The NES Zapper saw over a dozen compatible games back in its day. As a console launch title, does Wild Gunman still hold up or is it nothing more than a baby's toy? You do have to use your hands, after all...
Before I get to the review, I want to say that I love retro light gun games. In fact, I still own an old CRT television just so I can play them. My collection of NES Zapper games includes Hogan's Alley, Duck Hunt, Gumshoe, Barker Bill's Trick Shooting, Freedom Force, Gotcha!, To the Earth, and Operation Wolf; but for some reason, I never played Wild Gunman. When I saw that it recently arrived on Wii U's Virtual Console, I had to try it out to see what it's all about. Now that I have, I can't say that I'm impressed. It's basically a quick draw game where you try to shoot your opponent before they shoot you. You've probably played similar mini-games countless times before. So, where does this retro western shootout go wrong? The simple answer is that it isn't really much of a game so let's explore why.
First of all, the graphics are actually pretty decent. The backgrounds could definitely use some variety since all you get is the exact same desert scene throughout the entire first two modes while the third mode only has a generic saloon front. What it does right is its humorous characters. It still makes me smile how they walk awkwardly towards the middle of the screen then you shoot their hats off or make their pants fall down while they exclaim, "You Won!" They also say "You Lost!" or "Foul!" if you shoot before they reach for their gun. It's funny in an absurd retro sort of way which you'll likely agree is the best part of the whole game.
Wild Gunman consists of three modes. Game A simply involves shooting bandit after bandit. It's incredibly easy to the point where it gets excruciatingly boring which makes it a complete waste of time. Game B is by far the best of the three modes since it has two bandits come on screen at once. Sometimes, only one of them reaches for his weapon so you really have to be careful that you only shoot the right one at the right time or else you wouldn't look like a very honourable cowboy, would you? Although it's the only mode worth playing, it's still mind-numbingly basic. Game C is where you shoot members of a gang who pop out from a saloon's windows. The problem with this mode is that it's insanely difficult. You have to shoot each one almost instantly before they shoot you so your best viable option is to try and memorize where they'll pop out next in order to be completely prepared.
Now that I've described all three included modes, one looming question remains. Why the heck do you need a light gun for this game? You don't even have to aim it at the bandits. In Game A, you just need to shoot anywhere on the screen and in Game B you shoot either the left or right side of the screen. Game C is the only mode that benefits from using a gun but considering the bandits merely pop out from a handful of predefined locations, why not just map them to the buttons? Seeing as other games in the genre require you to aim at moving targets, it bothers me as a light gun game fan that using the gun here simply feels like a waste of effort. Wild Gunman basically boils down to tapping a button as quickly as possible whenever you're prompted. In the end, it's not only a poor excuse for a light gun game, I would go as far to say that it's also one of the most mindless NES games ever created. Even if I played it back when I was a kid, I probably would have turned it off for good within a few minutes.
To put it bluntly, Wild Gunman is the worst NES Zapper game that I've ever played. Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley were also launch titles and those two are far more enjoyable. That being said, if you want to see a cowboy in his undies then this is the game for you.
- + The different kinds of cowboys' reactions and animations are quite funny
- + Game B is somewhat enjoyable
- - Overly simplistic gameplay that doesn't even benefit from being a light gun game
- - Game A is just plain boring and easy
- - Game C is way too difficult to be fun