"The graphics were bright and colorful and it was pretty entertaining to see Sofelís take on certain staple elements of shooters ó such as the 1943-ish gunship in the gameís third level which leads to a boss fight when the final two crew members leap off the crippled boat and merge into a gigantic pirate bird."
So, while laid up with an absolutely brutal, sinus-destroying, life-shattering cold for much of the past week, three things made my existence worthwhile:
1. A molotov cocktail combination of Ibuprofen, Benadryl, cough syrup and rum. I didnít know what end was up half the time, which is a great way to temporarily forget how messed up my sinuses were.
2. The complete Monty Pythonís Flying Circus series on DVD. This ďacid trip on TVĒ is best watched while in an altered state of consciousness and being all goofed up on cold remedies definitely had me all loopy.
3. Whacked-out Japanese cute-em-ups like Sofelís 1992 Super Famicom game Flying Hero. The quirky characters and imaginative levels in these games can even give the Python chaps a run for their money in messing with my mind.
In Flying Hero, the ďflying heroĒ is something appearing to be a winged marshmallow which goes through eight levels to rescue some female from a horde of adversaries, such as three other females who eventually meld into some diabolical dude with big hair. Not the best description of a gameís plot youíll find on this site, but since everythingís in Japanese, I just scrolled past all the story stuff quickly to get to the thumb-blistering shooting action.
And, a bit surprisingly for a cute shooter, this vertically-scrolling game was more than willing to give my thumb one hell of a workout. Regular enemies such as flying monkeys and rock-throwing bears constantly besieged me during the brief interludes between encounters with Flying Heroís numerous bosses. By my count, there were at least 24 boss fights throughout this game, with the latter levels having up to four such encounters. While only a few of these foes could take enough damage to truly be threatening, they tended to have a couple tricky attacks, which made even 30-second fights a bit more tense than one would expect.
Adding to the frenetic nature of this game is the power-up system. Mr. Marshmallow has three weapons: a basic gun, a much more powerful cloud attack that is handicapped by a slow rate of fire and a really devastating lightning attack that has the shortest range of the three. Little cupcake power-ups drop down the screen on a regular basis and collecting three of these enhances whatever weapon being used (with each one having three levels of power). Taking a hit from an enemy or bullet removes one level from the weapon unless the flying hero is stripped down to his gunís weakest power, in which case itís fatal.
Which leads to this gameís greatest problem. Smart players will pick their weapon of choice (regular gun for me), power it up all the way and keep two cupcakes in reserve so if they take a hit, they can quickly max their weaponís power with the first cupcake they find. And since cupcake and weapon icons drop near-constantly, that likely will take no time. However, as I found out, when Iíd have my marshmallow right where I wanted him, it could be just as difficult to dodge cupcakes and weapon icons as anything any enemy shot at me, since all those things tend to home in on the little bugger, as opposed to simply descending down the screen. And after snagging two cupcakes, getting a third one prematurely is a setback, as doing so would just reset the meter, forcing me to start over.
Take away how the power-up system made things a bit too chaotic at times and I had little to complain about in Flying Hero, though. The graphics were bright and colorful and it was pretty entertaining to see Sofelís take on certain staple elements of shooters -- such as the 1943-ish gunship in the gameís third level which leads to a boss fight when the final two crew members leap off the crippled boat and merge into a gigantic pirate bird.
And a few of the levels were loaded with memorable moments. The fifth level takes place in a large building containing four bosses. Between these fights are swarms of aggressive foes and a number of blocks serving as obstructions. Early in the level, there were so few blocks that I barely noticed their presence. During the stretch between the third and final bosses, those colorful barricades were so plentiful that I hardly had any room for anything resembling evasive action.
After finishing off what I thought was the final boss of the sixth stage, the cloudy sky shattered, revealing the vastness of outer space (and the real adversary of that level). All of which segued into the gameís seventh level, a jaunt amongst stars and planets. Throughout the duration of my time with Flying Hero, I was unable to stop playing, as Sofel was able to mix creativity with solid gameplay in making a cutesy shooter more fun and challenging than many games of this sort.
I wouldnít call Flying Hero one of the essential shooters that all fans of the genre need to experience, but itís definitely a quality game with a surprising amount of challenge underneath its cutesy visuals. Itís well-drawn, colorful and loaded with tons of things to blast -- making it a pretty fun game to spend an hour or two with.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (January 23, 2008)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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