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Retro Fire

Written: 5.26.07
Acquired: 2.23.06
Status: Cart only
Price: $5

Pub: IREMNov '92

In 1991, GunForce made its rounds in the arcade. A two player run 'n gun romp, it was clearly inspired by the Contra brand. Was it as good? No. Still, it was a hit in its own right, and enjoyed itself a little cult following. Later that year the Super Nintendo burst onto the scene, and it was only a matter of time before the Irem blaster made its way to everyone's favorite 16-bit system

[HEY! -Genesis Nation]

                  Ooooh, sexy, this. In a rare
                  case, I prefer the US box art
                  over the Japanese one. Those
                  suits are horrible! Maybe the
                  US one is typical futuristic
                  robot warrior-y, but damnit if it
                  doesn't look better. I recall
                  being very tempted by the box
                  at local rental shops back in
                  late '92. But I never got around
                  to renting it as my brother
                  always (usually) won out (see
                  Memories of Renting for more)

                  The SNES port has a very bad
                  rep. I guess Contra III spoiled
                  everybody, eh? Despite the
                  severe lashing this game has
                  received, I wanted to see for
                  myself. Long story short...
                  is GunForce... THAT bad?

                  In my humble opinion... on the

                  [Bloody Hell -Ed.]

That was the short story... now here's the long version...

The game greets you with
this basic yet spiffy cross
title thingy

                                          A nice sparkle mark
                                          if I ever saw one

                                          There's none finer

Battle Fire Engulfed Terror

*breathes* Island!

Before we hit the game proper let's observe the all-important weaponry, of which there are five:

This is ye standard shot. Actually
pretty damn effective. You can also
upgrade this to auto fire (that's two
guns there, for those keeping count
at home)

                              The Laser is powerful
                              and quick. It gets my
                              hearty approval

What the Flame Thrower
lacks in range it makes
up for in sheer wicked

                              Oddly named the Bazooka
                              (eh?) this blue bolt unleashes
                              Hell on Earth. It can take out
                              a CROWD of baddies in one
                              fell swoop


Here we go...

                                        Yip-pi-kay-yay Mot
                                        [I don't think so -Ed.]


OK, the Japanese depiction
is technically more accurate
of your protagonist... I'll give
it that much

                               Enemies can touch you and
                               vice versa. The only way to
                               die is by gunshot or falling
                               into a pit

Enemy vehicles
flash when hit......
ah, gaming's most
simple & timeless
pleasure eh?

See how long you can have a tire rolling around while fending off the bad guys. Game within a game! Ace

Look! He's shooting at
his own friends, the git

"With friends like this,
who needs enemies?"

Ahhhh, indeed. Now I
finally understand that
damn quote

Video games, I salute
you *salutes*

Gaming's 2nd classic and timeless simple pleasure: Loud and satisfying explosions

Hitch a ride!  There are several
machines to utilize throughout

Oh how I *LOVE* the smell of na -- [Don't even go there -Ed.]

The animation for ascending
ladders can be summed up
in two words: Nature calls

                         Now this is what I'm talkin' bout!
                         You can either shoot from the
                         helm there, or grab hold of the
                         stationary gun and let 'er rip!

I much prefer the
laser gun!  

Abandon ship, abandon ship!

The very 1st boss. All the
bosses are mechanical
except for the last one

They're all quite easy and very
fun to dismantle. Take out the
turrets first if you please, or
simply go for the quick kill

The 'Brass Knucks' is the main component of this fella 'ere

Of course, I much prefer taking my sweet time before I go for the heart

Hmmmmm, kinda looks like a wrecked
plane that dove deep underground, eh?

["Uh, it wasn't me, Mr. McD!" -Launchpad

After each mission the bloke sends a message over... er, over

He has to be talking to someone, right? I tracked down the person on the other side of the line... let's listen in...


Love how this stage starts
off. Dispose of those bums
and break open the "security"

                                   ....... And make your way
                                   through this death factory

Crates usually contain guns,
ammo or points. They make
a sweet sound when shot at

                             Man, if I ran this factory the
                             interior designer would be the
                             first to get the axe. Sheesh!
                             At least put up some glow in
                             the dark stars or something!

                             [I was thinking it could use a
                             Scarface poster myself -Ed.]

Hey, he asked
for a light, OK?

                                               Jump over the pit
                                               and onto the lift

Seriously, this crate-destroying business is oddly fascinating, not to mention rewarding

It's like shooting
fish in a barrel!

                             Make short work of the sniper
                             up top, and proceed to boss
                             numero two

The eyeball controls this mad operation. Decimate all that stands in your way!!

But don't get overzealous! The bombs are NASTY!  [You know, back in 'NAM... -Ed.]

Ah-ha! The eye's been exposed!
"Eye" see you! The aye's have it!
[One more bad eye pun and you
will be seeing double... -Ed.]

This really is.... pretty damn sweet stuff. Scorch 'em all to Hell....

Two down, three to go!

Let's listen in now...


You can simply let this fly by unharmed.... s'yeah, right!

The Bazooka is absolutely devastating! One shot can go through many baddies!

It's by far the most powerful gun. It decimates the opposition in no time flat

You have the choice of taking
the machine lift there, or the
good ole fashioned hand over
hand method. From here you
can shoot as well

                                 This one comes equipped
                                 with its own laser gun, ace

You gotta love these 8
versus 1 moments. At
the very top Boss no. 3

                                ... And those bad guys you
                                evaded just moments ago?
                                They don't quit so easily!

The dishes send forth some sort
of red projectile, but they're easy
to avoid. Just duck, kill the drones
and chip away at the towers

Once again let's go to the walkie talkie...


Nice way to kick
start a stage eh?

                                 Shoot in any of the eight
                                 directions you wish as you
                                 climb the ship's ladder

.... Luckily you've the quickest finger in the West... or something

     As the song goes...

     The Kids Aren't Right

There's gotta be a cloning
device in the basement or
something!  Sheesh...

                                 You can never tire of using
                                 the Flame Thrower, nope

                            Boss number four. A bunch of
                            turrets to destroy, sometimes
                            baddies storm out of the two
                            pods there as well

The second form is
even more deadly

.... But not nearly as deadly as you! Skip the Flame Thrower, you need range on your shot

One more time, here's listen in...


Must have taken IREM forever to come up with all these stage names eh?

Looks like the very first
stage but at sunset

Another shameless shot of a mighty nice explosion

It's a shame you can't drive
it. Better have a quick trigger
finger here!

                                        Oddly, the bullets sail
                                        safely over your head.

This guy, however, doesn't have it as fortunate as you do...

                                Getting closer and closer...
                                board the elevator now

Can't we just all get along?

                       Very tough, this. Best strategy is
                       simply to high-tail it like a fugitive!

The very last machine you
can hop in is definitely the

Death on two legs, apparently

It has no match, none!

Just beyond that door there...
lies the final confrontation......

Now there's a face only a mother could love! Break the base open before the aliens fall!

Work toward shattering the glass on that slimy son of a gun!


Tired of hiding, our man decides to play the role of RAMBO -- "DIE YOU SCUM DIE!!!"

The aliens keep regenerating... forget 'em and concentrate on dino-breath!

A-HA! The deed has been done: Mommy and its eggs are no more! Hurrah!

Players who managed to beat this super difficult game were rewarded with a promising message...

[Wait-a-sec... -Ed.]

OK, the game's really easy and a sequel never came out for the SNES. However, in the arcades in '94 it did.... feast your eyes on this:

If you find yourself thinking Metal Slug it's because some of the programmers reportedly went on to have a hand in making the aforementioned fan favorite. One friend of mine calls GunForce II "The best game you never played"

Mighty praise indeed. What a shame that a Super Nintendo port never materialize


Recall that on vehicles you have the choice of firing your gun off on the side or manning the vehicle's central gun. Why is this so? This picture explains it all. But wait, the one player game suffers from some slowdown, and although I have yet to play it with a buddy I hear it's a nightmare with two


Take a look:

Ouch, the Flame Thrower lost quite a lot in translation =/

SNES port is "happier" and less gritty. Rats

Overall though, it's a faithful port. The levels are pretty much the same as are the bosses


In addition to the common complaints about the slowdown, another one is that the game is simply too damn easy. Something you might have missed is the difficulty option. The game has no 'proper' option screen. But if you press select at the title screen you'll have the choice of easy, medium or hard. Hard is pretty tough indeed


As stated in the beginning SNES players have not been kind to GunForce... neither were magazine publications, really

  • EGM: 4, 5, 6
  • GameFan: 42, 44, 45, 49
  • Super Play: 59%


Subpar graphics and music, a bit bland and generic (especially coming off the heels of the senses shattering Contra III), slowdown infested and lack of challenge. That's a lot of flaws. Some are very legit while others, I feel, are overblown. The slowdown wasn't as bad as I feared coming in. In fact, after a while I hardly noticed it, as it doesn't affect gameplay much. Instead, I was enjoying a mindless blast fest

And, much to my surprise (a pleasant one, mind), the game grew on me in the sort of way you can't really explain. It doesn't play great or even good, but it plays well enough to be strangely enjoyable. While the music is quite dire, the sound packs a punch (explosions, crates, etc.). Yes, one can finish it in just 20 minutes, 15 if you manage to hang onto the stronger weapons throughout, but that's also what I like about it. It's a quick, mindless, enjoyable run 'n gun. The bosses don't have Konami shaking in their boots, but they're extremely fun to take out. The last boss is pretty memorable, even if it doesn't come close to sniffing the jock of some of Contra's classic, epic end-of-level guardians

To borrow a cliche GunForce is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Don't get me wrong, it's not a great game by any means, but for what it does it does a lot better than I thought it would. And bloody hell, I just enjoy playing it to kill 15 minutes (not to mention about 200 baddies along the way as well)

I guess I'm in the minority, then. GunForce is like a Snickers bar. You won't want to eat it every day, and it's definitely no substitute for a fine steak dinner (that being Contra III), but it's the sort of thing that makes you smile in a guilty-pleasure manner

Aw shucks, you're
too kind, too kind...

Graphics: 4
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 5.5
Longevity: 5.5

Overall: 5.5