Bodies Fall

Red Dead Redemption has been out and doing well for about a year now. Most adults buy this game and probably don't remember its 8-bit roots with the classic Gun.Smoke, kids borrow/rent it probably can't imagine its roots, and neither likely knows that Capcom had a part in the Red Dead Revolver prequel. Proof of this can be seen in the Undead Nightmare version with its dark, eerie zombie theme that mirrors Capcom's original design for Read Dead Revolver.

Some wonder why BADCP drops Capcom so much when referring to this series (past and present), and these proofs illustrate why (even though Rockstar has played its parts in its development). More proof is out there in rare screenshots and interviews with Capcom artist Akiman questioning its success, saying, "Our game is a strange game," adding that while "it's good to be original, maybe it's too strange." Undead Nightmare's success essentially answered the question of how successful a zombie western theme could be, and it's impossible not to wonder how well successful it would have been if it hadn't been taken out of Red Dead Revolver.

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Red Dead Roots
At the time of that Akiman interview, Red Dead Revolver was unique and risky, but it was following in the footsteps of Gun.Smoke as a spiritual successor.
Beneath its John Wayne Western-inspired box art, Gun.Smoke was like no other in its approach to the genre. I've never seen another game (or movie, for that matter) where a cowboy fights a ninja, boomerang-toting lunatic, and a gunner clad in knight's armor; one after another. The bosses weren't quite so much a motley crew as they were unique within the bounds of time. Sure, ninjas and dudes with boomerangs weren't typical of the western theme established by movies and media, but both fit a general timeframe in iconic traditional history.


Cowboys are iconic of American history, and similarly the ninja and boomerang are iconic of Japanese and Australian histories. Capcom's innovative planners drew logical parallels to make one, cohesive (yet familiar) western theme, and that is what made the game so special. Even today, very few titles attempt such an approach, and it's just not the same when they do. Why? Because even though Gun.Smoke put characters of different origins together, it never actually combines them. Ninjas were ninjas, cowboys were cowboys, and tribesmen were tribesmen; though agile, tribesmen aren't half ninja, and your character (Billy Bob) never uses a boomerang, nor does he ever ride a kangaroo instead of a horse. Likewise, Billy Bob never uses ninja moves, and nobody but the ninjas use ninja stars (or "Chinese stars" to youth of the 90s).


The knife cowboy enemy may leap across the screen with the agility of a ninja, but he's still not a ninja; no disappearing, no throwing darts, and no throwing stars. Though he may share the characteristic of a covered face, he's ultimately still a cowboy. I won't deny that part of the reason he looks cool is because of the ninja parallel with the covered face and dual knives, but I've still never seen a ninja in the boots/vest/hat cowboy getup. The ninjas move accordingly and use all the requisite weaponry, but what about the wandering, unmasked, gun-wielding (purple) cronies alongside them? It's possible they were intended to be ninjas, but unlikely (since they appear in a variety of colors throughout the game). All in all, each character has profound appeal because they are so much different than the character next to them.


You Can Have My Gun...
Capcom had a knack for creating immersive environments even back then, and the stages depict harsh elemental conditions of the Wild West while carefully placing obstacles that immerse the player further. Take a drive past the edges of town (if you live in the West) and be amazed at how closely Gun.Smoke's 8-Bit pixels resemble the real thing. They play the role of backdrop to the fastest, most chaotic shooting in any western-themed video game, ever. Your guns shoot literally as fast as your thumbs can go; all you see is bodies falling in your wake.
Gun.Smoke wouldn't be complete without equally immersive audio, and from chunky shooting and galloping horses, to the worrisome shopkeeper and "Little Banditos" themes, the game's memorable audio delivers.

...Bullets First.
The Japanese approach to the Western is what makes Gun.Smoke so uniquely cool. Fans of Red Dead Revolver and Red Dead Redemption owe it to themselves to see not just why Gun.Smoke is arguably the best Western-themed video game ever made, but how it paved the way for the former. There's no denying the Red Dead success and/or legitimacy as successor(s); both innately influenced by 8-Bit predecessor Gun.Smoke. Unorthodox design, tight control, furious gunning and memorable tunes were all combined into one cohesive package that make Gun.Smoke the best Western video game of all-time.

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