Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 20, 2016

TG 16 Review: Blazing Lazers

Note: Blazing Lazers was reviewed on actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation. Beware of reviews using emulation!

It is Blazing Lazers, one of the most famous games on the Turbografx 16! Did this game stand the test of time? Shall it be inducted into the museum of gaming classics? And most important of all, will it earn the Malstrom Award?

Above: So explosive is Blazing Lazers gameplay that video footage cannot capture the ship’s beam weapons correctly. Half of it is missing!

Above: More Blazing Lazers gameplay!

This is the most important Turbografx 16 game ever made. “Why is that, Master Malstrom?” asks the reader. There are many other signature Turbografx 16 games such as Bonk’s Adventure, Bomberman ’93, Castlevania: Dracula X, Y’s I and II, but none of them had the effect on the system’s library like Blazing Lazers did.

In short, Blazing Lazers is to shmups and to the Turbografx 16 what Super Mario Brothers was to platformers and to the NES.

In Blazing Lazers, you have ridiculous variety of power-ups which can be powered up in strength. When you get hit, your power-ups get downgraded instead of outright blowing you up. The other action button fires a large screen wide bomb that takes out most of the enemies on the screen. Blazing Lazers removes much of the typical shmup frustration found in games like R-type or Gradius, makes you feel ridiculously powerful with many power-ups, and gives the player a smooth challenge climb. Unlike R-type or Gradius, Blazing Lazers was developed for the home console and not the arcades. Blazing Lazers is ridiculously fun, and the game sold massively well. Hudson would make the Star Soldier trilogy (Super Star Soldier, Final Soldier, Soldier Blade) from Blazing Lazers success. The success and popularity of Blazing Lazers attracted ports of every shmup to the Turbografx 16 as well as development for new ones. Blazing Lazers is the reason why Turbografx 16 became shmup-land.

Above: Even more Blazing Lazers gameplay. People love talking about this game!

Blazing Lazers has an interesting development. The game was co-developed by two companies: Compile and Hudson. The president of Compile, Niitani, was the creator of NES’s Zanac and Guardian Legend. Ueyama from Hudson was the director of the Super Bomberman game for the SNES. Together, they made a shmup based on the Gunhed movie license. In the West, the references to the license was removed so it is known simply as Blazing Lazers.

Above: Mark from Classic Game Room raves over the game.

As a shmup, it is difficult to talk about the game because how much can you say aside from keep shooting and keep dodging? The soundtrack is top notch and is one of the best sound tracks  of the entire Turbografx 16 library if not for this time period. The graphics are crisp, good, and look as good as they could back in 1989.

I do really like that the speed is adjusted with the select button. You have three options for your speed that YOU determine. This is so much nicer than the Gradius or R-type way of getting power-ups just to handle your spaceship.

There are many continues so when you lose all your lives, you do not have to start the long game all the way over. When you do die, you do NOT reappear. You go back to a spawning point in the game’s level. This has some good qualities since it gives you a chance to upgrade your ship again.

Above: Turbo Views raves over the game.

Above: Even girls like this game. Note how frantic the ship’s shooting is that the video footage couldn’t capture it correctly? haha

Above: This review inadvertently shows some of the frustrations and downsides of Blazing Lazers such as having to dodge power-ups.

Boy, everyone loves to talk about this game. Everyone loves to review this game. There is so much nostalgia and ‘turbo nerd points’ to praise this game. “Hail!” “Hail!” “Hail!” Reading anything about this game is like witnessing some sort of Turbografx 16 orgy. Even the Virtual Console release reviews had the reviewers go “Hail!” “Hail!” to the game.

But this is why you are reading this review. Is Blazing Lazers good? Is all this praise bullshit?

The truth is that Blazing Lazers is an excellent game, and it is extremely interesting even today. However, the game is vastly overrated and suffers greatly from aging. The best way I can describe it is discussing the quality of Mega Man 1. Mega Man 1 is an excellent game, but it is not consistent and very uneven. Yet, Mega Man 1 allowed better games like Mega Man 2 to appear.

I know I played this game when it originally came out long, long ago. But my most in depth time with it was playing it when it was released on the Virtual Console. I would get so bored during these long stretches of empty levels that I would use the save state and go play a more fun game like Devil’s Crush or Soldier Blade.

With the actual hardware, I do, indeed, keep coming back to Blazing Lazers. Whatever the game is doing, it keeps calling me back. Yet, there are strange reactions I get when playing the game. One time, I fell asleep (first time I’d ever fallen asleep during a shmup). The game is so inconsistent that some levels just drag on, and on, and on. Most of my playtime consisted me of shutting the game off before I had completed using my lives or even my continues.

Blazing Lazers is too inconsistent. One moment I am saying, “This is awesome!” and next moment is “this is boring.” This was a launch game for the western release of the Turbografx 16. This game has aged. The Star Soldier trilogy by Hudson is essentially the game’s sequels, and you can see how much more consistently fun Final Soldier and Soldier Blade are because they came out later in the console’s life cycle.

The worst thing about Blazing Lazers is that it has ceased to be a game but become a sort of ‘hardcore virtue signal’. In the last video review posted above by Michael the Game Genie, he bursts with praise about how ‘awesome’ this game is and then dies on the first stage. When he gets to Area 6 or 7, he goes, “This is my very first time I have ever gotten here!” I am convinced that the vast majority of the “Hail!” “Hail!” crowd for Blazing Lazers hardly ever play the game. It seems like everyone is copying what a few snooty shmup snobs are saying. This is a really good and interesting game. It is a very important game, business-wise, for the platform. But it isn’t remotely the best shmup on the system. Even the shmup snob cannot dispute how uneven the game is with its long barren stretches of boredom. And what is with the programming? When you fly back and forth with the screen scrolling, the bullets scroll with it. WTF!??

“Hail!” “Hail!” “All hail the Blazing Lazers!”

This game may have been the bee’s knees in 1989 and even 1999, but in 2016 the game has definitely aged. I have no desire to ‘hardcore virtue signal’ about this silly game. It is too inconsistent to get a Malstrom Award, but the game is considerably interesting. It’s popularity makes it cheap to obtain. It is worth checking out, and you can judge for yourself if the game is worth the endless praise. I bet your reaction will be like mine: the game is good, but boy does it have some issues.

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