Once in a lifetime, a shooter comes along that
is so mind-blowing, so graphically advanced, so visually stunning
that the huddled shmup masses belt forth a collective "ooohhh"
and "aahhhh" as the perfectly positioned sprites dance across
the screen. Jaws hit the floor with a loud "SMACK", and quarters
are feverishly thrown into machines as if they were burning a
hole in someone's pocket. This happens to be the deal with PULSTAR,
but its psuedo-sequel, Blazing Star, ain't so bad either...
you're not familiar with Pulstar, it just happens to be, IMHO,
the most graphically advanced shooter yet to date. The game is
basically an R-Type clone (same enemies and even level designs
in some places….) with rendered graphics, which look really beautiful.
Smooth animations, detailed and colorful backgrounds, 3-D movement
on a 2-D plane; I get a sugar rush when playing because of the
high amount of eye candy. And if the graphics of PS alone aren't
enough, the gameplay is just as intense. Exactly like R-Type,
with the slow, memorized gameplay, and intense pattern based enemies.
Blazing Star is done in the same graphical style as Pulstar, but
with some major differences that split up the two camps of devoted
Shmupees. Where Pulstar is inch-by-inch memorization, Blazing
Star is thumb-busting action. Most shooter fans tend to prefer
one style over the other, so PS fans may be a little disappointed
with Blazing Star.
watching the intro screens, you can tell why they call it "attract
mode". Attract these graphics really do. Rendered ships mixed
with anime cutscenes set the mood for a graphical extravaganza.
We are introduced to the six different ships, along with the pilots.
Each ship has a different strength and weakness, some being offensive
power vs. defensive power, speed, or even one ship which can't
power up at all. The Pulstar ship is selectable, but you can't
detonate the pod like in the first one. After choosing the pilot,
call a friend over, because Blazing Star is two player simultaneous,
one great improvement over the first one.
weapons systems of each ship offer two choices: rapidly smashing
the fire button results in a left-bar side powerup, which usually
acts as a rapid-fire spread pattern of bullets. Holding the button
down results in a right-bar side power up, which issues a powerful
blast, or in one ship's case a shield. Rather than offering bombs,
the second button is called the "breaker button". After using
a right-side power up, a powerful blast is launched at an enemy.
Pushing the breaker causes the blast to scatter out into several
directions…..this technique calls for good timing and decision
making. Should you use the power shot or break it up like a shotgun
you figure out the weapons, start the gameplay which is intense.
Fast action, huge bosses, you name it, Blazing Star's got it.
Destroying lots of enemies with one shot rings up chain combos
for more points (who cares...), and destroying all sections of
certain enemies leaves letters which spell out the word "L U C
K Y". At the end of each level, a status screen tells how you
did, even giving a letter grade for the section! (Gee mom, I flunked
Blazing Star and had to be held back a grade….) One annoying part
of gameplay though is every time a bonus item comes out, words
appear on the screen saying "Grab it" or "Bonus item appears"
with an annoying voice over. Even if you die, the game makes fun
of you saying "Hey, poor player!" This gives BS a kiddie element,
which kinda ruined it for me a little. A serious, hard edged game
with pop up wording? Blech.
an arcade game, BS was designed as a quarter muncher, which is
very frustrating. Some sections you just have to die over and
over at. Level six gets so crowded with ships it's impossible
to even move, and the end boss alone...I challenge anyone to beat
that thing using less than 10 continues... Blazing Star is not
too difficult, except for those sections, but with unlimited continues
starting right where you died (Yes! No save states here...) you
can blow through this game in 45 minutes. Levels are a little
short, but there is a cool boss-descending down a spaceport part,
and an entire battleship level 6 which is really intense. To top
things off, try to spot the SNKglish on the wording... makes me
chuckle now and then. Having said all that, Blazing Star is definitely
in my top 10, and every shooter fan MUST play this and Pulstar.
Sound - 100
Gameplay - 90
Overall - 95
first time I read SHMUPS! at college, I remembered all the good
times I'd had playing shooters on the NES and SNES, as well as
arcade ones. In one of those strange coincidences, in the next
week or so I was walking by the arcade in a nearby mall, and noted
some weird anime-based cut-scenes on a NeoGeo machine. Being the
type to be distracted by pretty pictures, I immediately had to
go over and have a look. The little frontspiece said "A Shooter
With The Ultimate In NeoGeo CG Is Here!"
(cue dramatic Babylon 5 voice)
The year was the latter half of 1998.
The game…was Blazing Star.
a bit dramatic, but I'd never seen PULSTAR
before. In fact, when I got back I ran to look at the Xenocide
Files, and was shocked to discover that Blazing Star was in fact
Pulstar 2! Yes children, the love-child of R-Type has its own
successor-and this time, it's been caught pants-down with Thunderforce!
Blazing Star modifies the Pulstar gameplay to present a much faster,
bullet-dodging, over-the-top-firepower game-no longer do you need
to grab speed-ups or choose your shots carefully. Along the way,
it's lost a bit of the classic Pulstar difficulty and some long-time
fans despise it for that. However, Blazing Star still holds up
on its own, and I for one find it an excellent shmup for those
times when I'm bored.
Blazing Star maintains the Pulstar tradition-semi-rendered sprites,
with animation sequences for big ones. While actual in-game graphics
haven't changed too much, there is a LOT more animation than in
Pulstar. The game opens with a jaw-dropping CG animation interspersed
with pictures of the main cast(half of which look like they've
escaped from a Tenchi Muyo episode being filmed nearby). In-game,
we've got enemies reconfiguring their shapes, bosses that transform
to attack-modes(with loving design and detail), and even some
actual morphing a'la the Pulstar first-stage boss. But where Blazing
Star has a massive lead on Pulstar is the backgrounds and the
situations you fly through. In the first stage, you'll fly through
an oddly-shaped desert-and the battleship that appears far in
the background launches a few drones that animatedly fly out to
engage you. Second stage has you eventually come to a series of
doors that lock in front of you. Just as you start to wonder if
you can shoot through them, a series of massive laser blasts rip
the doors apart. As the debris spirals outward in decompression,
you find that you've been flying through a massive space colony.
And the list goes on; every level has some amazing situation or
lovingly-animated background for you to stare at. It's also just
as much fun to read the in-game text; each boss has more wacky
English than Radiant Silvergun("Dangerous! Pay attention to backwards!",
"Don't be panic! I have a bad feeling!"). The game even taunts
you if you get killed, like "You Poor Player!" and "Waking Up?".
time around, you also have multiple ships to choose from. Among
the roster, Kaoru and the Dino 246 from Pulstar are yours to choose
from(and it looks like she brought her sister). Each ship has
its own attack pattern, super attack, and play style to choose
from. You can still get "heightened" shots by smacking the fire
button rapidly, although some ships are easier to do it with.
Super attacks are analogous to the charge beam from Pulstar(in
fact, the Dino 246 maintains its single megablast). Everything
to a flurry of hyper-shots, to exploding plasma "fireworks", to
even a massive "energy chainsaw" are available depending on the
ship. Instead of allowing the B button to lock guns into position(and
it seems only the Dino ships have them)though, pressing the B
button when you fire a super varies the attack's effect. Some
ships like the Hellhound scatter lots of smaller(but still deadly)
blasts around the screen. However, using the B button causes the
charge meter to flash for awhile, and you can't charge while it's
more emphasis is placed on scoring this time around as well. You
have a hit meter, similar to Einhander, that tracks the current
largest amount of enemies you've whacked with a single blast.
Enemies also release bonus icons, and destroying single groups
of targets will release "Lucky" panels(L, U, C, K, Y), that are
also added up at the end of the level. You're ranked on score
at the end of each level as well-zap everything skillfully and
get an "A" rating. Most fans will probably toss it off as unworthy
of their attention, but I quite like it-it gives more incentive
to play BS as an arcade shooter rather than by yourself. I just
wish there were secret bonuses to be gained, or accuracy ones
so that skilled players could have an extra bragging point.
may get in trouble, but I like the music in Blazing Star more
than in Pulstar. Every level has its own distinctive tune, and
they're more "danceable" than in Pulstar. The opening music is
also dramatic. Sound effects have been ripped from Pulstar, no
change there. However, you now have an announcer! Bonus items,
powerups, and hit streaks are all shouted out energetically by
a female voice. I know some people get annoyed at the voice yelling
left and right, but it gives the game that much more of a "crowd"
feel(and you do even get cheered at the end of a level by a crowd),
sometimes I get long hit-streaks just to hear "Pinpon!" or "Yay!"
Blazing Star eventually falls down though, is replayability towards
the end of the game. Starting at the end of level 3 and really
making itself felt in level 6, it almost seems as if the programmers
decided that they were making an overhead shooter instead-many
bosses simply shower you with bullets and attacks at the same
time, with virtually no safe spots. In fact, at the end of level
6 it's quite possible to have lifespans measured in less than
5 seconds. Moreover, there's no point to having them; since you
promptly start where you died(and even with full power, if you
continued), it becomes die-shoot-die-shoot-continue-shoot-die-die,
etc. Especially in the emulated arcade version, where you effectively
have unlimited continues. Maybe you can get around it by using
the Pulstar ship(what a twist of irony, that), but it still smacks
of hurriedness to me.
Blazing Star is a worthy followup to Pulstar. Because of their
differences, it's almost like playing two separate games instead
of sequels. Those who found Pulstar too "cheap"(and you lot know
who you are) will probably find Blazing Star to be their cup of
tea. Pulstar fans may not find it to be nearly a challenge, though.
Still, Blazing Star is at least worth a look, and most will probably
stay for a full-length stare.
those who need cold, hard numbers: