The gameplay is a typical arcade shoot-em-up with a western setting. The player controls the eponymous Sheriff, who is armed solely with a slow firing pistol against a ring of bandits circling around him.
The so-called Sheriff 2 was released later the same year as the original, since the only thing it did was to add color and changed the bonus scoring.
The game never took off in popularity and has languished in obscurity for decades, but Nintendo themselves haven't forgotten the old timer. His game returned in playable form as both a microgame and as a fully playable game in WarioWare Inc.: Mega Microgame$!. The Sheriff has made cameo appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series (as a trophy in Super Smash Bros Melee, and as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U).
Tropes present in this game:
- Anti-Frustration Features: The WarioWare port increases the speed of the Sheriff's movement and gun fire, which makes the game easier to a fault.
- Attract Mode: Leave the game alone for a bit in the arcade version, and you'll get a little snippet of gameplay.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Like with Space Invaders you can shoot through the little barriers (but not the big ones) to make it easier to hit the bandits, but it's a poor strategy.
- Bloodless Carnage: When the Sheriff gets shot, he just falls on his butt and sighs.
- Boss Arena Urgency: You can't just take your sweet time to pick off all the bandits—four will enter the inner area every few seconds, and you can't enter the area where the bandits came from, and the bandits are too fast to outmaneuver, so it's do or die.
- Cephalothorax: The bandits appear to be heads with arms and legs, in contrast to the sheriff and the lady who have an actual body.
- Collision Damage: The bandits can kill the Sheriff just by touching him.
- Damsel in Distress: In the title screen and intermissions, you can see a nameless lady being chased by a bandit. Every few rounds, and you get a cutscene of the Sheriff and her eloping.
- Denial of Diagonal Attack: Averted; the Sheriff can shoot in 8 directions.
- Endless Game: As with many early arcade games, there's no ending. The whole point is just to play for the highest score.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Sheriff isn't given a name. Even his Smash Bros. cameos just call him Sheriff.
- Mission-Pack Sequel: Sheriff 2 is completely identical in gameplay to the original, with the only differences being color graphics and a tweaked bonus scoring system.
- Nintendo Hard: Due to both the very slow rate of movement and fire for the Sheriff, this is a game that requires patience. Clearing even one wave of the bandits is not a cakewalk.
- Older Than the NES: By a few years, to be exact.
- One Bullet at a Time: The Sheriff can only shoot one bullet at a time.
- Shoot 'em Up: The game is a shooting game, typical of arcade games of the day.
- Songs in the Key of Panic: The musical beat gets more urgent with every few bandits killed.
- Standard Snippet: A snippet of Gioachino Rossini's famous William Tell Overture plays when you start the game. The intermissions play Felix Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
- Take Cover!: You have a few barriers between you and the bandits to protect you, but if you take your sweet time, the bandits will make their way past them, leaving you no protection from their bullets or collision damage. Also, you can't shoot through the big barriers, but the little ones are fine.
- Turns Red: Inverted; the bandits turn yellow when they enter your ring.