Blazing Star is a horizontal shoot’em up developed by Yumekobo and published by SNK in 1998 for the Neo Geo. It’s most famously known for the humorous translation of text “You fail it! Your skill is not enough. See you next time. Bye Bye!”. Though there is more to this game than hilarious translations, and it’s definitely worth trying out.
Blazing Star’s story is pretty typical of your average shmup; two planets known as Mutras and Rumeria waged a war against each other, which eventually resulted in the development of biological weaponry. Eventually this lead to the development of the weapon known as Brawshella, which is in layman’s terms a baby with the ability to shapeshift into deadly and monstrous looking abominations. Brawshella then goes on to control all life on the planet, including human beings, forcing them to fight and kill each other. Only a handful of people broke free (the protagonists), and turned on Brawshella shortly after they regain consciousness. It’s not exactly a spiritual sequel to Pulstar, but it isn’t a direct sequel either. The events of both games don’t seem intricately connected. Though it’s rather cliche and typical of a shmup storyline, it gets the job done and gives you an excuse to wreak havoc.
The game starts off with a wide selection of ships to choose from. The first and my personal favorite is Hell-Hound, which has a wide shot, a decent amount of power and average speed. Its charge shot is also arguably the best, because even when it’s not at its fullest the beam is still very powerful. The next ship is Windina, it’s quite slow, but it has a rather wide shot. Its charge shot spreads explosions that stick to one spot on the screen for a few seconds. Next up is Aryustailm, which is an incredibly fast ship with a pretty weak shot. The Aryustailm’s charge shot is also rather weak, with its main function being used as a shield against bullets. There’s also a ship called Peplos, which has a lot of speed, but unfortunately cannot collect power ups. Peplos also has pretty weak power, which can be a burdensome at times. The charge shot is basically a weaker version of the Hell-Hound. On the positive side, whenever you die the ship never loses power, as it stays at a constant level the entire game. Dino 135 is the next ship on the list, and it has a decently wide shot with two drones on the top and bottom of the ship that shoot in the opposite direction of your movement. The charge shot is basically a lot of bullets that come spraying out, all more powerful than your regular shot. Finally, there’s the ship from the first game, Pulstar, named Dino 246 and piloted by the protagonist from the first game, Kaoru Y. This ship, though slow, has a generous amount of power and a defense system that covers much of the ship. Like Dino 135 it has two drones on the top and bottom of the ship, and one big one that is always in front. The shots are wide and even have homing missiles. The charge shot is small but pretty powerful.
I found a lot of these ships to be a burden to use in comparison to Hell-Hound. The downsides to them seem unbalanced, whereas Hell-Hound is basically the best of everything. The only ship I find that comes close to the usefulness of Hell-Hound is Dino 246, and that’s because of its wide shot and superb defense system.
The game is easy to get into, as there’s really only one button you can use, besides the one that activates Aryustailm’s shield. Which is rather nice, as some shmups can be a pain to learn at first. The power up system is pretty simple too, as you just have to collect three red spheres with the letter P on them to get your ship fully powered up. There are 6 stages in all, including the final boss which is basically its own stage. Bosses are very hard, and take quite a lot of precision to survive. Each boss has multiple phases to it, with stage 6’s boss being a sort of gauntlet of large ships that attack you relentlessly. Bosses also have a time limit to each of them, and if you fail to defeat the boss within the time limit, you get the words “You fail it! Your skill is not enough. See you next time. Bye Bye!”. Many of the ships that you can pilot just aren’t well equipped to defeating the boss quickly enough, as they’re just too weak in comparison to the likes of Hell-Hound and Dino 246.
Although I enjoyed myself while playing this, I have to say that the game is plagued with a fair amount of trial and error difficulty; and while I have no problem with that being added in sparingly, it felt a little excessive. There were many points in which I couldn’t have possibly survived unless I knew about a certain obstacle beforehand. I found myself dying simply by being in the wrong spot at the wrong time, without even a second to react. It was mostly ships just appearing out of the blue and crashing into me, or just an attack that I couldn’t have possibly known about, and had no time to dodge by the time it was fired. Thankfully though, it’s not as unforgiving as Pulstar, and allows you to re-spawn immediately after dying, and I must admit that the gameplay did improve from the previous game. Attacks weren’t as unfair, and there were a good few that I could react to.
The music in Blazing Star is absolutely perfect. The best way to describe it, is that it’s a swanky soundtrack. It’s upbeat, and it really gets you in the mood of playing; it definitely fits the hectic atmosphere of Blazing Star. I would have to say my personal favorite is stage 2’s theme, which isn’t exactly swanky sounding; it’s just exhilarating and it even convinced me to pick the game up and play. Of course, part of the credit also goes to Neo Geo’s sound system, as it really helped developers make some amazing music. Speaking of which, the sound effects themselves are satisfying to the ear, especially when you defeat boss. The shots you fire sound like they carry weight, and make destroying an enemy more gratifying. Do yourself a favor and don’t hit mute while playing this game.
Blazing Star not only sounds good, but looks good as well. The colors are vibrant and bright, and the detail to the environments is superb. The backgrounds themselves interact with the levels, as you’ll notice the enemies coming from giant ships floating in the horizon, and then greeting you shortly after. The actual ship models themselves were alright, they did the best that they could with the pseudo 3D rendering that was available to them at the time. Stage 2’s background was particularly nice, with the way they rendered it in pseudo 3D, it looked like they put attention to detail when designing it. The mid section of stage 5 was also done well, and another example of pseudo 3D rendering in Blazing Star. The section has you trailing through a tunnel at high speeds as a barrage of enemies come to assault you.
If you’re looking for your next shoot’em up fix, Blazing Star is your go to game. The difficulty is high enough to keep you replaying it over and over again until you master it, with an accessibility that allows just about anyone to pick it up and play. Or if you’re just looking for some eye candy and something nice to listen to while you’re playing a video game, Blazing Star satisfies that urge as well. There are a lot of ships to play around with, giving you a reason to revisit the game many times over.