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The Moonlight War novel by S.K.S. Perry

Burai Fighter (NES) artwork

Burai Fighter (NES) review

"...Okay, maybe R-Type wasn't the best comparison, but it's close. Think Forgotten Worlds - that's more like it. Burai Fighter was one of the games that I got with my NES way back in the day, and it was the second game that I played on the machine. As such, although this game is far from the most technically impressive NES games out there, it really blew me away when I played it, and some of that magic feeling is still present every time that I play the game, even today. I will try my best not to..."

...Okay, maybe R-Type wasn't the best comparison, but it's close. Think Forgotten Worlds - that's more like it. Burai Fighter was one of the games that I got with my NES way back in the day, and it was the second game that I played on the machine. As such, although this game is far from the most technically impressive NES games out there, it really blew me away when I played it, and some of that magic feeling is still present every time that I play the game, even today. I will try my best not to let sentimentality affect this review though.

Burai fighter is a simple scrolling shooter - the only thing to set it apart from games such as Gradius and R-Type is that instead of controlling a ship you control a flying dude with a gun (like I said - think Forgotten Worlds). There are more than half a dozen stages on offer here, with three difficulty settings to add replay value, even though the game is actually pretty tough going even on the easiest setting. Most stages follow the typical scrolling shooter formula - the level moves, and you had better make sure that your warrior doesn't get left behind! Along the way you encounter several different types of alien enemy, all of which are just itching to kill you. Most of these enemies follow a set pattern though, and often attack in formation, so after a few tries you can start to put them away with slightly less trouble. Until the next part of the level, when it all begins again.... All of this could get repetitive, so the lovely game designers saw fit to include some overhead stages too, bless 'em. These stage adopt more of a Zelda-style perspective, as you guide your character around the landscape hunting down the boss. This guy must be mad - most of the bosses nearly fill the screen they are so huge - but he's a man with a mission. I'm not entirely sure what that mission is exactly (I lost the manual about five minutes after opening the game box - hey I was young, all right?!) but I can make an educated guess that it involves fighting the Burai. And to do that he'll need powerups. The powerups vary from speed boosts (if you get to many you can find yourself quite hard to control, so be warned) to different, and more powerful weapons. It pays to stick with one type of weapon throughout the level though - collect the same weapon over and over again, and soon one press of the button will send a shot not just in front of you, but behind, above and below your character. This is quite handy in later stages when you have to face larger hordes of hungry alien creatures. Luckily, the control in the game is tight and there is little lag, meaning that you can react swiftly if you find that your powerups aren't quite enough for you to rely on them alone.

The levels in this game are really quite large, and there are several secret areas to discover. Whilst these generally only contain powerups that can, in all honesty, be found anywhere else in the game, the sense of satisfaction upon unearthing some of the harder to find places in quite large, and if nothing else it adds to the replay value of the game. The locations of the levels are quite varied as well. From the interior of giant space stations to lava-filled cave systems the game manages to make each level different enough from the one that preceded it (although some locations are repeated later on - the spaceship in level one makes a return later on for instance), and while all the locations are fairly standard in videogame terms, the levels themselves are well designed and are not too linear - the scrolling takes you not only left and right but up and down too, within the same level. Many powerups are placed in hard to reach locations, which often leads to death-by-scrolling, although this adds to the enjoyment (that speed boost is all the more welcome if you've had to struggle to get it) rather than detracting from it. All in all, the game may not have an overly large number of levels, but the levels it does have are really very enjoyable.

The graphics in the game are very bright and colourful: this is a game that could hardly be described as being dark and moody! The sprites, too, are pleasingly large and well detailed (for an 8-bit game at least) - this is especially noticeable on the bosses. As said before, they are huge, although that isn't to say that they are merely enlarged sprites - their greater size is justified by a much greater attention to detail, and the boss encounters are really are pleasure to behold (I get the impression that they are stretching the NES to it's limits, though - just before the first boss appears on the screen the detailed and colourful background is replaced by a simple black one, and I was never sure whether this was for 'artistic' purposes or to allow the boss to appear without slowdown...). In fact, slowdown is something that is largely absent from this game: everything flows along at a steady pace, even when there are several enemies on screen, and the animation remains adequate throughout - it is nothing spectacular, although very little is required from your character - seeing as he floats around the screen, all that really changes is the way he is pointing his gun (although you do have full 360º range here) - I get the feeling that this is why the overhead levels are slightly slower in general - the character requires more frames of animation, although even here the framerate is constant throughout.

While the sound effects here are just the standard NES fare, some of the background music is really very memorable - the first level music in particular stays with the gamer (I can recall it with no difficulty even now, and I haven't played the game for about a month, although it is a tune that is repeated later in the game), and while it isn't going to rival Mega Man 2 in the music stakes, Burai Fighter more than manages to hold it's own, and as such it stands out as one of the better NES games in the aural stakes.

At the end of the day there is nothing in Burai Fighter that has not been done before (and in some cases done better) although just because it isn't the only game in it's genre don't think that this isn't a worthy purchase. The levels are big and varied, the overall presentation is very good, it offers a fair challenge, and it has enough replay value to make it worth the £5 - £10 you'd probably shell out for it nowadays. For simple, old-school shootery you could do a lot worse than this game.

Rating: 8/10

tomclark's avatar
Community review by tomclark (February 04, 2004)

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