Fast Draw Showdown is a game set in the distant past…the year 1994, to be precise. In those days, arcades were lit up with light gun games; even as other genres drifted into console-only territory, there was still a ready supply of them. But where most of these games were frantic on-rails, shoot-everything-that-moves twitch-fests, Fast Draw Showdown was stationary and tasked players with waiting to fire until the time was right. But does this thinking man’s shooter require any actual thought?
With extremely simple mechanics, Fast Draw Showdown can be picked up by anyone right away. To begin, you point your Wii Remote at the ground and watch a short video of a grown man acting ridiculously, and then you raise your Wii Remote and shoot him. The only challenge is not to shoot him too late or else he will shoot you, but you can’t shoot him too early either or the game’s host will remind you to “put it back in your holster!” If he has to warn you a second time, you will be given a “foul” for that round. In Wild West-era gunfights, as in bowling, a foul means nobody gets killed, but you’ll be scored with a loss for that round and have to replay the whole level.
It’s important to remember that when it was new, Fast Draw Showdown was something of a forerunner of a soon-to-be-overcrowded genre. At the time, full motion video and live actors seemed like the wave of the future in video gaming. Today, such games seem hugely outdated.
Regardless, Fast Draw Showdown stands out here on WiiWare as a faithfully ported, full arcade game at a budget price. As we pointed out in our Heracles: Chariot Racing review, even substandard older games can exceed expectations on WiiWare simply because, at the time they were created, they had a budget and development time that far exceeds that of the average WiiWare game. And although Fast Draw Showdown is not a long game, it certainly packs in a lot of content.
Originally a laserdisc-based arcade game, Fast Draw Showdown is composed entirely of full motion video, presented here in glorious VHS-quality 480i resolution, with live “actors” playing characters in short scenes that last just long enough for a set-up and punchline. There is no computer animation of any kind other than the crosshairs and a bit of smoke where your gun is fired. After watching a brief, comedic introduction for each opponent, your task is to draw your gun and shoot him (or her) before they shoot you. If you are faster you will be rewarded with another extremely brief video showing your opponent's death. If not then he’ll put a bullet right through your TV screen.
Not to worry, though, as there are no lives in this arcade game. Nor, for that matter, are there quarters. Success or failure changes nothing as the game plunges you forward. Only at the end does the game either advance you to the next level, or else force you to restart the level and replay all of the opponents in it. If you failed to kill even one of them, you’ll be replaying all of them. This can be a nuisance after a while if you just cannot seem to beat a particular opponent. Much like in Dragon’s Lair, the game does not allow you to replay the same opponent until you get it right. Instead you are doomed to replay the entire level from the beginning until you figure out the timing of each and every one.
Fortunately, for most of the game the skill required to advance is minimal. We didn’t run into problems until level six where the difficulty spiked considerably, to the point where we were questioning whether the game’s timer is even balanced right as at least one opponent is so fast that he appears to kill you far faster than the time on screen says. It wouldn’t be much fun without some challenge. But the difficulty level varies too greatly, even within a single level.
To help with this, the game offers three difficulty levels. In addition to Normal, which is essentially the game as presented in the arcade, Easy features a prompt on screen that lights up green when you can shoot. The opponents aren’t any easier, but you get a slightly faster warning this way. It’s a good way to learn the game, but detracts from the sense of realism. For an extra hard experience, you can disable the crosshairs. This mode of play is all too realistic, but isn’t terribly fun.
The characters on display are hopelessly stereotypical and not as funny as they think they are. Especially “Slurrin’ Spence”, the drunken octogenarian who, flanked by hookers, brags about killing his attorney and then opens fire on us for no reason. What did we do to him? For that matter, what provoked any of these people to want to fight us to the death? Every single opponent appears to want to kill you for no reason. Likewise, our only apparent motive for killing is just to see how fast we can do it and to see who the next hilariously stereotyped victim will be. This lack of purpose or moral compass may be standard fare in video games, but when you have real live people involved it gets a bit creepy after a while. Even so, the violence is comical and should not prove traumatic for anyone who has seen a moving picture show.
Fast Draw Showdown is one of those games you just want to enjoy. If you should find yourself hosting a party one day but have no party games on your Wii to play, then rest assured that this game mixes well with friends and moonshine. However, it is otherwise not quick enough on the draw to earn its place in video game history.