Blazing Lazers (TurboGrafx-16) review
"Gunhed. It’s quite possibly the coolest name for a vertical shooter ‘starfighter’. Gentlemen, you have to admit it's cool: it has the words 'gun' AND 'hed' in it. And that is only fitting, as this game (known to you and I as Blazing Lazers) is possibly the coolest game the genre has ever seen. "
Gunhed. It’s quite possibly the coolest name for a vertical shooter ‘starfighter’. Gentlemen, you have to admit it's cool: it has the words 'gun' AND 'hed' in it. And that is only fitting, as this game (known to you and I as Blazing Lazers) is possibly the coolest game the genre has ever seen.
The Dark Squadron is threatening to destroy the Earth with their eight weapons of destruction, (end bosses to you and me) and you are their only obstinate obstacle. The story is none too creative, but that’s not unusual for this type of game—to be honest, you won’t feel like you’re saving the Earth as much as saving your own tail.
There are nine levels in Blazing Lazers making the game a good length for a shooter. There are large, tough bosses, barring your path to progress. The giant Skulldor—yes he’s a giant skull—comes to mind. Also, some levels mark their midway points with ‘mini-bosses’ that aren’t so ‘mini’. There is the obligatory 2-D shooter ‘boss showcase’ level as well. Amidst all those monstrous menaces, you’ll need--and will receive--some heavy firepower to keep your ship in one piece.
You collect purple ‘gels’ to power up your weapon of choice, and there are four of those. The Ring Blaster, Field Thunder, Power Wave, and Photon Cannon comprise your standard shooter arsenal. A somewhat unclear voice memorably remarks what weapon or item you pick up. All four can be powered up to eye-catching proportions.
In addition, there are the now traditional auxiliary items available to you. Gradius-like ‘options’, homing missiles, the ever-present and much appreciated shield, and the very innovative full fire, will all be up for grabs. The latter will take your primary weapon and power it up to even greater levels than would be possible without it. There is also the space traveller’s essential smart bomb, which will bail you out of some tricky situations. Like almost all Turbografx-16 shooters, you also have the convenience of selectable speed, on the fly, right from the control pad. So, it sounds all very basic and ho hum, right? Not exactly.
Music, intensity, speed and... music. The quality of these ingredients are what elevate this scrumptious stew above the realm of common soup.
Unlike most shooters, power ups in Blazing Lazers are never scarce. They are absolutely abundant, and it will be difficult for you to be without a decent weapon at any time! The enemies will fill the screen, and further fill it with bullets, but not in a cheap, unavoidable way. Skillful dodging and staying powered up with the right weapon will see you through. Blazing Lazers is made by Compile, (developers of the Aleste series) so this brand of frenzied action will come as no surprise to those familiar with their other games, such as this game’s follow up, Space Megaforce.
Another nice touch is that the screen is not fixed horizontally—that is, you can move your ship all the way to one side, and cause the screen to actually scroll slightly in that direction, allowing for a sense of depth that is uncommon in any shooter of its time or out currently. But the best quality of the game play is the intensity. Blazing Lazers is very fast. The levels are varied thematically, from space levels, to a desert stage, to a stage where bubbles are your main antagonist, and they are almost always inimitably engaging.
I found the difficulty level of Blazing Lazers to lean toward the easy side when using Field Thunder and picking up shields. But if you choose, say, the Ring Laser, and equip yourself with any auxiliary item other than the shield, the game can be much more challenging. Also, there is a code out there that allows you to increase the level of difficulty all the way up to “God of Game”, should you so desire.
The game looks great--this is true enough. Everything is rendered in a colourful, detailed, yet decidedly cartoonish style. All the 'characters' are large and animate well. Even YOUR ship and enemy bullets are large and clear, something that is welcome in today’s era of blurry 3-D polygon based spacecrafts and projectiles.
But what really pushes to make Blazing Lazers such a gripping experience, is the outstanding soundtrack. It’s one of the best and most unique scores on a Turbochip, and in any shooter. You’ve got tracks that sound strangely like elevator music, (except they somehow manage to be appealing) and hard rock tunes backed with a thunderous drum machine (the same bass heavy quality permeates the notoriously powerful weapon and explosion sound effects--never has blowing up an enemy felt so satisfying).
These tunes are as atmospheric as they are esoteric. Zuntata eat your heart out! Truly, this is one of the few games I’ve ever played where the soundtrack increases the level of the game’s intensity to such a degree. Simply playing the game is a stirring, eye popping experience; cranking the music will make your eyes water.
Turbografx-16 owners simply must own this game. Turbochips like Super Star Soldier and Cyber Core may have used Blazing Lazers as a springboard, and as a result, they feature an increased overall challenge, but there is no game that feels quite like this one. The fifth and seventh levels are singularly intense, and the last defies description.
With so many elements appearing basic and unremarkable with the unforgiving passage of time, this classic perseveres as a true classic should, boasting a fun factor that will continue to surprise and engage you.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 14, 2004)
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