say that, on the whole, the game is balanced too far to the hard side, and some of the later bosses are pretty cheap, but then again you can always opt to play through the game on Beginner skill to have continues that always let you resume where you left off, just like in the arcades.

Overall, there are actually a number of things I enjoy and appreciate about Wild Guns Reloaded, and I think it is a style of shooter that deserves more attempts to get right. The variety in characters was a great move and, for people who enjoy the game, it definitely provides a motivation to play through it multiple times since at least 3 of the experiences would feel quite different from one another. Perhaps people reading reviews will be better armed with knowledge before playing to overcome the needless learning curve hump, but even once you feel like you’ve got it under control that isn’t to say the control style doesn’t have its flaws. However, if you’re an old school arcade shooter fan, and are familiar with the games that inspired it, Wild Guns Reloaded is a pretty fun and nostalgic trip with just enough things it does differently that it sets itself apart, for better or worse.

Score: 7.5

  • 4 characters with 3 very different styles of play
  • A style of shooter you may not be familiar with
  • Great to play with up to 3 friends for a wilder time

  • The nuance of the controls and how they work for each character isn’t explained at all
  • Movement and aiming controls on the same stick at this point seems like an unnecessary limitation nowadays on consoles
  • The unusual controls and difficulty may turn people off