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Reviews (N-Z)

Sunset Riders

MANUFACTURER: KONAMI
1
991 (1-4 Players)


 

 

Overview and game play

“Yee-Haw!” is not a common sound effect in arcade games, but that’s what you will hear upon depositing a coin in Sunset Riders, a horizontally scrolling shooter with a distinct cowboy theme. The player (or players if in multiplayer mode) takes control of any one of 4 bounty hunters who make their way through various stages shooting enemies to eventually confront a wanted man who must be defeated at the end of each stage to collect a reward. Depending upon the stage, the players’ character can be moved in up to 8 directions, shooting enemies who approach the player with assorted weapons including guns, knives and arrows. Pressing button 1 fires the standard gun the player starts with. Pressing button 2 makes the player jump. By pressing the jump button and pushing up on the controller, the player can leap up to the second story of a building or on top of other moving or inanimate objects. The standard gun the player uses can be upgraded by collecting star shaped badges allowing the player to shoot two handguns simultaneously. Shooting certain enemies can reveal badges or they may be concealed in sacks along with gold.

Each level of the game has been well designed to offer variety and something interesting for the player to enjoy. For example, on stage 1, there is an open door that the player can enter by pushing up while outside it. The player closes the door behind himself and re-emerges either drinking from a bottle of spirits which he then throws away or with a woman dressed in lingerie who gives him a kiss making him turn red! Characterisation is further developed even when the player is inactive for a few seconds as he spins his guns on his fingers and replaces them in his holsters until button 1 is pressed for him to draw and fire.  As Sunset Riders progresses, the player is put in several different situations that add variety to the game play. The player must ride a horse on stage 2 and shoot enemies who ride their horses or who are riding on a nearby train. The player can climb up the sides of trains on ladders and even hang by his arms from a rope to move across a dangerous patch of land. A fun part of some levels begins with some chickens that run towards and then past the player from the right, followed by a heard of cattle heading straight towards the player. Text instructions appear telling the player to leap in the air to avoid being hit. If the player jumps in the air he will land on top of one of the cattle and he must continue running on top of the cattle until they are gone.

 

 

Upon encountering a boss character, the player must shoot the boss several times while avoiding the bullets of the boss and his cohorts. Different strategies have to be used depending upon which boss is involved and when they are defeated, each boss will say something funny. When some bosses are defeated, a brief cut-scene will play to give the player a rest and add value to the game by giving some meaning to the players’ endeavours. Although cut-scenes have been around in arcade games long before Sunset Riders was released, it is still a welcome and noteworthy addition as it adds to character development that enhances game play.

 

Graphics

The cartoon themed graphics and animations of Sunset Riders are good and add humour and fun to what could easily have been a boring shooter. The little details added by the games designers add a lot to the game play even though they are not necessary for the player to complete the game. On some stages a pitchfork can be found lying on the ground that smacks the player in his face if he steps on it. Some bosses drop heavy objects on the player and if he is hit, he is momentarily squashed flat on the ground as if hit by a steamroller! Other details include a blonde cowgirl who throws sticks of dynamite at the player. A text message appears telling the player to throw it back. If the player doesn’t throw the dynamite or get out of the way, he will be blown up in a large explosion leaving a charred version of the player with large, white blinking eyes similar to those of Wile. E. Coyote’s in the cartoon Roadrunner when he is blown up. Some bonus rounds feature graphics that are different from the standard viewpoint and require the player to shoot enemies who appear on a static screen from behind objects in a similar way to targets at a shooting range. The variety of graphic objects and viewpoints keeps Sunset Riders interesting and fun, as well as the varied backgrounds. Some simple parallax scrolling is used in stages where there is fast movement such as when riding a horse, to create the illusion of speed effectively.

 

 

When a boss character has been hit many times he slowly begins flashing red to indicate he is soon going to die and the flashing increases in speed, as he gets weaker. On some stages, as the boss nears death a red vulture circles around the screen waiting for its next meal. Such details are intended to enhance the game play experience and do so because if all the details are considered as a whole, they show that the game was well designed and obviously must have been thoroughly play tested before its release.

 

Sound

Sunset Riders excels in the sound effects department to create a western atmosphere that adds enormously to the game play. During the attract sequence a classical guitar plays to introduce the four heroes who each star in their own action scenes that could easily been seen in most western films. Chickens cluck, cattle rumble and guns blast all recognisably and all with digitised sound that adds much to the realism of the game and is of a high sound standard for 1991, when Sunset Riders was released. Sound effects have been added to just about every action that occurs in the game and this makes the whole experience of playing Sunset Riders noticeably more fun than games that have not had so much attention paid to their sound details. Humour is also evident in some of the sound effects and extensive amount of digitised speech used in Sunset Riders. Upon killing Simon Greedwell, the end of level boss of stage 1, he falls to the ground and pleads with his dying breath, “bury me with my money!”. Some of the other dialogue in Sunset Riders is equally funny and it’s worth playing the game just to hear it. The music changes to signify the presence of a boss character and his henchmen adding a commendable quality to the game.

 

 




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