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Power Blazer (NES) artwork

Power Blazer (NES) review

"If the comparisons between Power Blade and Mega Man are hard to see, then Power Blazer makes them painfully obvious: you control a small, chubby fellow that dons a blue helmet, and unlike his remixed, muscled brother, this guy can only attack in two directions, left and right."

Released for the NES in 1991, Power Blade is a Mega Man-inspired action-platformer that stars a buff dude with a boomerang. Unlike Mega Man, however, the game suffers by being too easy thanks to a batch of easily attainable power-ups and the ability to attack in eight directions. Needless to say, wiping out enemies without breaking a sweat is all you do. With that in mind, can you believe Power Blade is actually a reworking of a more challenging game that was only released in Japan? This Famicom-exclusive is called Power Blazer, and if you thought Power Blade is a pushover, then this title will kick your ass on your first playthrough... and even after you learn the game!

If the comparisons between Power Blade and Mega Man are hard to see, then Power Blazer makes them painfully obvious: you control a small, chubby fellow that dons a blue helmet, and unlike his remixed, muscled brother, this guy can only attack in two directions, left and right. Of course, this means you can't cheapen your way to victory with diagonal attacks, forcing a direct, head-to-head confrontation with most baddies. This in itself is difficult, since most of these types of battles involve big foes with hefty hit points, like the pink, robotic gorilla and the giant, hopping-mad fish. Adding to the restrictions, you don't have the triple boomerangs and the Power Suit as handy power-ups, items that are introduced in Power Blade. The only power-ups to rely on are the long-range and power (goes through an enemy for multiple hits) pick-ups, but Power Blazer makes random item drops rare, meaning it'll take a long damn time to max out your weapon if you're farming for them.

Should mention, too, that Power Blazer has entirely different level structures than Power Blade, layouts that are clearly intended to give players a challenge. You'll encounter many situations where expert-timing is needed, as you're constantly in danger of dying, and make no mistake, you will die a lot in this game. You'll meet pelicans that speed through the sky, dropping hyperactive robots, jump on disappearing platforms, try avoiding hard-to-see slime drops, and time dodges against towering machines that follow your movement with their turrets. The biggest, constant threat, though, are ground sweepers that speed up when you land on their platform, yeah, the same types from Mega Man. The dev team was pretty demented with these bastards, as they're always placed on small platforms and around helpful health and bomb items. The game definitely has that old school Mega Man mentality.

Although I do like that this is more challenging than Power Blade, the title's biggest issue is that it overdoes the difficulty at times. There are two particular areas in Power Blazer that are amazingly frustrating, since they force pixel-perfect jumping. One of the areas need you to jump on some disappearing blocks, the annoyance being that of unusual collision detection. It's hard to tell where the edge is with each block, meaning you'll fall a ton before you get lucky. The other area tasks players to jump across falling platforms over flames. The preciseness here is too absurd, as you will get burned countless times before making that death-defying leap. Another irritable problem is how large portions of the game require you to have a decently-powered weapon to survive, as some areas are unbearable with your default, short-ranged boomerang; getting up close and personal with fast-acting enemies just drains away too much of your health. I mean, Mega Man was more forgiving in this department with the Mega Buster's long distance shots and boss weapons...

It's funny, on the surface Power Blazer may appear to be superior to its remade counterpart, but it suffers nearly the same pitfalls as Power Blade, albeit in the opposite direction. One is too easy to the point of quitting due to boredom, while the other is at times too hard to the point of quitting due to rage. Go figure.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (January 15, 2012)

Gomu Gomu no Bō...

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