First off, before you start picking up and playing Gunslinger Stratos (hereby called GS), make sure you get your stretches in. Get your arms loose and work on multitasking. Get your adrenaline up because this game is straight nuts.
GS combines the ideas of a third-person shooter and an on-rails light gun game where you are shooting the screen. In this, you will do both at the same time. Most of this game is based around matching up into teams of 4 and playing team deathmatch in some rather spacious levels. There are no other objectives outside of shooting the enemy team. Once a person dies, their value is deducted from the team and the game continues. Once a team reaches 0, the game is over and the other team wins. Needless to say, it’s frantic, overwhelming and the skill curve is quite high. Your first matches will most likely involve you dying for all 10,000 points of your team’s value. It can be immensely frustrating with so much happening at once, but it’s also one of the most intense, enjoyable experiences in an arcade after you’ve mastered the controls.
If you enjoy high learning curves, crazy controls, and frantic shooting, then read on.
This is probably the most off-putting part of Gunslinger. To play, you need to master some pretty deep controllers. For starters, you weild two pistols, each with joysticks and your right hand has a jump button. Jumping is essential since each character can more or less fly across the map. If you aren’t jumping and gliding to dodge attacks, you’re an easy target for the enemy.
On top of the basic pistols, there are two other positions to master where you combine the pistols. For the first, you attach them side by side, which generally makes some kind of assault rifle or machine gun. The other, your right gun stacks on top of your left gun, making for your long range attack. This may be a rocket launcher, sniper rifle or perhaps even a satellite laser shot. Each character has three different weapons, which differ wildly. However, all characters use the controls in the same way. As a bonus, the connections are made magnetically, so you don’t have to be too precise for the guns to stick together.
Your left joystick controls your characters movement. Luckily, the camera is usually controlled by locking onto a target, so you don’t need to worry about finding who to shoot. Your right joystick will cycle through the different enemies if you move it left or right. Double tapping the jump button will cause you to dash in whichever direction you are holding. If you continue to hold jump, you will essentially fly around until your jump meter is empty.
Clicking both joysticks in will cause the camera to move to a traditional over-the-shoulder view, which makes hitting anything REALLY HARD. I only recommend this view when running away because dying will end the game. It’s easier to maneuver your character around the map, but targets will be moving at such a pace that you may as well not have guns. Last, if you click the left stick twice, you activate a “Burst Mode” where you do more damage and break out of any stuns or knockdowns.
If it’s your first time playing, don’t use a card. The only option available to you should be the tutorial, which is exactly where you want to start. It’s a lengthy 15-or-so- step process that can be followed pretty well by just looking at the illustrations. It will eat your 100 yen to play, but this is definitely better than going in blind.
Looking at the menu above, the red box is your standard PvP where you are matched with 7 others across the country. The orange box is for those who want to be teamed up with others in their arcade. The green box is the tutorial, and that green and yellow chevron denotes options for beginners. You may also find this icon on characters, gun packs and levels. The yellow option is for fighting the AI. Finally, the purple box is for special modes that are apparently all written in English. Convenient!
However, before you can even get to this menu, you must decide on your character. This is no easy task, as they give you pretty much nothing to go off of but a character sprite. My (extremely uneducated) recommendations would be to play Sarah, Akira, or Olga. These three have some relatively straightforward guns that work as advertised. Other characters may have weapons that target awkwardly, create weird effects, or outright suck for a new player. By the time I finished up in the arcades, my favorite character was Subject 07 because her guns were a bit strange but effective even if I didn’t aim well. I’d go into more detail about characters, but this post would get extraordinarily long, so let’s move on.
Each character has multiple weapon packs they can equip, but the leftmost option is what I consider the standard weapons. Go with the left option until you get a feel for each character and their playstyle. For the very advanced player, you can actually customize loadouts to your liking on each character, but this also messes with your value when killed.
After you play a game, you get ranked on your performance, and your character proficiency will go up or down certain amounts depending on the points obtained. Ranks go from E5 to SSS. Matchmaking can be extremely wonky, so I’ve had matches with teams of Ds and Es against a bunch of S’s. This can get aggravating, but it’s a learning experience.
Contrary to what you may believe, this game is very fast-paced. Characters are flying around the map at a rapid clip, and high-level players tend to target the lower ones. Therefore, movement is essential if you’d like to have fun with this. Unless using your long-range weapon, you should always be running, jumping and flying to avoid a quick death.
Targeting is denoted by arcing arrows coming off the person targeting you. I believe the color of the arrow changes depending on proximity to your character. If close, the arrow is an angry shade of red. If at a distance, or at least out of melee range, it’s a sunny yellow. You should probably target the person about to whip your ass unless you have some evil scheme to beat him. If multiple people are targeting you, I’d argue that it’s best to just run away until they figure out how much time they’re wasting. Two people targeting you means one of your teammates is free to take risks. As a side note, I felt like Japanese can smell fresh blood, so be prepared for two or three people targeting only you.
Jump meter is essential. If you don’t figure out how to manage your jumping, you’ll get in quite a few awkward situations where you gracefully fall to the ground and get exploded. It’s best to jump on high buildings, fire, then jump and fly off. Some characters can use their jump meters to dash across the ground on special vehicles, such as Ban’s wolf or Argo’s hoverboard. This is a new mechanic, and I’m not terribly familiar with it.
All guns have a set amount of ammo before needing to reload. You can do this in one of two ways. If you empty the clip, it will obviously reload afterwards. However, if you just don’t use the gun for a bit, it will reload those missing bullets in a fraction of the time. So, it’s best if you are swapping between all three guns to keep up your damage and reduce downtime.
Finally, I have no idea why, but most Japanese wait until they’re close to death to activate their Burst Mode. Perhaps it offers some form of defense, but I never really found much use for it other than recovery. Let me reinforce the fact that I read no Japanese, so Burst Mode could make me invincible, but I’d be none the wiser. When you think about it amidst all the chaos, don’t be afraid to pop it and forget it. Games aren’t longer than 5 minutes anyways, so mistakes can be made.
It may be best at the start to only play one coin at a time. Yes, you get one bonus game if you play two at a time, but you are stuck with the same character for all three games. Find one that fits your style, and stick with it until you get proficient. Some interesting mechanics that you might find fun:
- Lyudmila uses a weapon that calls in laser strikes from space. You target it through the overhead map and shoot down multiple lasers to either heal or hurt the people in range.
- Jonathan uses a mech to fight, which gives him a massive health pool and a wicked arsenal, but he’s also one of the most costly when he dies. Also, mechs aren’t exactly tough targets.
- I have no idea what’s going on with Kumi, but her preview video is worth the watch.
When matching with others, you must choose a map. I have no idea what the map difficulties mean because I just chose random every time. As a beginner, the map setup makes little difference and you may as well experience each one in all of its beauty.
This game is chaotic, to say the least. It can also be immensely rewarding you finally start understanding and working the controls and mechanics. There’s plenty of joy to discover in the characters and guns, so don’t be afraid to try different things.
The left joystick is movement and the right is targeting. Jump also acts as your dash when you click it twice, and you should always be moving. A little research before playing can go a long way in improving your experience.
This game was probably the best to really get that arcade experience. The controls are just crazy, and the experience is almost impossible to emulate in any other form. If you can’t get into this, then stick with the international games.