Burai Fighter (NES) review
"From there, despite graphical differences, the second, fourth, fifth and seventh stages are essentially the same. You go one way while blasting stuff, change direction while killing more things, change direction again and so on until you get to the boss. While it’s a nice formula that does have its moments, such as in the fifth level where you seemingly spend an eternity in the first corridor scrolling every which way before moving on, things tend to feel like you're?doing the same thing over and over again."
Burai Fighter’s one of those unoriginal games that comes close to being fairly memorable, but just can’t quite get over the hump. While the chap you control is a dude in a spacesuit (ie:Forgotten Worlds), the action is bound to remind you of R-Type for the majority of the game’s seven stages, as it features claustrophobic corridors where the challenge comes equally from each level’s layout and the enemy opposition.
While inspired by R-Type, this game does have a couple of really good ideas that come close to really making it great. First, take a look at your guy’s weaponry. Throughout each stage, tons of enemies drop icons that alternate between “L”, “R” and “M” (laser, ring and missile). While each of these weapons only has three levels of power (each level letting you shoot in more directions), you can collect 10 icons for each. Switching between weapons has no effect on your first one’s power -- if you go back to the first one, it’ll be just as powerful as before. This is good, as you can use the game’s easier stages to collect orbs for all of them, giving you three powerful ways to attack foes to choose from depending on the current situation.
If you lose a life, you lose all your weapon strength, but only for the one being used upon the time of death. This also is good, as the orbs are plentiful enough that you shouldn’t be crippled by an unfortunate incident like in many of these games. All of this neatly ties in with the sort of shooter Burai Fighter is -- as it’s great to have multiple weapons capable of shooting in multiple directions in a game that loves narrow corridors, enemy-littered alcoves and changing the direction the screen’s scrolling in on a regular basis.
The scrolling ties into another positive attribute of this game -- good control. Taxan made the flying dude a pretty versatile fellow. If you’re holding down the fire button, pressing the control pad simply moves him around the screen facing in the direction he’s shooting. However, pressing the pad while not gunning down foes serves the purpose of changing the direction you’re facing, so you can always count on being able to focus your attack where you want, regardless of whether you’re scrolling to the right, left, top or bottom.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Burai Fighter’s four difficulty levels, as well as the multiple endings based on which level you pick. Or how in some areas the graphics really are pretty sweet and colorful. Dig through my screenshot gallery and look at that picture of a gigantic spiked rod sailing out of some device with intent to fold, spindle and mutilate the hero. There are a lot of those things in that particular section of the game and they look damn good! As do a couple of the bosses, especially the rock-spewing dragon you fight at the end. And the bomb/one-up system was pure genius. Throughout the game, destroyed enemies drop little red gems. Pick up four of them and you can set off a big, enemy-killin’ bomb. Or you can save up a bunch of them and get an extra life when a bar on the bottom of the screen is full. These gems are extremely plentiful, so if a player wants, they can clear the screen with bombs pretty regularly OR kill foes the hard way and get a few more extra lives for those tricky parts of the game.
Unfortunately, despite all the things I liked about this game, I really struggled to get into it at times because the level design was just “so-so”. The first level was a generic base where only a handful of enemies are more of a threat to a player’s safety than accidentally getting caught behind a wall and scrolled off the screen (FATALITY!). From there, despite graphical differences, the second, fourth, fifth and seventh stages are essentially the same. You go one way while blasting stuff, change direction while killing more things, change direction again and so on until you get to the boss. While it’s a nice formula that does have its moments, such as in the fifth level where you seemingly spend an eternity in the first corridor scrolling every which way before moving on, things tend to feel like you're doing the same thing over and over again.
The third and sixth stages were different, but in a way that made me wish I was back to doing those same things over and over again. For some reason, Taxan decided to not only lift Thunder Force 2’s crappy free-flying overhead levels, but actually make them worse! All you do is fly over a drab surface shooting pathetic foes (not so tough without all those confounded walls, are ya?) until you find a big multi-gun base to eradicate.
While you could say these levels are so short and easy they shouldn’t detract from the rest of the game because you’ll likely spend next-to-no time on them, I look at things differently. A smart player will have no trouble exploiting these stages to make the game far easier than it should be. There is no time limit and an infinite supply of foes that go down without much of a fight (at least on the easier difficulties), which makes it simplicity itself to fly in circles killing everything you see to collect mass quantities of weapon orbs and gems for one-ups. A patient player could easily have all three weapons maxed out and a slew of extra lives before exiting the third stage. Those two overhead levels aren’t just a bad idea -- they’re a potentially game-breaking one.
Like I said, Burai Fighter is one of those games that’s good, but just not particularly special. I loved some of the ideas the designers implemented here (and wish they were present in more shooters), but the game itself just struck me as a solid, but flawed, title. Fans of R-Type-type games might want to check this one out, but it’s not what I’d call an essential addition to any shooter fan’s library.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 22, 2008)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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