Where's My Gun?
I have fond memories of pointing plastic guns at TV screens, rolling around the living room and doing my best impression of Bruce Willis. Unfortunately, these activities are now very much a thing of the past as I can’t remember the last time I wielded a light gun outside of an arcade. While the on-rails shooter has had a mini resurgence over the last few years, largely thanks to the Wii and PS Move, it is no longer the vital part of my gaming routine that it once was.
My first experience of a home console light gun was the Menacer for the Mega Drive (Genesis). It was far too large, much like Nintendo's Super Scope, and had to be assembled before use. My friend was the only person at school cool enough to own one - the rest of us played with sticks and pig bladders - and I remember us all piling into his bedroom to shoot criminals and keep cockroaches away from pizzas. It was our Vietnam and those bugs were ruthless in their quest for pepperoni.
As kids, my brother and I were never short of toy firearms - our parents were always very strict about not pointing toy guns at people, though they had little sympathy for the imaginary rotters we routinely shot to pieces - so we never had any need for TV blasting. When it came to video games, we were more than content playing Sonic, and Streets of Rage and Double Dragon provided all the virtual violence we needed. It wasn't until my early teens and the Sega Saturn that I finally got a light gun of my very own.
The Saturn featured a quality selection of on-rail shooters, from Virtua Cop to House of the Dead, and for the first time it felt like the arcade had arrived in the home. Virtua Cop 2 remains my favourite on-rail shooter and the day it is ported to PSN will be the day that I finally run out of excuses for not buying a PS Move controller and sharpshooter. When I began rebuilding my Saturn collection in Japan, my first purchases were a pair of bright blue guns with Virtua Cop 1 and 2. I wasted no time in re-familiarising myself with the pop-up tendencies of Virtua City's criminal underworld, re-discovering the joys of the crotch shot and dual wielding the blue hand cannons like a badman.
My gun-slinging continued in the 90’s with the PlayStation, as I discovered Die Hard Trilogy and Time Crisis, but I haven’t bought a new light-gun since. HDTVs have ended my relationship with the on-rail shooters of yesteryear, being incompatible with the light guns of old which now gather dust in a box of unused peripherals, shoved between the Densha de Go stick and Trance Vibrator. It's not all doom and gloom though, as the Wii has done a pretty good job of keeping the genre alive with excellent games like Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Darkside Chronicles, Dead Space Extraction and The House of the Dead Collection. Along with karaoke-sims, linear shooting galleries have been the Wii’s saving grace in our house, preventing me from packing it away for good. However, as much as I have enjoyed these games, I have never mistaken the Wii-mote for a light gun and not once has it dawned on me to upgrade with one of the unappealing, gun bolt-ons.
News that the House of the Dead series is coming to PSN has me hopeful for a Virtua Cop rerelease. It would compel me to buy a Move controller – if PixelJunk 4am doesn’t get there first – along with some sort of plastic machine gun, so that I can game like it were 1996, complete with pew-pew sounds and commando rolls. Hopefully I’ll remember to draw the curtains first.