Name: Gunman's Proof (Japanese Name: Gunple)
In the Year 1880...
Format: Super Famicom
Developer: ASCII soft
...a pair of meteors came streaking down towards the Earth...
They landed in the American West, on Strange Island.
One would think this would cause a huge ruckus...
But the people of that era were so busy scratching out their meagre livings that no-one though much of it,
and the incident soon passed from memory.
This was where our tale truly began...
- from the game's introduction
Gunman's Proof is a game very much in the style of The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past, although some elements are substantially different between the two games. Link's classic game was all about swordplay, whereas since this game is set in the American West, the default weapon is a pistol. Other weapons such as shotgun, machine gun, bazooka and flamethrower can be used once the character is taught how, and when an enemy drops the relevant pick up. Items are still found in chests, which look suspiciously similar to the Zelda chests.
The game is much more of an action game than Zelda 3 - there are no puzzles, very little brainpower required, and no wondering where to go next. It is always obvious what to do. Please leave intelligence at the door.
As the intro shows, the game has a Wild West setting, although god knows where exactly Strange Island is. It seems that strange monsters called Demiseeds have been terrorising the people who live in Bronco village in the middle of Strange Island. These Demiseed attacks began after the meteors struck Earth. It is revealed shortly into the game that the two meteors from the intro were two aliens, one chasing the other. A third meteorite happens to land almost on top of our main character as he is out happily gambling in the woods beside Bronco village. Two alien beings come out of their spaceship (not a meteor after all then), and they tell our hero that they are "Space Sheriffs from the far side of the Galaxy", Zero and Garo. They are apparently in hot pursuit of the space outlaw known as Demi. When the two aliens hear that creatures known as Demiseeds have been making trouble, they not that Mono may be here as well. It turns out that he is another Sheriff who went after Demi, but he has not been seen or heard since. the sheriffs decide something must be done, but unfortunately for the hero, they decide that one of them must "borrow" the Hero's body. Just like any severly unhinged person, the hero accepts straight away, so Zero absorbs himself into the hero, while Garo stays to fix the spaceship which is damaged after the crash. The rest of the game is played out as the Zero controls the Hero (he is nameless, like many RPG style game heros, and is named at the start by the player).
After talking to the hero's dad, and getting let out of the village, the Hero heads to the first Demiseed base. Each Demiseed base is handled like a dungeon in Zelda, except minus the puzzles. There is no key finding, or switch stepping on - the most advanced it gets is "kill every monster in the room to open the door." Depending on what games you normally play, this may be a breath of fresh air or another slice of boredom. I'm more used to puzzle filled games myself, so this is great.
The graphics are reasonable, although considering that another SNES games which came out the year before was Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble - which is infinitely more advanced in terms of graphics. The world map is very detailed and it is possible to plan a route around the island simply by pressing select. The world is probably a bit smaller than Zelda 3, and there is less to do, but it at least looks nice.
Sound is quite good - although there is a bug when you run the ROM using the Zsnes emulator which causes certain sounds to "hang" for a few seconds. This bug is not present with Snes9x but it doesn't affect the gameplay, so I use Zsnes still, on account of it being a lot better. The music brings back memories of the old classic western themes, and is a great accompaniment to the game.
Controls aren't bad, but with any game involving shooting, it feels that being able to shoot in 8 directions is just not enough. You can crawl on the floor (which causes most projectiles to pass over you) and, by holding one of the shoulder buttons, you can walk while keeping your gun pointed in one direction. As well as the aforementioned selection of weapons, your character can also punch, and he learns ever more powerful punches as he goes along (eg the Iron Fist upgrade allows you to punch ever harder things without it hurting). These upgrades are the only real items found - nearly all chests contain money, or "Treasure" which cannot be used, and simply adds to your score once you beat a dungeon. This confused me a lot, as I couldn't figure out how to use these wonderful items. Another confusing thing about the game is that I cannot work out how to save my game. I am currently playing using a save state. Anyone know how it's done?
The game was originally released only in Japanese, but our good friends at Aeon Genesis translations (http://agtp.romhack.net) have released a quite recent patch which makes the game perfectly understandable. The rom is quite rare on the internet: anyone who really can't find it, get in touch with me. It may help if you look for it on rom sites using the Japanese name, Gunple. The rom is playable on both Zsnes and Snes9x, and probably on a copier as well. I have no idea about the rarity (or lack of) of the original Japanese cartridge, but I would suggest Ebay as a good starting point in your search.
A final mention has to go to the way the characters speak in the translation. Classic western dialect it most certainly is. Play the rom, and you should see what I mean.