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elvis
10th February 2008, 06:37 PM
PAL Name: Blazing Lazers
NTSC Name: Gunhed

Manufacturer: Compile
Publisher: Hudson

System: Originally available for the PC Engine (also called the TurboGrafx or TG16 in the US). It sees new life re-released on Nintendo Wii Virtual Console for 600 Wii points (AU$9).

Release Date: 1989 on PC Engine. Re-released May 2007 on Wii.

Links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blazing_Lazers
http://www.vc-reviews.com/games/tg16/blazing_lazers
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TurboGrafx-16
http://shmups.classicgaming.gamespy.com/reviews/gunhed/index.html
http://hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com/starsoldier/starsoldier.htm
http://hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com/aleste/compile.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compile_%28software_company%29
http://www.hudsonentertainment.com/allconsole.php

YouTube:
YouTube - Blazing Lazers (TurboGrafx-16)

Review:

Compile have a long history in both arcade and console gaming. Their two most famous franchises are easily the Puyo Puyo puzzle games (bizzarely re-released in the west as "Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine" and "Kirby's Avalanche" on Western Sega and Nintendo consoles respectively) and the mighty Aleste shmup series (also known as Zanac, Space Megaforce, Power Strike, and various other localization naming).

The PC Engine was a console that didn't see much life in Australia. It was released in an odd point in gaming, somewhere between the Master System / Megadrive or NES / SNES changeover. The console itself was a hybrid 8bit main CPU with a 16bit graphics CPU. The games released for the unit reflect that a little - they have the gameplay feel of the master system generation, but with amazing graphics for the era. The PC Engine was hugely popular in Japan, and met with moderate success in the US.

Blazing Lazers is a vertical shoot 'em up, and was one of the later games for the console. Developed by Compile, Hudson (also known for the Bomberman and BC Kid / PC Kid / Bonk franchises) published the title, and to this day retain the rights. Compile themselves went the way of all shmup companies and went bankrupt in 2002, with most of their copyrights ending up in the hands of either Hudson or Sega. But during their nearly 20 year history, the company pumped out some amazing games.

Blazing Lazers *is* compile. Like many other companies, Compile have a look and feel about their games that really makes it their own. Typical to any Compile game, the weapon arsenal in Blazing Lazers consists of 4 types (numbered I through to IV which can be collected in floating orbs that you receive after defeating enemies).

I - Standard bullet shooter, upgradeable to a 5-way
II - Fast/large arc beams, upgradeable to a 3 way
III - Large lazer beam that is slow but powerful, with very interesting upgrades that make it travel in all weird and wonderful patterns
IV - Orbs that float around your ship to absorb enemy fire as well as destroy enemies

Secondary weapons are available also:

M - Multi, small clone ships that follow you
F - "Full", random powerups to your main weapon (orbs can fly forwards, lasers become homing, etc)
H - Homing missles
S - Shield

As mentioned, Blazing Lazers *is* compile. Along with the standard Compile weapon formula, the game throws powerups at you every few seconds. While at first the temptation is to grab everything in sight, you'll soon learn this isn't the way to play Compile games. The trick is to choose a particular weapon combination and stick with it. For instance if you've got weapon type II and you've upgraded it all the way by collecting multiple purple power up orbs and weapon type II orbs, collecting a weapon type III orb gives you weapon III, but back at it's weakest power level! You'll soon find in later levels that actually dodging power ups becomes an even more integral part of the game than collecting them.

Your ship has 4 in-game selectable speeds, which I also like. Needing to power up your speed in-game is one of my pet hates in shmupping, and you invariably find yourself either too slow and unable to dodge anything, or you've powered up too far and you move so fast you end up smashing into enemies and backgrounds (Blazing Lazers has no backgrounds to smash into, which is another plus in my books).

Along with the power up system, Compile were one of the best companies for scaling difficulty. You'll find yourself waltzing through level one even on your first play. But good luck making your way through any of the later levels without a few weeks' worth of practice. The levels scale nicely in difficulty, and the challenge is spot on.

Levels are long (much longer than most vertical shooters), and each is broken down into two sections with a mid boss and final boss. The game music is quite good for the generation, and definitely appropriate to the fast pace of the gameplay. As a chip-generated music fan, I find it one of the better examples of PC Engine music.

Along with the great difficulty level scaling, this game is very intense. The gameplay is fast, and a moment's break in concentration is enough to get you dead quick. Memorization of level layout will certainly help, but there's still alot about this game that relies on good old fashioned skill and reflexes.

Some notes about the Wii Virtual Console:

You are able to play the game with 3 different controllers. Either the standard WiiMote rotated 90 degrees and held like a classic NES/Master System/PC Engine gamepad, A Wii Classic Controller addon, or a Gamecube controller. I have all three, and either of the first two methods feel quite natural. The controllers all offer both normal and rapid fire (not an issue with Blazing Lazers, as all weapons are auto rapid fire). The WiiMote is nice to use as it's small (I hate big controllers) and wireless (no kiddies or dogs tripping over your cables mid gameplay). The "+" and "-" buttons on the controller are used for "Run" and "Select" respectively, and work well even in gameplay.

The good news to all of that is you don't need to go out and buy any special gear to play the game (unlike SNES and N64 games, which can't be played properly on the WiiMote alone).

The only downside to the Wii VC version is that the game is played back in interlaced format. If you sit back far enough away from your TV, it's not an issue. But purists who love progressive scan games and those sexy scanlines might object. After playing it for a couple of weeks now in the lounge (and most frequently when it's still light), I don't notice the interlacing at all.

The coolest thing about the Wii VC for PC Engine games is that they support save states. At any time you can press the Home button on your controller, click the "Wii Menu" button, and the game will create a save state for you.

All up this game is great. This is pure and unadulterated Compile brilliance, and more than worth the purchase (a steal at AU$9 / 800 Wii points). I've bought a few other VC games here and there, but this one still gets play for a half hour every night. Highly recommended.

feeras
10th February 2008, 09:03 PM
thanks for the review! The game looks brilliant. Very similar to Super Aleste on the snes. I will have to give it a try!

GEMINI
10th February 2008, 09:13 PM
Love the review and thank you for taking the time to make it
PS where has Mr Kwans reveiws gone??
one question ..where do you find 1/2 hour every night??

bwodie
10th February 2008, 09:28 PM
hudson have made SO many good games over the years
thanks for the review

elvis
11th February 2008, 09:31 AM
Very similar to Super Aleste on the snes.
Yup, Compile made that one too. If you like that, you'll love this one.


one question ..where do you find 1/2 hour every night??
The two eldest kids go to bed at 7:30pm, and bath time for the baby is 8:00pm. I get exactly 30 minutes of peace in that time, which I gladly take for shmupping.

After the little guy has his bath and hits the sack, the missus hooks into Zelda: Ocarina of Time on N64 / Wii Virtual Console (she's promised herself to finish that BEFORE she plays Twilight Princess on Wii), and I usually go back to work (private work for clients, which I do from home).

So yeah, that's our routine. And that's my 30 minutes of gaming a day. Ever since I started doing that, I've been much happier with life. All work and no play makes elvis a cranky monkey. :)

I've just bought "Lords of Thunder" on Wii VC, so that will be my next review in another week or so.

mouser
4th June 2008, 11:26 AM
Cheers for the review! This is actually one game I wasn't familiar with before you reviewed it. Looks very similar to a lot of the old school shooters for my mind which isn't a bad thing at all as it's a great formula for good ol' fashioned blasting fun.