Special: Good... Bad... I'm the guy with the Light Gun.
The Birth of the GunCon
The console world picked up a Light Gun again with the release of the Saturn and PlayStation systems in 1995. Konami once again created a Justifier gun for each system and Sega produced their own simple blaster-shaped gun with the Saturn Stunner. Namco also jumped into the Light Gun game with it's GunCon (a shortening of Gun Controller). However, for the first time, Nintendo did not produce an official gun for the Nintendo 64 and no third-party company developed any Light Gun games for the system. This proliferation of new guns lead to home ports of many of the Golden Age favorites. The Saturn received ports of Sega's own Virtua Cop, Virtua Cop 2 and The House of the Dead while PlayStation got a Lethal Enforcers 1 & 2 package and Time Crisis. Both systems received a port of Area 51.
This era of Light Gun games is best known for Capcom's creation of the Resident Evil: Survivor series. The series took the Resident Evil series and recreated many of the scenes from the zombie apocalypse in several first person Light Gun games. The series has not been very popular in America as Capcom inexplicably stripped out the Light Gun support for the American release.
By the time the Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox and GameCube generation rolled around, the world had gone dark on Light Gun games. Konami released the interesting Silent Scope in arcades in 1999. The game was a standard Light Gun shooter, but the gun attached to the cabinet was a replica of a sniper rifle and actually featured a working LCD screen in the scope that zoomed in on whatever the player was looking at.
Sadly, the major releases on all of the home consoles could be counted with two hands with several fingers left over. Nintendo once again chose not to create a Light Gun for the GameCube. Sega did not create an official gun for the Dreamcast, but there were several third party options, all using the standard blaster shape. Sega even released a very well received and still popular port of The House of the Dead 2 during the Dreamcast's launch, but that was basically it.
Namco supplied the PS2 with a small, but steady, stream of Light Gun games and a newly redesigned GunCon 2. The GunCon 2 even had buttons and a control pad on the back to give developers a chance to add some advanced functionality. None really did. But Namco was sure to give PS2 owners Time Crisis II, Time Crisis 3, Time Crisis: Crisis Zone, Ninja Assault and Vampire Night for their shooting pleasure while Capcom released Resident Evil: Dead Aim (with GunCon 2 support this time) and a Light Gun spinoff of Dino Crisis titled Dino Stalker.
The Xbox received only a single Light Gun game, The House of the Dead III with Mad Catz developing the Light Gun for the system. Konami also brought a collection of the Silent Scope arcade games to the Xbox with a specialized sniper Light Gun, but reviewers unanimously declared the Light Gun was terrible and that players were better off using a controller. Having to use a controller for a Light Gun game is the kiss of death, and Silent Scope Complete was definitely DOA when it was released.
Today and Beyond
The Xbox 360 has no Light Gun currently available, and aside from rumors of House of the Dead 4, it doesn't appear as if one is in the works. But this week, the Light Gun returns to the public consciousness with the release of the GunCon 3 for the PS3 and the Wii Zapper for the Wii. The GunCon 3 adds two analog sticks and six buttons
to the gun in addition to the trigger. The only game currently announced for the GunCon 3 is Time Crisis 4, which was released today.
The Wii Zapper on the other hand is not a Light Gun in the traditional sense. With the Wii Remote already having all the functionality of a Light Gun already built in, the Wii Zapper is actually just a plastic cradle, shaped a bit like a machine gun, that holds the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk in one piece. All of the buttons are accessible when housed in the cradle, meaning that the Wii Zapper can be used on games that aren't specifically designed for it as well as games that are. There are even several third-party cradle designs, including one called the Wii Blaster that resembles the shotgun design Nintendo used for the original Wii Zapper prototype at E3 2006.
Nintendo and the third parties have plenty of Wii Zapper-capable games in the pipeline. The Zapper itself will ship with a game titled Link's Crossbow Training, to give players a chance to practice with the new Zapper. But the Shooting portion of Wii Play and the budget release Chicken Shoot also make use of the Wii Remote as a Zapper-like gun and will work well with the Wii Zapper. As for full Wii Zapper-supported games, Capcom released Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles last week, while EA released Medal of Honor Heroes 2. This week will see the release of Ghost Squad from Sega and their zombies will return next Spring in The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return. Finally, a budget shooting game known as Ultimate Duck Hunting will be released by Detn8 sometime in the future. Virtual Console releases of popular Zapper games like Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley were also rumored when they were added to the ESRB's website in 2006, but they are no longer listed. Like most Virtual Console releases, we probably won't know they're coming until they're released.
So the future is looking bright for Light Gun games again. Will the newfound popularity of the GunCon 3 and the Wii Zapper lead to more Light Gun games in the future? As a fan, I hope so, but if not, my old NES Zapper will be a great finishing touch on my Captain N costume next Halloween.