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Tin Star was made by Software Creations in 1994 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released exclusively in North America which is remarkable considering that the developer is British and the publisher is Japanese. It was the first SNES Game to support all three input device types: controller, mouse and light gun. The games story takes place in the Wild West. Sheriff Tin Star and his deputy Mo drive to a new town in which they are going to work. They are attacked by a gang lead by a certain Black Bart. Arriving in Town after the fight, they learn that the gang causes lots of trouble there. After some battles with the gang a severe antagonism establishes. Over the course of the game Tin Star falls in love for the mayor’s daughter Maria and Mo is taken hostage. Tin Star is then exiled by the villagers because they belief a rumor strayed by Black Bart saying that Tin Star shot a child. The mayor declares Black Bart the new sheriff in the process. From exile Tin Star returns as masked stranger and manages to defeat Black Bart and his gang.
The game is very story driven. Most of the 26 levels are interrupted by narrative sequences propelling the story. The levels are divided amongst the days of one week during which the whole game takes place. The game has four different kinds of play styles: shooting from first person perspective on-rails, protecting Tin Star as he rides or walks around not unsimilar to games like Laser Ghost or Baby Boomer, dueling levels in which the player first has to shoot a revolver cylinder in order to draw before the enemy can be shot, and finally bonus games in which the player shoots bottles.
The player fires a revolver which has apparently infinite bullets and an infinite capacity. When a compatible gun is plugged into the system the game starts with a calibration dialog. This calibration can be redone during the game with the easy of a button press. This feature, also acts as a pause function. The player may replenish health by shooting copper cans which are marked with a red cross. If the player manages to not pick up any health in a level, a bonus round takes place where stars have to be shot with a limited stock of ammunition.
The game has a charming art style which does remind me strongly to games made by Lucas Arts. Most creatures in the game are robots, which was presumably done as an attempt to turn down violence. However considering the prude attitude of Nintendo at this time the game is amazingly unconcealed featuring big breasted women in swim suits and an enemy type which tends to show off his naked buttocks. The music sounds really good and matches the Western theme very well.
The point score is money, which the player may use to save the game. The cost to save the progress increases the further the player gets. Depending on how much money is left over at the end one of three endings can be seen. Having less than 750’000 dollars will make Maria to refuse Tin Stars proposal of marriage because she wants a wealthy husband. Having more money will unlock an ending in which she refuses because Mo made a fortune of 1 Million dollars, and marries him instead. Having more than 1 Million dollars left in the end will unlock a non canonical joke ending in which Maria turns out to be the disguised Black Bart all along. That this ending is not serious is clear due to several occasions of on screen coexistence of both characters. So no matter what, Tin Star finally finds his love somewhere else, as the story in the manual is told by his descendants. The game has three continues. If those are used up the whole game starts over. Starting the game from a saved state will reset the number of continues back to 3.
Personally I don’t like the game. I really appreciate the selectable difficulty and the save feature though. I found the game to be very repetitive. Many assets such as levels and bosses are reused several times over the course of the game. Furthermore the story was a notch too silly for my taste and I wasn’t able to get involved. What bothered me the most was the non perfect accuracy. I found myself often recalibrating the gun as I felt hits were not detected properly and the quality of the calibration seemed to drift over time. I think Tin Star is not a bad game by all means, but it is certainly not amongst the best light gun games of the SNES library.
There is a notable mistake in the manual. The colorist filled two villains as if they were humans even though they are robots in the game. The problem possibly occured because those two characters wear far more clothes than the other characters and therefore looked more human. The colors of some characters swap around even in the game itself. The most notable case I have found is Lucky Johnson who changes from skin color, to violet to blue to green.
The cover looks adorable. It gives a good hint to the lovely art style used throughout the game.