Friday, July 27, 2012

NESquest #12 - Wild Gunman

(Wild Gunman, October 1985, Nintendo)

A game that debuted over a decade before it was released in the manner it is most associated with now and Marty McFly's favorite shooter, it's time to turn the clock way back and review one of the earliest of the Light Gun series, a zany little launch title, Wild Gunman.

Wild Gunman's main menu or how Kristen Stewart decided her nightly adventures when the glittery guy wasn't home?

In the 1970's, a new style of arcade cabinet was invented dubbed "electro-mechanical" games. These were highly advanced games for their time as they featured real moving strips of film on a projection screen coupled with light sensor technology. This innovation became more refined and with time evolved into what we now know as the Zapper. Consumers love nothing more than to shoot the shit out of things and the rail shooter genre remains wildly popular to this day with titles like House of the Dead and Time Crisis.

I'm pretty sure uppity parents would find something to bitch about with this one these days, touting how it felt like such a real gun and all.

Ironically, Sega was the first to produce and market these machines and Nintendo followed suit in 1974 with Wild Gunman. Using 16mm film and realistic guns, Wild Gunman was leaps and bounds ahead of the curve of what was available with the light gun genre. A real actor taunted you on screen as the intructions were given. When your adversaries eyes flashed, you fired. A direct hit was rewarded with real footage of your target flying through a window or a something like it but if you missed, the game was over. Wild Gunman was a hit, however maintenance and upkeep were expensive meaning once one of the cabinets broke, it was pretty much done for as the advanced technology became both a blessing and a curse because not many outside Japan were qualified to repair it.

The reward for being the fastest draw in the Old West is some quality shots of 8-bit gooch. Whee!

Fast forward to 1985 and Nintendo was looking for ideas for launch day Light Gun games and decided to re-haul Wild Gunman. The basics are the same, only presented in a more cartoonish 8-bit style that works out really well. Different variations of opponent walk out to duel with you for who knows why and just as before, when eyes start flashing, you start shooting. Unlike the R.O.B. title, Stack-Up, if you cheat the system here, deep down you're cheating yourself. Simply aiming the Zapper at the television the entire time your foe is taking his spot in the duel rips the fun right out of it. 

How freakin' awesome would it have been to rain that skull right on top of box art boy's noggin?

There are three modes of play, one with one dueler, another with two (think Duck Hunt), and a saloon mini-game which is a free-for-all as you don't have to wait for anyone to yell fire or show off flashy mutant eyeballs, just blast away. Chopin's "Funeral March" is a nice touch when you fail and no complaints can be levied at any of the rest of the soundtrack as it captures the feel of the game perfectly. The challenge of two duelers can be fast-paced and hectic and the saloon is the same wild style of just shooting whatever moves.

"I don't have to take this shit from a fucking Hobbit. One more word and Mr. DeLorean and I are paying a suprise trip to a baby ward around January 28, 1981."

8/10 I had just as much fun with this one as Hogan's Alley so it gets the same score. That being said, it's a completely different monster in that the strategy here doesn't require you to avoid targets. Even now, the moments of tension you get waiting for your future desert stain to yell "Fire!" is still tons of fun. The game is commonly known in pop culture for its inclusion in the hit movie Back To The Future 2 where a young Elijah Wood busts on Marty McFly's balls for using his hands to play it. Even more intresting is that Wild Gunman was never released as a "Vs." console as shown in the movie, making that cabinet a one-of-a-kind oddity to viewers in the know. It's a common cart so if you own Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley and never got around to Wild Gunman, hunt this one down and you won't be disappointed.

An old advert I found. Hmm, blood duel with Old West badasses in the most realistic game to date or shoot fucking milk bottles off a fence? I'm your huckleberry...

As an aside, if you live in the Houston area and want to try your hand at Wild Gunman, there are reports of a restored working cabinet in an arcade inside the Galleria. Let me know if you are ever in the area if it is still there!

Credit to for the flyer and cabinet information!


  1. Once again, I love how you go out of the way to give extra information about the game that other reviewers neglect. Great stuff and a most disturbing profile picture as well, good sir!

  2. LOL i actually have a fairly normal picture of me at an angle aiming a Zapper on every other profile but my pics are apprently too small for Google's profile so I had to roll with the most bizarre one I could find from my good ol' pro wrestling days (yes, I did, many years), Thanks for digging the review and, yeah, it took major digging to find pics of the old cabinets so I'm glad people are noticing. =)

  3. Huh, never knew that it was Elijah Wood in BTTF2...

  4. That's why I'm here home-slice! =D