#FridayRetro: Sunset Riders | LevelUp

I welcome you to this new year! Over time, the list of titles that can be part of this nostalgic weekly segment grows. The game with which we will open this January 1 is one that in 2021 celebrates 20 years of having appeared in the arcade. I mean Sunset Riders, a real delight for fans and not so fans of the western genre.

Once again we stumbled upon one of the great classics that I met at the already well-known and much-mentioned pharmacy in #ViennaRetro. For me it always had all the successes: it was from Konami, it had a very well achieved setting, the music made you feel like you were in a John Wayne movie and the game mechanics transported you to the world of outlaws and bounty hunters. A special point was that, among the 4 characters to choose from, there was one who wore a poncho and had all the look of a Mexican. In those days it was very rare to see something Mexican in a video game, besides that it was usually portrayed in an imprecise way, but Cormano was a pleasant character who also gave an air to the late Gonzalo Vega.

The initial sequence could not be otherwise: a duel between 2 cowboys in which the one who wears the red hat comes out gracefully and raises his head revealing his face. It’s about Steve. Then another gunman appears with a weapon in each hand, eliminating a couple of subjects. His name is Billy Cool. Finally a couple of friends can be seen opening fire. In the foreground is Bob, who is carrying a rifle, while in the background is Cormano Wild, who, as we said, wears a Mexican poncho and, obviously, a hat. His weapon is a powerful shotgun, which for me is the best in the game. I mean, it’s not because I’m Mexican, but things are the way they are. As a curious fact: Billy and Cormano were given last names in the Sega Genesis version, since they originally did not have it.

Sunset Riders is a cooperative shooter where you rarely stop having action. Obviously, the best experience is to play it with 3 other people in the arcade, which is possible with the version that is on sale in the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch. However, the port of Super Nintendo, which inspired me to write these lines, is a great achievement that is quite close to what had been experienced in the slot machines a couple of years ago. It is important that you know that the Nintendo Switch version contains both the Japanese and American arcade game, as well as a couple of online competition modes: one in which you must reach the highest score before losing all your lives and another in which you have 5 minutes to make the most points.

I remember that from the first time I played, my character to choose was always Cormano. It should be noted that in the 4-player arcade version you did not have the possibility to choose, but the character to use depended on which slot you deposited your token or coin. In the case of Super Nintendo, where the game mode is for up to 2 participants, it is possible to choose whoever you like. Steve and Billy are very similar, although the second’s revolvers seem to be a bit more powerful. On the other hand, Bob and Cormano share a similar style and weapon, although the Mexican’s is more powerful. There is also an arcade version for only 2 players, but I never saw it.

It was never a difficult decision for meIt was never a difficult decision for me

There are 2 power ups that help you advance in the adventure: a silver star that allows you to have 2 weapons and a golden one that enables you to shoot by holding down the button. I don’t know about you, but I love it when shooters have that option; I think it is much more comfortable and I think it is more favorable for control by not having to push so much. Sometimes they also throw sticks of dynamite at you that you can return or simply avoid so as not to lose a life. A very curious obstacle that gives a very funny touch to the flow of the first level is a group of bulls that stampede past and over which you must run to avoid being eaten by the screen.

Speaking of this bull running action, Sunset Riders animations are of outstanding quality. The arcade ones are more detailed, but they were carried over very nicely to Nintendo’s 16-bit machine. For reasons of censorship, some things were omitted, but in general the art work was respected and even improved in some aspects, since some of the voices of the characters were re-recorded for this port, as well as subtitles, with which that we already knew well what each one said. In the case of the original installment, the animation when one of the characters is scorched by a bomb is remarkable.

In terms of phrases, Sunset Riders has several memorable ones, plus almost all of them are spoken with the characteristic accent of the Wild West. Many of them remained in the gamer historical heritage, such as the very Mexican “Adiós, amigo” by El Greco, which served as a replacement for the phrase “Die, gringo!” found in the original version. This detail reminded me of another Konami gem: TMNT IV – Turtles in Time, where each level is introduced with a catchy legend. By the way, I have to write some of that great game one of these days.

Cormano is about to change his hatCormano is about to change his hat

The enemies have a very strong personality and obey the stereotypes of the classic outlaws taken from western films. After my countryman El Greco, the ones I like the most are the Smith brothers, whom you confront in a cantina whose owner is terrified and asks for your help. You must use a large chandelier in the center of the room to go up and be able to attack each brother directly. When finished, whoever is left standing says “That was a bang!” and then fall off its platform and explode. Humorous details like these are very appreciated in a video game. Something that also attracts attention is that, when finishing with these enemies, the bounty hunters stay to see a dance show with the girls from the canteen, who reveal to them that Sir Richard Rose has 3 henchmen that must be eliminated.

Another curious wink can be seen in the last battle with Sir Richard Rose, who, after the first part of the duel, smilingly removes a metal plate that protected his chest. He reminds me of Clint Eastwood and, in addition, Marty McFly in the third part of Back to the Future. Another reference to popular culture comes from Paco Loco, who when he dies says “Hasta la bye bye”, which reminds us of the Terminator saga.

Among the different versions of Sunset Riders, the Sega Genesis is undoubtedly the most curious due to the marked differences it has. For starters, there are only 2 characters: Billy and Cormano. The levels were modified and divided into 2 stages, so that only 4 of the 8 original bosses exist. When defeating the enemies, they drop coins that at times make you feel as if you are playing something from Super Mario Bros. The bonus scenes are also different and the music and graphics are inferior in quality compared to their counterparts. Simply put, it’s a decaf delivery from Sunset Riders. One of the few successes he has is that he assigned a button to fire on the move and another to plant the character and shoot in different directions from a fixed position.

Here the choice is even simplerHere the choice is even simpler

Where can I play it currently?

Super Nintendo Cartridge Sega Genesis Nintendo Switch Cartridge ($ 150 MXN – arcade version)

Sunset Riders is a game with a great atmosphere, a good challenge and a good dose of fun. Back then the Konami label had a lot of weight in the industry and we all knew that their intervention usually resulted in something very good. With this western shooter they gave us an adventure that, although inspired by other pre-existing concepts, has a particular personality and is undoubtedly one of the greatest classics of the old school arcades. If you want to see a complete gameplay, here I leave it.

Remember that reading your comments is something of great value to me, so do not hesitate to share your impressions or anything else you have in mind. We will read to each other in the next #Retro Friday and have a very happy 2021.

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