I recently learned that Wild Gunman is a real Nintendo game and not merely a fiction of the Back to the Future Cinematic Universe. But in a way I was right, since the movie version — in which four gunmen appear on the screen at once at varying depths — does not exist.
|Comparison: Left is movie version, right is real thing|
The real Wild Gunman doesn't quite live up. It's almost a re-skin of Hogan's Alley, except worse. Like Hogan's Alley it's a reflex game more than a proper target-practice game like Duck Hunt. In mode A, the game doesn't even check the gun's position, but only measures how long it takes you to pull the trigger after the gunman says "Draw!" Shoot prematurely or too slowly, and you lose.
Mode B has two gunmen, and you do have to aim somewhat, as the two figures are on opposite sides of the screen. This mode is harder and comparable to mode A of Hogan's Alley, except the positions of the two (rather than three) characters are static. Sometimes one of the gunmen never draws, and you're penalized if you shoot him, like a bystander in Hogan's Alley.
Mode C is exactly like the building screen from mode B of Hogan's Alley, but instead of a plain building, it's a saloon, and there are no bystanders. As soon as anyone appears in a window, you shoot him. After playing Hogan's Alley, in which you progress through an alley of various screens, this seems shallow.
Every mode of Wild Gunman is inferior to Hogan's Alley. Mode A is embarrassingly lame (practically a baby's toy), since you don't even have to aim. Mode B is like mode A of Hogan's Alley with only two gunmen. Mode C is a slice of mode B of Hogan's Alley without bystanders to worry about. And Wild Gunman lacks the can-shooting mode C of Hogan's Alley altogether.
Despite its inferiority, Wild Gunman has one thing going for it: the visual design. This is a matter of personal preference, but I love the look of Wild Gunman. The HUD is clean and looks "old-timey." I like how it shows your reaction time in real time to the hundredth of a second! The sprites are memorably cartoony (though the Mexican looks stereotypical...). It's a lot cuter than Hogan's Alley, which I find drab and unappealing. Also, when you die, Wild Gunman plays that famous string of notes from Chopin's Funeral March! If you're looking for more of an "aesthetic" or emotional experience when playing 80's games, you may prefer Wild Gunman despite the sub-par gameplay.
Gameplay: Sporadically fun or niche (12/20)
Theme: Compelling, well designed concept and characters (20/20)
Controls: N/A (light gun game, 15/15)
Difficulty: Too easy, little challenge (unless you're a high-score chaser) (12/15)
Graphics: Beautiful, well designed graphics (15/15)
Sound: Repetitive, but still somehow charming (12/15)
"Unfortunately it gets repetitive quite fast, as all three modes are very, very simplistic and really don't have a whole lot to offer."
— Marcel van Duyn, Nintendo Life, 5/10
"It's a fun shooter experience, although the charm of the simple gameplay may wear off after a while."
— Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo, 3.5/5
"You won’t find depth here, but as a brief pick-up-and-play, it does the trick."
— Dylan Cornelius, Questicle, B-
"The game itself is ridiculously simple—it was barely enough to qualify as a standalone piece of software back in 1985. These days, it feels like the sort of thing that would be nothing more than a minigame within a much larger collection of games—and in fact, that’s exactly true, since Wild Gunman appears as a microgame in the WarioWare series."
— Jeremy Parish, NES Works