Wild Gunman
  • Genre:
    • Light Gun Shooter
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 02/18/1984
    • US 10/18/1985
    • UK 02/15/1988
Score: 70%

This review was published on 10/04/2016.

Wild Gunman is a light gun shooter video game published and developed by Nintendo. Originally, Wild Gunman was an FMV arcade game created by Gunpei Yokoi in 1974 that utilized a light gun connected to a projection screen. A toy of the game called Custom Gunman came out a few years later. Eventually, a remade version of the game arrived on the Nintendo Entertainment System, which replaced the photorealistic FMVs with cartoony 8-bit sprites. The NES version was originally released in Japan on February 18, 1984, United States on October 18, 1985, Canada on February 3, 1986, and Europe on February 15, 1988. An unreleased arcade version of Wild Gunman also briefly appeared in the Back to the Future Part II movie. In any case, Wild Gunman is fun in short bursts, but gets old pretty quickly.

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The NES version of this game requires an accessory known as the NES Zapper, which is a controller that's shaped like a laser gun. In addition to being sold separately, the NES Zapper was bundled with the NES itself and a cartridge containing the Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt games. This bundle was referred to as the Nintendo Action Set and was available in North America. Together with Wild Gunman, Duck Hunt was one of the first games to support the NES Zapper. In Japan, some copies of Wild Gunman came packaged with an accessory that resembled a Colt Single Action Army revolver that could be used instead of the NES Zapper. Regardless, the NES Zapper is classified as a light gun, meaning it detects light. With this highly futuristic device, players are able to physically point at their television screens to shoot stuff within the game. Unfortunately, it only works on CRT televisions, so modern stuff like LCDs are out of the question.

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In the standard modes, the game play is disgustingly simple. A presumably wild gunman or two will slowly walk in from either side of the screen, and when they tell you to fire, you pull the trigger on the NES Zapper as quickly as possible. If done quickly enough, you'll successfully shoot the gunman or gunmen and move on to the next round. However, if you're too slow on the draw, then you'll get shot instead. Shooting too early is considered to be a foul, which also counts as a loss. Lose too many times and the game is over. Your remaining lives are represented by the number next to the tiny gun icon at the bottom of the screen. As you kill gunmen, you'll gain more points and money. There's no end to them, so you simply go for as long as you can to get the highest score. Basically, it's an endless game of quick draw. There's really not much more to it than that.

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There are around four different wild gunmen you'll encounter in this game. Each one is dressed differently and has different expressions. As the gunmen walk onto the scene, they'll expose their personalities through their cartoonish animations. For example, there's this guy with a nervous look on his face, showing that he's not very confident in his gun slinging skills. Whenever you shoot a gunman, they'll also have a unique "death" animation. Some of these animations are comical, like how one guy's hat gets blown off to reveal the baldness he was shamefully hiding, and another guy's belt gets shot off, causing his pants to fall down. The different gunmen and their funny reactions add personality to the game. It'd be nice if there were more of them, though, because the game cycles through the same ones repeatedly.

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Three game modes are available, though two of them are pretty similar. Game A has you go up against one gunman at a time, while Game B is basically the same thing, except it pits you against two gunmen at once. With Game A, you don't even have to bother aiming at the gunmen; as long as you point the gun anywhere on the screen and pull the trigger at the right time, you're golden. That's not the case for Game B. Because two gunmen will approach you at the same time in Game B, you actually have to aim at the appropriate side of the screen to shoot them, though you still don't have to be terribly accurate. Also, Game B has a twist wherein sometimes one of the gunmen won't draw his gun at all. If this happens, you have to avoid shooting him and simply wait it out. This adds another layer of challenge to the ordeal. Due to that added depth, Game B is more interesting.

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Game C differs greatly from Game A and Game B. This one functions more like a shooting gallery, as you'll be shooting gunmen as they randomly appear out of a building. There are ten gunmen per wave and you have only fifteen bullets to take them all out, so you have to aim accurately. You can't take too long to aim, though, because they'll shoot you dead if you don't take them down fast enough. As with the other modes, the waves are endless, so you simply keep playing until you lose all your lives. While this mode has less personality, it's far more engaging from a game play standpoint, because you're doing a lot more than simply pulling the trigger at the right time.

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Wild Gunman is a bit too simple, even for the early-to-mid 1980s. Its primary game modes consist of nothing more than pulling the trigger at the right time. The only reason it's at all fun is because you're using a plastic gun instead of a controller. Without the NES Zapper, this game would quickly lose its appeal. That's another thing; there's no reason the NES Zapper should be necessary for this, as what you're doing isn't any different than pressing a button on a controller. However, the game is brimming with personality and polish, which do make the incredibly simple game play more endearing than it should be. Even so, this game is easily bested by Duck Hunt.

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