Gunple: Gunman’s Proof was developed by Lenar and published by ASCII Corporation in 1997. It was one of the last games to be released for the SNES and was only ever released in Japan. An English fan translation does exist, though, which means that non Japanese speakers can enjoy this wonderful game.
In essence, Gunple could be described as ‘Zelda with guns’ or a ‘Wild West Zelda‘, because – graphically – the game does have a lot of similarities to Nintendo‘s classic A Link To the Past. In fact: some of the background graphics, in my opinion, appear to have been lifted from the aforementioned Zelda game, which in reality is no bad thing.
Gunple starts off with a short intro and you naming your character, then it’s a case of figuring out what to do, which is relatively easy: you make your way out of the village and into the wilds, blasting anything that gets in your way, and ultimately finding a nearby dungeon, which you must clear out. Clearing the dungeon means working your way to the boss room and defeating the monster within, then taking the ‘Demiseed’ from the boss chest. Do this seven times, collecting all the Demiseeds, and this will then allow you to take on the ‘true boss’ in the final of the eight dungeons.
Between dungeons you return to your village and can upgrade your weapons at the gun shop, pick up special items from the local shopkeeper (when they become available, which is infrequently), collect monetary rewards for beating bosses, and also ask the Sheriff where to go next. And of course chat to anyone who is around, including your parents.
A number of things make the gameplay in Gunple different and enjoyable. For starters: you can duck, avoiding bullets fired by enemies, which is hugely useful. By holding down the L or R buttons you can lock your character into a firing position and strafe around, even firing diagonally (this is very useful). As you progress the enemies out in the field change and become harder to beat, increasing the challenge as you go, but that’s okay because your weapons get better as you progress too. The player character also has a punch move that can be upgraded as you get further into the game, and also three slots for bombs. After the first dungeon a horse character (called ‘Mono’) becomes available and can be called every time a defeated enemy drops a carrot. Riding around on Mono is much quicker than walking, and running into enemies while riding him will destroy them instantly.
Graphically and sonically Gunple is an absolute treat for the eyes and ears. I particularly like the Western-influenced music, which doffs its cap to everyone from John Ford to Ennio Morricone.
If you’ve never played Gunple before: I highly recommend hunting it down and giving it a go. The only criticism I have of it is that it’s maybe just a tad too easy, but the game is varied and long enough to deliver some serious gaming joy.