Konami’s arcade empire ruled a vast cornucopia of great ideas, clever licenses, and a few games that could be a little out there but were fun anyway. Their designers plumbed the depths of nearly every kind of game there was to be from shmups, run ‘n guns, fighters, sports, and more. You could always expect a Konami game to be exciting fun with tough challenges wrapped around great looking sprites and fantastic sound.
Sunset Riders in 1991 was such a game. Like Konami’s TMNT years earlier in ’89, up to four players could partner up as a posse of justice-seeking caballeros in a side-scrolling, Western-styled, shooter pitting them against a small army of bandits and bosses. Points were turned instead into cash and wanted posters let you know who the main guy was at the end of a level complete with a cash award to let you know how tough they were.
The areas were pretty creative. Though it was strictly side scrolling stuff, players could jump up onto balconies to get a better bead on foes or jump back down onto the ground. Other areas involved a kind of pseudo 3D duel as you moved along the bottom the screen to blast enemies in the upper half. Challenge stages in between the main ones, such as shooting a number of enemies in a quick draw sequence, kept players’ trigger fingers warmed with virtual gunsmoke.
Damsels could also be rescued and doors beckoned you to push up on the stick to see what was there. A second later, your cowboy could walk back out and take a swig from a tall bottle of good stuff and earn a power up such as dual pistols or rapid fire. Obstacles such as dynamite thrown by daisy duke wearing cowgirls, firebombs, and the creative boss fights themselves added to mix. I gladly sunk a lot of tokens into this one.
So it was only natural for it to get a port onto new consoles like the SNES and the Genesis. Both would get the game in ’93, but the versions were quite different from each other from the way the title screen dissolved into view to the way levels were laid out.
The SNES version was clearly the better one with an almost perfect copy of the arcade right down to the four characters available for two player excitement. The colors were rich, the sprites sharp, and the music was solid stuff even though the digitized voices from the arcade didn’t make it in. The Genesis version was still a lot of fun, though it was visually lacking compared to the SNES release with a shallower palette and fewer effects. The good news was that the levels were much longer, likely to make up for having four fewer bosses than either the arcade or the SNES versions, and had even come with a dueling mode for two players to go at it.
Both did share a degree of censorship via changes made to certain other elements. Instead slugging back a bottle as you could in the arcade after entering doors for bonuses, you just celebrated with a cheer or left with a barfly’s kiss. Dynamite throwing cowgirls were also gone (though the dynamite was still around, just tossed by someone else). In the SNES version, the Native Americans that attack you in a later stage were also replaced with outlaws instead.
But at the time, that didn’t matter as much as the fun which both versions delivered and which this ad from ’93 wanted to show off. Instead of splashing color and painted art, a live action scene was set up to sell the backdrop of the game for Genesis players alongside the screenshots and a pic of the original arcade stand-up. Sunset Riders had finally come home and regardless of the changes in either copy, Konami still made it a lot of fun in being a Western-styled Terminator. Even if you didn’t look like Clint Eastwood.