If you’re going to do a sequel to a famous arcade gunslinger, setting it in the American Old West makes a fair amount of sense. This is the same formula as the original Lethal Enforcers, with a coat of Western paint that apparently makes the violence more palatable – this one skates by with an MA-13 rating, despite still containing digitized people getting shot with a lightgun. I suspect Konami lost a few sacks of money on the home ports of the original, based on all the violence hoopla (my evidence is the cancelled SNES version of LE2, where censorship hit the original the most) and consciously intended to “tone it down” for the next game. The bloodless gunplay of 60’s Westerns makes this possible without seeming to compromise or censor themselves.
I’m personally not all that hip to chaps, spurs and six-shooters, so I’m not terribly excited about a cowboy lightgun game. It’s also a fair warning for anyone seeing the Lethal Enforcers name and expecting new scenarios in a bustling new city (though the packaging makes the series’ new direction quite clear). But despite my general “meh” feeling toward Westerns, I do agree that such a game should have been made. If the idea of playing as The Man With No Name appeals to you, well, this port still isn’t the best choice.
You shoot your way through six scenes based on classic Wild West scenarios. Bank robberies, train heists, runaway stagecoaches, saloon brawls, and duels in the center of town all make appearances. You automatically move from screen to screen while bandits pop up from behind counters, windows, doorways and other makeshift cover. If you don’t shoot them in a limited amount of time, they’ll fire and you’ll lose a life. Lose all your lives and you have to use up your credits to continue.
One of the series’ trademarks are the variety of semi-hidden weapons you can shoot to pick up and replace your wimpy revolver. Shotguns, rifles, and even cannons and Gatling guns are all available, some with limited ammo, some you get to keep and reload until you take a hit. The other trademark are the innocents who recklessly stick their heads and hands up in the middle of the gunfight. If you shoot them, you lose a life and suffer a point deduction at the end of the level. And like the first one, Konami likes to trick you. Unarmed men wearing identical clothes to the bad guys pop up from time to time, as well as women who appear to be innocent but suddenly draw a gun on you, or the occasional hostage you must save with precise aim.
If you’re familiar with these kinds of games, then there’s not much else I need to say. You’ll be your own judge as to whether you want to play one with a Western theme. It is worth noting, though, that LE2 isn’t realistic by any means, and even less so than LE1. For one, minibosses now appear who take many more bullets to drop. Wounding shots have also been implemented, which appear to be random and just mean that an enemy will flinch after being shot instead of blinking away dead. You’ll have to shoot him again, with the only benefit being that his timing gets messed up in the process. Be prepared to double-tap all your enemies.
Bosses are the worst offenders, and take around 200 bullets to kill. That’s not exaggeration – these dudes take quadruple the amount of damage needed for the bosses in the original. Each is very loosely tied to the Western theme. The first boss shoots infinite cannonballs from a line of three. The second throws infinite explosive barrels out of the back of a stagecoach. You can’t just lay into them because you also have to shoot down the explosives being hurled at you, while shooting off-screen to reload. Your finger will fucking ache after each battle. They have no special weakness, or different forms, or do anything different as the battle progresses, they just take a shithill of bullets as their “challenge.”
The sequel is also full of typical Japanese humor, which I don’t recall ever appearing in the first. It’s that irony/inappropriateness style where a serious situation turns randomly surreal. A defeated boss flies toward the camera Looney Tunes-style after an explosion. A gunfight stops for a sexy prostitute sauntering across the screen while spinning a feather boa. A wino stumbles around guzzling booze as bullets fly past. Not to mention that every Western cliche just appears, including Mexicans, Indians, the Union Army, and a cavalry bugleman (with no cavalry). If aliens came from outer space, scanned our society, and then put together a show of disconnected images that they noticed we respond to, I think it would look like this game’s interpretation of Western films.
Once again, the Genesis provides a low-res port of the arcade experience. Colors look drab because so much of the game relies on browns and tans, and the Genesis has too few colors from that section to draw upon. Sound is also painful if you start paying attention to it. The music is nice and spaghetti western-y, but only two digitized voices have been included for the bad guys: “You ain’ta gonna git mee, sheriff!” and “Get back or I’ll blow ‘im away!” Your foes cycle back and forth between these two taunts endlessly, and pretty soon, you’re not just shooting them because you’re supposed to.
Controls have been designed around the Konami Justifier as The Only Lightgun That Will Work. If you don’t have it, you’re stuck with the control pad and its many deficiencies. Reloading at least comes faster since it’s mapped to its own button, which is handy for boss fights, but will make your hand hurt even more.
The best reason to get Lethal Enforcers 2 is if you bought the original and noticed the extreme lack of software for those red and blue Justifiers. If you’re a lightgun fan, this will provide some new challenges and some new scenarios. If you don’t have the Justifiers, don’t even bother. The game isn’t strong enough to seek them out, and the control pad simply will not do, pardner.
Old West gunslinging action. The arcade does it a little better, but a decent home offering if you’re interested.
Only worth playing with the Justifier light guns. An excessive amount of extra shooting to kill bosses. Maddeningly recycled enemy taunts.