The Wild West. A land with no rules and where the strong survived. It’s a time that video games before Sunset Riders don’t touch on enough to be honest. We have a few in the modern era now, such as Red Dead Redemption or Call of Jaurez. But there were little games back in the day set in this time frame, closest that comes to mind is Wild Gunman back on the SNES. Hardly a fitting tribute to the Cowboy era as classic as the game was. There wasn’t anything out there that made you feel like you were in the shoes of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Space adventures and fantasy games had taken centre stage.
One game came along and changed all of that, taking all of the run and gun action and adventure of the Wild West, and placing proper tribute to the era. From dual wielding shotguns, riding on horseback and sliding around to dodge swarms of bullets trying to stop you from saving the day. This game had everything you could ever want when it comes to action and adventure.
Click the music clip below while you read the article as it should enhance the reading experience! The soundtrack is well worth a listen, but we’ll cover that further down.
This one comes straight from the team at Konami. They even hold the crown in the genre this game is based on, Run and Gun. Why is that? Because Konami made Contra of course! The game we are focusing on today is a lot like Contra, Metal Slug, and Gunstar Heroes, games that has loads of love behind it, but never seemed to really get the same level of praise as the previously mentioned titles. It’s a shame too as the game is a damn good fun and loads of fun to be had.
We’re looking at Sunset Riders.
Sunset Rides tells a very simple tale, something common place during the old school days. No need for complex plots about the development of Metal Gear or what sort of RPG adventure you would be embarking on for the day. None of that, you had some bounty bunters that were after some bad guys, so it was time to bring them in for some sweet justice. You didn’t play as just one lone bounty hunter however, no no. You had a few options. You could chose between four colour coated bounty hunters to take on the mantle of to hunt down these baddies.
Steve, Billy, Bob, and Cormano. If you can’t be bothered to call them by their names, just do what I did as a kid and address them by colour instead. I think I just liked calling Cormano ‘Pinko’ as a child. But regardless, these are your choices, and don’t worry about character or backstory! They don’t have one. They are the catalysts for you to shoot some guys up to no good. The best was that the choice did actually matter, you see two of our heroes had a specific play style to choose from that might just suit you better if you didn’t like the other.
Steve and Billy used Revolvers. These could shoot bullets that are quite quick and have some real power behind each shot. Where as Bob and Cormano had a trusty shotgun and sprayed a much larger bullet stream that hit a larger area, but you had to be a bit closer to get the full power of that era of effect. So the choice was down to you on what sort of play style you preferred. Regardless though, you were in for one hell of a ride. Don’t forget either, it’s a multiplayer game too! So you could team up with a friend anyway, so if you wanted to both use Shotguns, go ahead! Or maybe use Cormano and Steve? Revolver and shotgun dream team!
Sunset Riders is a pure 2D adventure. There’s no 2.5 D or mode 7 effects going on here. It’s not a bad thing either. The gameplay is very simple, you can move left and right, shoot in all sorts of directions, and jump up onto nearby scaffoldings if you need to. Your role is to dodge the bullets and deliver them back tenfold. So you’ve got to use twitch reactions to slide away, run away, and jump away from the swarm of bullets that’ll be coming your way.
You don’t have a choice in this one either. This is classic Arcade style action. No life bar, no health packs, no chicken hidden in any bins. One hit, and you die. So you’ve got to keep on your toes, rack up those extra lives, and kick some serious butt. Especially due to the layout of game. You’ve got 8 stages and a boss to fight at the end. The bosses are harder each time as well, in Sunset Riders, harder means more bullets and mayhem to dodge and keep on top of. You don’t get a break with this game, and that’s the fun of it all. Either sitting on your own, only focused on beating a particular stage or arguing with someone while you both debate who really got the high score in the last level.
It’s not just a section of walking stages either. You have everything from horseback levels, shoot outs to earn power ups, and so much more. The stage transitions during boss fights are the best, when they are about to wipe the entire lower floor with bullets and you jump to a top deck area to fire right back at them after a twitch reactions, there is nothing else like it. Heck, one of my personal highlights in terms of variety was in the very first stage when you encountered a herd of running bulls that you had to jump across to avoid death. I’d never had that sort of moment in a game before, and to avoid ending up like Mufasa, I knew what I had to do. It was just different and fun as hell.
Let’s also not forget the soundtrack either. It was composed by Motoaki Furukawa, a little known Konami composer who worked on a few of their titles such as A-JAX and Twin Bee. He’s got his own little company now and is doing well for himself. He made some rather iconic tracks for the game, the intro music grabs you straight away and sets the tone for this western classic. My personal track has to be the first stage music, as I found myself pulled in the moment I was thrown into the first stage. It’s seriously catchy, don’t believe me? Here, have a listen right here!
Hear what I mean? The music is just killer. The whole game is like that, and I often find myself just listening to the soundrack to get myself pumped up whenever I need it.. Once you play through Sunset Riders, you’ll see what I mean.
The boss battles were pretty insane. If you though the difficulty was hard on the normal stages, then you haven’t played anything yet. Each boss has a perspective change, where you often have them stood on some Saloon ready to fire a hailstorm of bullets down your way, and they often have a few goons with them to add in the gunfire. But with a lot of focus, you should be able to handle them just fine.
But don’t blink too often, as one wrong move and they will easily take a bounty out on you instead. You don’t want the bad dudes to win do you? Another factor I love about the bosses is just how self aware the naming conventions they set in place for each of them, from a Native American named Chief Scalpem’ and a man on a horse named Dark Horse. There is something that just tickles me pink about that now in 2016.
But it’s no good just talking about the bosses, let’s me break down some of the bosses you’ll run into!
Hawkeye Hank Hatfield
The Smith Brothers
Sir Richard Rose
Sunset Riders started off in the Arcades, it made for the perfect Arcade game really. Since you and a bunch of your buddies could start wasting your precious 50ps every time you died until you finished the game, talking about who the best bounty hunter is between you and your mates. But due to the popularity of the game, it was soon decided to that it needed to be ported over to home consoles. What consoles were those? The Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis of course! Now the Arcade experience couldn’t be re-created on either systems, but one got a bit closer than the other…
The Super Nintendo version was as close to the experience as you could imagine, it didn’t have the same graphics as mentioned, but was just a straight up port of the Arcade version. Although you could only play with 2 players at the same time, unlike the arcade where you could have 4 buddies playing at once. The Super Nintendo had a few edits too in terms of the women in the game being more conservatively dressed, where as exposed ankles were in the Arcade version, you suddenly had Sunset Riders: The Amish Edition with the normally risqué ladies covered up to preserve the innocence of the children!
The Mega Drive version however was so much more different… the graphics were different, and the difficulty was lessened, to call it the same game is a bit strange. You also couldn’t choose between the 4 Bounty Hunters the Arcade and SNES version had. Instead you could only choose between Billy and Cormano. It just felt like someone missed all of the big points on what made Sunset Riders work. There was one element that I enjoyed from the Mega Drive version, and that was the 2 player versus mode you could engage in, where you could battle it out with a buddy. But all in all, nothing really had the same impact that the Arcade version had, but the SNES is the closest that you can find.
The Arcade version is the ultimate version though. As we mentioned, playing with four of your friends at the same time with everyone using their choice of a Sunset Rider is the best fun in the world that you could possibly have to be honest. The artwork was stunning on the cab as well, classic Konami in play. The graphics were clocked really well, you had some impressive fire effected, backgrounds that were done with impressive detail, as a fan of classic spritework, it’s a great example of high end graphics from Arcade games. I like to compare it to some of the higher end PC Engine titles really. Not that Konami Arcade games needed the help anyway.
You can grab a copy of the game on it’s own for anywhere between £15 to £25. Maybe a bit more if you grab it boxed. There are a bunch of places that you could find it, but normally you find the game cart only, and not the boxed version that you’d expect. Hunt hard enough and you’ll find a boxed copy. Another interesting note is that the game was only released for home consoles in the US and EU, so there isn’t a Super Famicom port of the game or anything. It might be due to the heavy western content that it didn’t get ported across, but no official word is available online regarding the subject.
The Arcade Machine will set you back a pretty pound however, as the full machines are not only just quite rare to come across especially if you aren’t in the states, they go from 2k to 4k pound wise. So needless to say, you better have the dough before you go looking to buy the proper cabinet. But it’s worth it due to the design and honestly, there was some serious power going on with the Arcade version. Besides, can tell you right now there aren’t a lot of people in the world who have a Sunset Riders arcade machine, so why not be one of the few?
How To Play It Now
Sunset Riders is nothing short of fantastic. You get a really fun and colourful action run and gunner that is a blast to play with a buddy, you don’t really have to worry about being bored when it comes to this game. In terms of ways to play it, you have a few options off the bat. The game isn’t up on the Virtual Console for some strange reason, not quite sure why. Given the recent treatment of Castlevania lately, Konami seem to have a knack for ignoring their best properties. Which is a shame as they hold some really fantastic properties under their umbrella.
But my personal way to experience Sunset Riders is the way I play most of the games I already own. Emulation. You have a number of choices that just depend on the type of person you are honestly. I cannot get along with playing Sunset Riders on my phone, even with a Bluetooth controller add-on, it just isn’t going to happen. The PC works alright, but my favourite method has to be using a hand-held emulator. I’m talking a GPD XD or a BLAZETab to play this classic.
I made this point last time in my SEGA Game Gear retrospective, which you can read here . But I honestly feel that handheld gaming tablets really offer the best experience for most titles. I’m not just saying that either, I owned a JXD well before I even started to work here. You know what I played all the time on it? Games like Sunset Riders and more. I honestly recommend checking out our selection of Android Tablets to see what might be the best choice for you. Click here to look at our entire line of tablets. Click here if you want my personal suggestion, the GPD XD. Which has trumped the JXD for me now and just a load of fun to play games on
In closing, Sunset Riders is one of the greatest Run and Gun games made. Not just because of it’s characters or anything, because of how well it nails down fun gameplay. It’s exactly what a video game should be, what many of our beloved retro classics are, easy to pick up and play games that you can lose yourself in for a good hour or two. The best part about Sunset Riders has to be the multiplayer element however.
I cannot begin to describe the level of fun you can have when you have your friend or family member playing alongside you. I actually often use Sunset Riders as a good way to break the ice with someone I don’t know, pitch the idea of a gaming night, play a session of Sunset Riders, and you should have grown much closer. Maybe a bit further apart if the other person is terrible. But if your friend is bad at Sunset Riders, then you don’t REALLY need them.
If you’ve never played Sunset Riders before, now is definitely the time.