Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blazing Lazers

About 17 years ago my friend had this weird video game system with games that looked like credit cards. One of the two games he had was a space shooter that blew my mind. It was years ahead of the time, in music, graphics, and fun factor (a term used by Nintendo Power in the ancient days). That game was Blazing Lazers (the other was, ironically, Bonk's Revenge).

Years went by, and I forgot the name of the game. Eventually, after a good bit of search forums and the internet, I found the titles. I didn't really have an opportunity to play Blazing Lazers, however, until, you guessed it, the virtual console. This was actually the first virtual console game I purchased.

Blazing Lazers is a vertical-scrolling space shooter, and it was made in 1989. It embodies everything that is great about shmups, and is essential for any fan of the genre. In addition, it offers a good entrance into the world of shmups if you've never played one before. You fly through space, collecting power-ups. You have four different weapons, and which type of power-up you collect determines your weapon (there is a shread-shot, lazer, wave beam, and circling orbs, each labeled with a roman numeral). In addition, you have secondary power-ups that grant you special abilities (Gradius-style multiple, homing missiles, shield, and "full power," each labeled with a letter). You collect an extra life if you earn 25,000 points.

Each level is broken into 2 parts, with a boss at the end of each part. One annoyance is that if you die, you must restart the half-stage over, although power=ups are so common you never suffer from "Gradius Gaiden Syndrome" (a situation that occurs in some shmups: restart right before a difficult area with no power-ups, meaning that one death usually results in a GAME OVER eventually). There are so many power-ups that you will be dodging the ones you don't want more than worrying about when the next one will appear. There are no speed power-ups, the player can press "select" at any time to adjust their speed. Finally, there are these pink orbs: collect enough of them and your weapon will upgrade, in addition to upgrading your mini-shield. This works in addition to collecting the power-ups within your current progressions (main weapon and secondary, the roman numerals and letters, respectively), and comes as a welcome addition.

Another aspect you might notice is that your ship is huge compared to modern shooters. Ikaruga and Gradius V each have extremely small hit boxes (the former having a 1-pixel hit box!), but the game is balanced around your clunky ship, so it's never really a problem. In addition, regular weapons will provide you with a side-shield (not as good as the shield power-up).

The Turbo Grafx 16 bragged about how "Turbo Charged" their console was, and part of this game is Hudson making good on their word. The game reaches the insane intensity of modern shooters. Enemies and bullets are everywhere, power-ups are everywhere, techno music pumps up the intensity (the game has some amazing tracks, don't be surprised if Blazing Lazers remixes find their way onto your playlist), vicious boss fights, and brutal difficulty (each can be overcome with a little practice). Hudson made one hell of a great game.

Blazing Lazers is just as good as contemporary shooters, and should not be passed up by any fan of the genre. Here is a protip: weapon III (the Lazer, or as the game calls it, "Shield Thunder") is by far the best weapon. The secondary power-ups are more balanced, but, generally I find the F ("full power") to be the most effective. With nine levels, double the boss fights, great music, a $6 price tag, and plenty of turbo-charged raw power... you've got to ask yourself: "why the hell am I not playing Blazing Lazers right now?"


Anonymous said...

But what about Galaga...

There is something so charming about the Galaxian/Galaga series that this game just overwhelms and obliterates with its complicated weapon level-up system and its chaotic screen: you can’t tell if they are coming for you or from you.

The weapons system is complicated, and frustrating, too! One would think that grabbing a IV when you have a II would be an improvement, but apparently numerical sequences are not how the minds of these programmers work. Instead it is random letters and red (a color which symbolizes danger) circles that advance your ship.

If you like complicated, go for gradius V... sooo trippy and a much more flexible leveling system.


Anonymous said...

still... it's an awesome game. I can definitely understand liking Gradius 5 a lot more... Gradius 5 is the best shooter I've ever played.


Ty said...

You are absolutely right! Blazing Lasers is a classic!

Also have you played Lords Of Thunder? you can buy it on the Virtual Console. Amazing Game and rockin' soundtrack.

We are definitely going to start following you via google.

MetalFRO said...

Great review! I love this game and have for a long time. I wanted a TG-16 SO bad back in the day, and every month when my issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment came with more screenshots and reviews of TG-16 games, I was left wanting. My Genesis kept me plenty happy, but I always knew I was missing out on some of that fun. Fast forward years later and I picked up a TG-16 used via the Internet, and then scored a near-complete copy (sans box) of Blazing Lazers to boot! I plugged that HuCard in to the system and played the crap out of that game. It was about 2 years or so later that I finally got my 1CC, which was a great victory! Too bad it wasn't a 1LC, but still, a fantastic ride.

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