Shadow Blasters (Genesis) review
"It could have used some more content."
Shadow Blasters is a fairly simple action platformer with a couple of unique features, but is unfortunately too short of a game with relatively limited replay value.
The evil god Ashura has attacked the earth with all sorts of demonic minions. Hyprion (who might be a mistranslation or misspelling of "Hyperion") gives four warriors, Horatio, Tiffany, Leo, and Marco, power to defeat Ashura and save the earth. There isn't much plot to the game other than an optional introduction and a few lines of dialogue towards the end of the game. The text scrolls slowly and there's a couple of misspelled words here and there but all cutscenes can be skipped.
The main feature of Shadow Blasters is that the player can switch between the four heroes at any time during a stage, and each of the four heroes has a somewhat different play style. A good comparison is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the NES. Horatio, Tiffany, Leo, and Marco each can attack, jump, and use a special attack once per stage that defeats all enemies on the screen or causes damage to the boss at the end of the stage. The normal attack can be charged by holding down the attack button. Each of their attacks are different. Tiffany, for example, has an attack that arcs downwards, so she can more easily defeat enemies below her. Attacks are all projectiles with different sizes and trajectories. Switching between characters helps to defeat certain enemies and pass certain obstacles. Even though their normal attacks are all different, their special attacks are all identical, and it's a bit disappointing because this would have been a good way to differentiate the characters further.
Each character has their own health meter and each collects powerups separately. There's a powerup that increases movement speed, there's one that increases jump height and one that reduces the time to charge an attack. This means that a player can concentrate certain powerups on a single character or spread them around evenly among the four. A dead hero is unusable until the player gets a game over, so having a hero with maximum speed, jumping, and a more powerful attack can make parts of the game very easy, but if he dies, then the rest of the party would be very weak in comparison. It adds a bit of strategy and planning to the game.
Shadow Blasters features nine levels in total. The first six may be played in any order, but there's no obvious advantage in playing one level before another. Life totals and powerups carry over between levels. It might be advantageous to tackle the harder levels first, when the player has all four characters and full health, or it might be better to play the harder levels last, when the player has more powerups but possibly less health for each hero. The first six levels are named Mountain, Street, Glen, Harbor, Forest and Future. It's not clear whether the party is actually traveling through time to the Future stage or if it's just a futuristic-looking part of the world. For the most part, levels are fairly linear with the player moving from left to right and defeating enemies. Each level ends with a boss. Bosses have reasonably predictable patterns, but it's very helpful to use a character with high speed and jumping ability against a boss. On a couple, such as the large purple ape boss, it's hard to avoid taking damage with a slow character. The platforming parts of the level don't require much precision and can be completed even with characters with no jumping or speed powerups.
The final boss is completely different from other levels in terms of control and play style. Unfortunately the final boss is also easy since there is a simple pattern the player can use to avoid all damage as well as attack the boss.
The worst part about Shadow Blasters is its short length. Playing the first time on the normal difficulty might take only about forty-five minutes to complete, and less for an experienced player. Most levels don't offer much along the lines of alternate paths or secret areas either. There is also a hard difficulty mode, but the game offers unlimited continues so the game is generally manageable even for a novice. There is no save or password feature, and while the game keeps score it does not save a high score table.
Shadow Blasters also features a two player cooperative mode. Both players control a character on screen at the same time, and they can pass through one another and are unharmed by each other's projectiles. It's an interesting feature and worth consideration, since most platformers, if they even had a two player mode, just alternated turns between the two players.
If only Shadow Blasters were a longer game with a few more levels and some more depth, it could have been a cult classic. For an early Genesis title it's pretty good but it feels like this game needed more content.
Community review by Bouchart (September 19, 2017)
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