Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#139 – Wild Gunman

A Wild Gunman appears!

Title text is a little funky but it works.

To Beat: Win 0.4 Round in Game A, Win 0.6 Round in Game B, Win 20 rounds in Game C
What I Did: Beat Game A, Maxed out score in Game B, Beat Game C
Played: 11/2/19 – 11/6/19
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: Wild Gunman All Modes Longplay

It’s time for another Black Box game!  This iconic set of early NES titles is 30 games long, and I have now completed five of them.  Considering I’m just over 20% of the library completed, that’s pretty close to average pace.  Four of the Black Box games are Zapper games, and this is the second one of those I’ve played, the first being Hogan’s Alley.  The Black Box Zapper games are distinct from one another in playstyle, though I find it interesting that both Hogan’s Alley and Wild Gunman carry one major similarity between them.  To know what I’m talking about, you will have to read on!

Wild Gunman originally was an electro-mechanical arcade game released by Nintendo in 1974.  The game featured projection video on film of a gunslinger that you shoot when his eyes flash.  Depending on how quick you are to the draw, you will see another video of the outcome.  This version was brought to America by Sega (yes, Sega) in 1976.  The home version was released in a different year in four territories: Japan in February 1984 on Famicom, October 1985 in North America, February 1986 in Canada, and February 1988 in Europe.  This was the first Zapper game released on the Famicom, while it was released in North America alongside Hogan’s Alley and Duck Hunt.  There is a big box Famicom version of Wild Gunman that comes with a revolver-shaped Zapper gun and a holster to put it in for the most authentic experience.  Nintendo knew they could not get away with a light gun that looks like a real gun in America, so instead we received the futuristic looking Zapper light gun we all know and love.

Wild Gunman is a timed shooting game designed to play like an old wild west style shootout.  The first thing you’ll do is hook up your Zapper.  If you want to read more about how the Zapper works, I wrote up some information in my Operation Wolf review.  When you turn the game on there are three modes to choose from.  You can press Select on the controller to toggle between the modes, or you can fire your Zapper off-screen to adjust the cursor.  When you are ready to play, either press Start or fire at the screen.  The only other use of the controller is to pause the game.

I don’t believe I shot his belt off…

Game A is the standard mode most people think of when they know of Wild Gunman.  You are presented with a single gunslinger as he moseys his way to the middle of the screen.  Each gunman has a specified amount of time between when he draws and when he fires, as displayed at the top of the screen.  You have a timer as well that ticks up from 0.0s at the draw.  You wait until the gunman’s eyes light up and he says the word “FIRE!” in a speech bubble.  Then you draw your weapon and shoot.  You will knock him over if you fire first, then you can see how quick you were and how much time you had left to shoot.  Each gunman gives you reward money listed on the bottom of the screen as points.  You also get a thousand bonus points for every tenth of a second remaining.  You have three lives in this mode.  You lose a life if you get shot or if you shoot too early and cause a foul.  One interesting tidbit about this mode is that the game does not check to see if you shot at the screen, only when you pulled the trigger.  I don’t think any other NES Zapper games of the era worked that way, so you can play this mode on your modern TV if you want.

In Game B, you have to fend off two gunmen at once.  The same rules apply as in Game A.  Each bad guy has his own timer for shooting.  You wait until one of them yells “FIRE!” and then you shoot them both in the allotted time.  This go-around you must aim at the gunman you wish to shoot.  Sometimes only one gunslinger fires as you, so you will need to hesitate ever so slightly so you are sure to fire at just the one.  You lose a life if you shoot an unarmed gunman.  Both gunmen have reward money for points and you get the same time bonus as before for each shooter.

Game C is a different mode altogether.  This is a shooting gallery game that is very similar to Hogan’s Alley.  You are facing a saloon that has five entrances where gunmen appear.  One at a time a gunman will appear from a window or door and you need to shoot him as quickly as possible.  In each wave there will be 10 gunmen to deal with.  You get up to 15 bullets as shown on the bottom of the screen.  For each gunman you shoot, you will see a point total appear behind him that is added to your score.  The quicker the gunman shoots, the higher number of points you get, up to a maximum of 5000 points for the fastest shooter.  If you miss and get shot, you lose a life and must replay that wave from the beginning.  As in both the other modes, you get three lives for this one.

Uhhh, I think his head is gone.

This was my first time playing through Wild Gunman.  I’m pretty sure I was too lazy to test this cart out with the proper Zapper setup.  I knew what the game was pretty much, though having a shooting gallery mode did catch me by surprise.  (This is why I enjoy digging into these games, you never know what will surprise you.)  This cart was a tougher one to track down.  I know a local store had a poor condition copy for a decent price that I passed on.  I am pretty sure I snagged this one in a random eBay lot.  This is one of those games where complete-in-box copies are worth far more than just the cartridge.  Expect to pay around $15 for a loose cart and around $100 for CIB.

Wild Gunman does not have a proper ending in any mode.  The game keeps looping for as long as you can last.  When this happens, I get to determine my own winning condition.  I don’t like rolling the loop counter like the NES Ending FAQ suggests.  The high scores for this game are also very low and don’t feel suitable either.  TheMexicanRunner had the best idea for considering Wild Gunman beaten in NESMania, so a modified version of that is what I went with.  In Game A, the gunman with 0.4s timer is the quickest draw, so beating that wave is the requirement.  Similarly, the wave in Game B where the higher timer of the two gunman is 0.6s is the requirement.  It can either be 0.4s/0.6s or 0.6s/0.6s, both are virtually the same if you have to shoot both men.  Both Games A and B are randomized so you just have to play until you get the hardest wave.  Game C has the most proper ending of the three modes.  The text on the saloon sign changes when the wave is beaten.  Normally it says “Good,” however it displays “Nice” when Wave 10 is cleared and “Master” when Wave 20 is cleared.  That’s as far as it goes, so beating Wave 20 is the winning condition for Game C.

For my playthrough, I took things a bit further.  In Game A, I cleared 20 waves before intentionally losing.  Typically, the hardest wave comes after completing 10-15 waves.  I will note that I started off playing this game by attempting to treat the Zapper like a revolver on my hip, just like a traditional wild west shootout.  I was able to clear Game A that way but wasn’t fast or accurate enough for Game B.  For my longplay I pointed the Zapper toward the screen in all modes like I normally would. In Game B, I ended up rolling the high score past one million points before letting it go.  The hardest wave in Game B comes much later, and at that point it isn’t much of a stretch to just go for the million mark.  I stuck with clearing Wave 20 for beating Game C.  I had to record my longplay video for this game in a couple of stitched-together parts.  It may not be noticeable in my longplay video, but it is not a single-segment run.  I was able to clear Games A and B back to back with no trouble, but Game C needed several attempts to get right.  I also had to re-record Games A and B because I forgot to put my name tag on the pictures I took after Game Over.  I want the scores in the pictures to match the scores in the video.

You gotta be ready to handle two gunmen at a time.

Games A and B were pretty easy for me, but Game C really threw me for a loop in how difficult it was.  Some of the gunman in later waves appear to work on the same 0.4s timing as the quickest shooters in the other modes, and that is tough to handle when you also need to aim unpredictably.  But actually, that isn’t true because I realized that the gunmen in Game C do indeed appear from the same locations every time.  There are a few different patterns where the gunmen appear from the windows and doors in the same order for a full wave.  Furthermore, these patterns are tweaked when they reoccur in later waves so that the timing of when a gunman appears from his location is slightly changed.  As an example, there is a pattern where the last two gunmen appear from the lower-left window and upper-right window respectively.  In later waves using that same pattern, the gap in time between the final two gunmen appearing may either increase or decrease.  It was necessary to pay attention to these nuances to beat this mode.  When you have to defeat ten gunmen in each of the twenty waves, mistakes are amplified when you only have three lives to manage.

Some of you know that Wild Gunman made an appearance in the movie Back to the Future Part II.  In the film, Marty jumps ahead in time to October 21st, 2015 and enters an ’80s café where he finds and tries out a Wild Gunman arcade game.  While they nailed the look of the characters in the game footage, the game play looks quite a bit more advanced than the actual game.  Plus, there was never a dedicated arcade cabinet for the Wild Gunman video game, aside from its appearance on Nintendo’s Play Choice 10 system.  Anyway, many people had fun reminiscing and celebrating the Back to the Future series on 10/21/2015, and Nintendo got in on the fun themselves.  Nintendo of Europe released the Wii U Virtual Console version of Wild Gunman on Back to the Future Day where you can use the Wii remote as a makeshift Zapper.  Nintendo of America held back Wild Gunman’s Virtual Console release until early 2016.  NOE got this one right.

Wild Gunman is a simple NES light gun game with some charm.  This has nice graphics for an NES launch game with large, detailed gunman sprites full of personality.  The music is simple in this one, but I think more fondly about the sound effects.  They help carry the gameplay and get you ready to shoot when the time is right.  The Zapper controls are nice and responsive.  I did have a little trouble with certain shots in Game C, but I kind of think that was more my fault anyway.  The gameplay, while novel for its time, is both simple and repetitive.  However, Game C kept me on my toes with its combination of memorization and twitch timing.  I was not expecting to have to develop strategies for this game.  I consider that a nice surprise, even if it meant I needed a couple additional days to clear this game.  I am glad I played the game, but considering the simplicity of it along with the required Zapper setup, I think Wild Gunman is more of a collector piece today.

#139 – Wild Gunman (Game A)

#139 – Wild Gunman (Game B)

#139 – Wild Gunman (Game C)

Posted In: Finished
  1. Calavera Candy

    You mean you have to use your hands? That’s like a baby’s toy.

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