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Skyblazer (SNES) artwork

Skyblazer (SNES) review

"Sony's farewell to the Super Nintendo"

Skyblazer (SNES) imageSkyblazer (SNES) image

There was once a strange time during which Sony was publishing titles for the Super Nintendo. Since the PlayStation was only a few months away from making its debut, one could easily understand if Sony opted to release just some shovelware on a platform owned by the company that snubbed Sony in favor of Philips in making a doomed CD-based console. However, it was hard work resulted in 1994's Skyblazer, one of the finest among the pantheon of SNES action games.

The setting is a mythological middle Asia, a unique locale for video games that I don't know was ever used before this one. You're Sky, a warrior who looks like a Saint Seiya character, only more manly and less hideous. Some Hindu deity kidnapped your prospective girlfriend, and an old wizard dares you to live up to your family name by punching some creatures in the face. The ludicrous Asian film industry has taught me that people and monsters and monster people running around and beating each other up is pretty normal for Thailand/India, so everything checks out so far. Good news is, you've got the tools to deal with genies, elephants, dragons, and the like.

Skyblazer (SNES) imageSkyblazer (SNES) image

The controls of Skyblazer are some of the best in the SNES library. You've only one jump, and a low dash would have been nice, but everything in the sizeable combat kit handles well. Aside from the standard melee combo, you've a special bar that can be used to perform cool abilities protagonist Sky acquires over the course of the game, including projectiles, healing, and an air dash. Tying all these moves to one bar can result in running outta juice quickly, but there are plenty of replenishing items, and Sky respawns with some special points, as well. This results in an easily managed system that allows you to experiment with your abilities, precluding Mega Man nonsense in which you essentially soft-lock the game by daring to actually use the tools at your disposal instead of just using your default weapon.

Speaking of default means of attack, the normal combo is easily the weakest part of the game, unfortunately. You can dish out some damage with it, but the hitbox for Sky's punches are so small that he gets himself hurt just trying to get into range to palm a lizard-man's face. His air melee attack has more range, yet jumping into the air to attack can leave you vulnerable due to the air kick's vulnerability frames. Imagine often getting yourself hit trying to get into range to hit a foe with the Vampire Killer Whip or the Mega Buster; would you enjoy their respective games as much if that were the case? You may find yourself eschewing the most accessible means of attack in favor of the finite special moves, a troublesome predicament due to obvious reasons.

Skyblazer (SNES) imageSkyblazer (SNES) image

Fortunately, Skyblazer is an odd 16-bit action game in that it doesn't hate you and want you to stop playing. Lives are plentiful, so you can get used to the less intuitive options in your combat kit. There's even a few bonus stages that guarantee a few lives if you can get used to the weird controls on them. The world map allows for a small degree of freedom in tackling the stages, which are somewhat helpful for those who want to put off some of the weaker stages (such as an atrocious water maze) until getting some more abilities.

For every stage you may wish to put off, there are plenty more stages with excellent design and creative themes. It's good fun to jump freely through trees, scale towers, and avoid traps, and there are several interesting one-off levels, such as a cloud stage demanding you to pay heed to the directions of wind tunnels. One must expect the occasional difficulty spike from an old action game, but the design and pacing here results in a satisfying time overall.

Skyblazer is a quality product that has held up much better than most of its contemporaries. Its unique and mostly solid aesthetic, controls, and level design put its accessibility above the many lesser titles that practiced the wretched extortion-by-quarters nonsense popularized by arcades. It wasn't much more than a fine two hours or so for me, but I can see Skyblazer becoming an all-time favorite for retro game lovers.


Follow_Freeman's avatar
Community review by Follow_Freeman (April 07, 2018)

When he isn't in a life-or-death situation, Dr. Freeman enjoys playing a variety of video games. From olden shooters to platformers & action titles: Freeman may be a bit stuck with the games of the past, but he doesn't mind. Some things don't age much.

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