If you were a young kid with a Mega Drive (Genesis for you Americans) then it was pretty much guaranteed you knew who these guys were since they made some of the best games for that system. In the 2000s they were still going strong and releasing some fantastic games for the N64, PS2 and Game Cube. However in 2016 they haven’t really produced anything and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people didn’t even know their name now. So I’m going to take some time gushing about one of the best game developers from back in the day.
Founded back in 1992 Treasure started out as a small band of 7 people making games for the Sega Megadrive and they really knocked out of the park with their first project titled Gunstar Heroes
Gunstar Heroes was a fast paced side scrolling action game which played sort of a version of Metal Slug on speed. The games big draw was the weapon system where you could pick one of 4 guns at the start and then you’d find another in the levels. The different combinations of weapons would each have a different effect so for example the homing weapon and fire weapon would give you a controllable line of flame while homing and laser would give you an enemy seeking square of death. The bosses were also really cool in design and they weren’t exactly easy to beat. The whole game itself was extremely challenging and it even changed up its game style with a train level, a space shooter level and even a board game.
Not long after Gunstar Heroes treasure made a number of other really good side scrolling action games which included the more traditional but incredibly fun Dynamite Headdy and the stupidly hard boss rush game (which apparently holds a Guinness World Record) Alien Soldier. But what I find really interesting about Treasure is their ability to make games in basically any genre and have them be awesome which even today isn’t so common for smaller teams like this. After a number of successful side scrolling action games they came out with insanely popular now but sadly only released at the time for the Sega Saturn, Guardian Heroes
A beat em up in the same sort of style as Golden Axe Guardian Heroes was an RPG version of that style of beat em’ games. It involved branching pathways which all head different stages, bosses and endings and if you got bored of that there was a versus mode that supported SIX players all smashing each other over the face at the same time, it was cool stuff. Unfortunately not a lot of people played it at the time I think, because no one had a Sega Saturn (or at the very least, no one around me) but it did have enough of a following for an Xbox Live Arcade version to come out in 2011 so if you wanted to play it today (and you should) there’s always that.
From there they had numerous other succcess on the Saturn and Dreamcast with things like Silhouette Mirage, Radiant Silvergun and Bangai-O on the Dreamcast but, at least in my opinion, Treasure weren’t really a huge name in gaming until 2003 when they released Ikaruga on the Gamecube
Originally released in 2001 but ported to the Gamecube in 2003, Ikaruga was that one game that I can vividly remember everybody and their dog talking about and the first time my pre-internet self was able to see a game from Treasure getting mass acclaim. Ikaruga was a top down shooter which wasn’t something new for treasure as they had done that with Radiant Silvergun on the Saturn but Ikaruga really blew people away with its style, interesting game mechanics, fantastic soundtrack and challenging game play.
Usually in a shooter if you get hit, you explode and have to try again but in Ikaruga getting hit wasn’t always a bad thing. Your ship could change between a white and black mode, so if you were in black mode and got hit by a black bullet you’d absorb it as power for your laser attack but you’d be killed by white bullets and vice versa. This colour switching was an extremely interesting mechanic which made the curtain of bullets coming at you a little easier to manage for new players but it also played into the games scoring system which meant that fans of the genre also had a lot of on their plate to learn for those high scores.
Other successes from their post Sega days included the much-loved Michief Makers on the N64 and the well received (in Japan) but much over looked PS2 game Stretch Panic. Of course the selection of games from Treasure is huge so if I tried to talk about every one I’d be here all day but these are 3 of the most famous ones.
Sadly, the last game treasure produced was in 2014 with a DS game released only in Japan called Gaist Crusher which looks like an immense piece of shit based on a Manga that only primary school children read. Thanks to the lack of success with that game, there are rumours floating around that they aren’t in the market of making games anymore and are just trying to license out their old I Ps which is a little sad really but good things can’t last forever I guess.
If you can get hold of any of these old treasure games, or even some of the newer ones you should absolutely try them out. Classic games that have both style and substance and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not hunting them down and trying them out. Gunstar Heroes and Ikaruga along with some others are available on Steam for basically no money so buy them and play them, you won’t regret it.
Identity Gaming is an individual series attempting to raise money for Alzheimer’s! If you’re feeling generous, or you just want to make yourself feel better for buying that super expensive thing, follow the link below to the donate page… oh and Identity Gaming’s main site is also there… but you know, whatever.