Fast Draw Showdown
Publisher: Digital Leisure
Developer: American Laser Games
Genre: Light Gun Shooter
Release Date: 01/04/2009
I’ve always been a big fan of American Laser Games. I was pretty happy last year when Digital Leisure and Majesco released the Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack back in July. Sadly, the compilation wasn’t as well received by younger or newer gamers because they went in thinking it would be a light gun game when it was more a first person “Don Bluth- Dragon’s Lair’s click at the right second or die” game. Alas, these kids today. What’s the world coming to when game reviewers or the average gamer in general has trouble with a game Katie Couric was able to play?
Thankfully Digital Leisure and American Laser are back on the Wii with the downloadable title Fast Draw Showdown. This game, which is an actual light gun title, was originally released as a LaserDisc title back in 1994. Compared to the original arcade game, it appears the visuals have been cleaned up (perhaps even remastered) and the gameplay has been retouched for the Wii. At only five dollars, is Fast Draw Showdown a full motion video game that still holds up in 2009, or is it destined for the hoosegow?
There really isn’t a lot of plot to the game. You are a nameless protagonist who is introduced to the art of quick draw shooting by the host of the game, Wes Flowers. Wes was (I’m not sure if he still is) one of the fastest quick draw shooters ever, and so I remember thinking this was a nice touch as a high schooler. It still lends an air of credibility to the game and although his nagging at you to have the gun holstered just so can get on one’s nerves quickly, he’s an excellent narrator and host and is surprisingly the best actor in the game.
The real enjoyment of the game comes from the cast and crew of B-Movie actors you’ll encounter throughout the game. There are over forty different opponents for you to test your mettle against. Each one has a cheesy name that is generally a descriptor followed by a real name beginning with the same letter such as, “Bad Hair Betty.” After your opponent is named you get a very cheesy and yet still awesome scene where the character taunts you. Then it’s fast draw time and whether you succeed or fail, you get a response from your opponent, be their death or a second taunt. Each round of the game features six opponents and you’ll have to beat them ALL to advance. You’ll also have to play against all six even if you lose against one or all. This was a great thing back in the arcades because you were guaranteed a set number of battles for your quarter(s). It’s still a nice touch here.
I can’t stress enough how fun this game can be, especially if you like cheesy acting or B-Movies. I found myself laughing at a lot of the characters and it really helped make the game.
You also have a two player co-op mode, which is just as fun as single player. Here you and a friend will have to engage in tag team shootouts in a manner similar to first player. You can also play this as a single player with two wiimotes, but this is advised only for experts. Again you get the same level of, “so bad it’s good” acting and you’ll find that you and your friends will start talking smack to the opponents as well. It’s surprisingly easy at drawing you in and because the game is pure video footage, it’s fun for friends to watch as well as play.
You also have three difficulty settings. Easy gives you a crosshairs for aiming and a full cartridge of bullets, Medium removes the crosshairs and Hard takes away the crosshairs and you are only given a single bullet.
I’m still surprised how well this game holds up today and to be honest, it might just be the most user friendly FMV game besides The 7th Guest. For five bucks you’re getting a witty, cheesy and entertaining game that highlights that there was indeed a time when full motion video games were both fun and popular.
Story/Modes Rating: Great
The only actual graphics in the game are the scoreboard, the announcement of your next opponent and a bit of information on the side of the screen detailing how much time you have to shoot. Other than that, everything in the game is full motion video. For those unaware of FMV, it’s actually video footage of real people. In this case they are all in Olde Tyme costumes.
The footage isn’t as good as a DVD, but it’s definitely better quality than the original arcade version. Things seem crisper, but it’s almost akin to watching a brand new VHS tape in terms of production level.
It should also be noted that it’s impressive at how compressed the footage was. Digital Leisure was able make this work as a downloadable title and yet still keep the picture quality. FMV games used to take up a lot of space and it is fun as a video game historian to see how far technology has progressed in the past decade and a half.
I really enjoy the cast and crew of Fast Draw Showdown, along with the sets and costumes. Even though I’m not a fan of Westerns at all, the atmosphere is as fun as it is corny.
Graphics Rating: Good
Perhaps the cheesiest part of the game is the audio. After all, you have several dozen very bad actors giving pun filled one-liners without the proper emotion, cadence, or tone. It can really be quite funny at times. Then when you get an actor who delivers their lines quite well, you’ll find yourself impressed. There are so many actors in the game, you have to at least give it props for the sheer size of the cast along with the large amount of vocally delivered lines in the game, especially when you remember this is from 1994.
If you had any doubts that the creators of Fast Draw Showdown firmly had their tongues in their cheeks when making this game, they will be erased when you hear the music. The score is so over the top “stereotypical western yokel fare” that it’ll bring a smile to your face and a shake of your head. It may not be high quality, but it certainly fits the game perfectly.
Sound effects are limited to gun shots but they sound realistic and are good for what they are.
The audio aspects of Fast Draw Showdown are one of those odd times where the game is enhanced due to the hamminess of it all. The game would actually be worse if it was a bunch of straight-laced, serious, brooding, grimdark outlaws.
Sound Rating: Enjoyable
4. Control and Gameplay
Although there are over forty battles to take place in, you may be surprised to learn that none of them are longer than a minute each, and most of that is the introduction and dialogue. In fact, actual gameplay time is never more than three seconds, and even then it’s more often under a second. Remember, this is FAST DRAW Showdown after all.
The game works like this. Once a battle starts, you have to “holster” your gun. This is done by pointing your Wiimote down towards the ground as if it was actually in a holster. Now you can cheat somewhat by holding the Wiimote just to a forty five degree angle or so in order to trick the sensor bar. It sounds bad, but shaving this tenth of a second or so off your time is about the only way you’ll make it past round seven on up. Once you are told to draw, you whip up your Wiimote and fire. First shot usually wins. I say usually because there are a few where you have to shoot a person twice, and other times where you might have shot first but your aim was off and even other times where you shot first (or several times) and yet the game didn’t register it due to poor alignment of the hit detection area. A great example of this is in the sixth round. Don’t shoot Holster Harry in the legs as it won’t be recognized – that should save you a great deal of annoyance.
As mentioned above, my only real complaint is that some of the opponents needed a larger hit detection area around them. Nothing will annoy you faster than seeing your crosshairs on a guy’s thigh, shooting once or twice and them still killing you. Thankfully this is only with three or four opponents in the game and you just learn to aim higher. Just remember that – If you don’t seem to be hitting, aim higher.
Other than those niggling issues, the gameplay is remarkably solid and it’s far more user friendly than the Mad Dog McCree set of games. It’s simple to get the hang of, but it’s a VERY hard game to master. Thankfully the wide range of opponents, short battle times and hammy acting keeps the game from feeling repetitive.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Good
The game’s single player mode doesn’t offer a lot in terms of replay value unless you are trying to beat your score or you just enjoy the FMV footage. You do get bonus footage of Wes or some showgirl each time you beat the current fastest time, however when you start getting to .2 to .35 seconds, it’s going to be hard to top those scores. It would also have been nice to have been able to play specific opponents instead of repeating the same six over and over again until you beat them, but this is a straight port, so I can’t fault them for that.
Co-op is where the game truly shines because you and a friend can be just as corny back to the game and even if the footage is the same, the playthrough will feel quite different each time someone new tries it. As I mentioned earlier, it’s also a lot of fun to watch people play due to the full motion video and the reactions of the gamers.
There’s certainly a decent amount of replay value here, but after you manage to get through single player by the skin of your teeth, you’re pretty much going to stick to multiplayer.
Replayability Rating: Decent
I’m not going to lie to you – this game can be pretty hard. Now, I have extremely good reflexes due to all my years of playing traditional shooters like Ikaruga. I found the first five levels to be pretty easy, the sixth level had two characters that gave me trouble and the seventh was amazingly hard even though my usual shooting time is between .25 and .6 seconds. I mean, I’m pretty bloody fast and this still gave me pause. Don’t even get me started about the last guy in the game (who will be a familiar face). Geese Howard has nothing on this end boss’ difficulty!
I would strongly suggest that no matter how good you think you are, that you start on easy and work your way up. Hard is definitely not for the faint of heart. Before you start complaining about the difficulty, remember two things. The first is that this game was made back when games were a lot more unforgiving. The other is that this was an arcade game, which means things were purposely crazy hard so as to get you to spend more money repeating the same bit over and over again until you won. Now the game isn’t anywhere as hard as Mad Dog McCree or some other FMV games as the controls are very tight here, but those last few desperados will have you swearing in frustration when they pick your butt for the umpteenth time.
Two player mode is better in terms of balance and difficulty, but that can all change drastically depending on how skilled or clueless your partner is. Remember you have a limited amount of time to shoot, and if your aim is off, or you both shoot the same character, you both die.
Fast Draw Showdown is easily the most balanced of American Laser Games’ titles, but it’s also not an easy game. Still, if you’re looking to improve your hand to eye coordination, few games will enhance it like this.
Balance Rating: Decent
American Laser games made several “Old West” FMV games. It’s also not the first quick draw game as this subgenre of light gun games has been around since 1974 when Nintendo debuted Wild Gunman. This game even had 16mm footage, and it was the precursor to FMV games. Now, Fast Draw Showdown is deeper, longer and more impressive than this mid 1970’s title, but it’s one of a very few select games to go with this style of light gun gaming, and also proof that this idea was one of the first in gaming even though it’s almost forgotten in 2010. As well, this is a direct port of an arcade title with only a few slight cosmetic changes to make it Wii-friendly.
With all that said, Fast Draw Showdown has never been released on a console before (although it nearly made it to the 3DO), so this is the first time 99% of gamers will have a chance to play this game. Due to the long drought of FMV games over the past decade and the lack of any light gun games with this type of motif, Fast Draw Showdown feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s fun, it has a lot of options and although it’s pretty shallow, the game itself feels deep due to how many opponents you can come across. Fast Draw Showdown is basically a revival of quick draw games and FMV games and after playing this you’ll probably be surprised at how unique it is compared to today’s offerings.
Originality Rating: Above Average
With quick reflexes and spot-on aim, you should be able to beat either single player or multi-player in under an hour. However, for a lot of people they’re going to end up stuck and frustrated with levels six or seven on single player and probably won’t advance any further. This is fine, because most people won’t have the reflexes to get past that, and even fewer will have the ability to get past the last character in the game. Beating Fast Draw Showdown will be a feather in a gamer’s cap, but the vast majority of people that encounter this won’t stick with it long enough to see it through because it will be too hard for them.
Even for those of us that are really good at the game, there’s not a lot of reason to go back to this. I mean, I enjoyed the comedy, I thought the gameplay was fun and I feel that the game is worth more than the five dollars it is selling for, but it’s just not a game I see myself playing regularly. Maybe if a friend came over and we wanted a quirky experience, but that’s about it.
Addictiveness Rating: Decent
9. Appeal Factor
You know, I always used to think light gun games were popular. I remember things like CarnEvil, The House of the Dead, Time Crisis and more being staggeringly popular and people lining up for them at the arcade. But that was several generations ago. These days, we see things like Dead Space: Extraction and Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles selling abysmally low numbers of copies. Part of it could be because they are M games on the Wii. Part of it could be because light gun games aren’t in vogue anymore. Part of it could be that the would-be hardcore gamers of today don’t actually put their money where their mouth is.
Well, Fast Draw Showdown should hopefully change all that. It’s a five dollar light gun game that even little kids can play. It’s funny and it’s violent. It’s cheap and it’s a great way for gamers to test out the genre to see if it’s up their alley or not.
While you’ll definitely want a sense of humour to enjoy this game, it’s also a fun game for people new to the genre as well as people who want a challenge.
Appeal Factor: Decent
I’m still a bit in awe of the sticker price. God knows I’m not going to complain about the game being only five dollars. It’s a great price for a fun little game. I’d have gladly paid ten dollars for it. It’s simple but yet extremely hard with the last few battles. Fast Draw Showdown is one of the few FMV game to have aged really well and it’s the first time this game has ever been released on a console. What’s not to love? It’s definitely a great deal for the nostalgic, curious, and masochistic alike.
Miscellaneous Rating: Very Good
Story and Modes: Great
Control and Gameplay: Good
Originality: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Fast Draw Showdown is an incredible deal. For only five dollars you’re getting one of the better Full Motion Video games from the 1990’s. Not only is this the first time this game has seen a console release, but you get over forty battles with simple yet challenging gameplay and a co-operative mode for you and a friend to boot. The video quality is what you would expect from 1994, but the tongue in cheek script and the B-level movie acting will keeping you laughing or smirking as often as higher rounds will have you swear at the difficulty. If you’ve never experienced a FMV game, are looking for a short but challenging game or need a quick WiiWare fix, Fast Draw Showdown is well worth the money spent.