Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Blazing Lazers (Turbografx-16, 1989)

The final game of Shooter Week is a legendary, revered, beloved retro shooter. It's from Hudson Soft rather than Compile, but it sure does have a lot in common with the Aleste series. Mainly Super Aleste, which this game is closer to than any of the other shooters that I've played this week. That's right, I had to go to the Turbografx-16 (a system I've never played anything on before) to find a game that might be on par with my beloved Space Megaforce. I'd still put this game in second-place, but it isn't far off.

 For a system called Turbografx, the graphics aren't super-impressive. They're a step below what the SNES was capable of at launch a couple years later, but they're likely top of the line for 1989. It's odd that the system did as poorly as it did, but the Nintendo marketing machine kept their 8-bit system rolling over any competition that might arise.

 First boss! The bosses in this game tend to be mostly large mechs. Rather than having multiple parts/cannons to dismantle, as was usually the case in this era of shooters, these bosses tend to have one weak spot that opens and closes.

The best thing about this game is that you can combine various weapons. Some have letter classifications while others are numbered, and you can have one of each. The best combination that I've found so far is IV and F. My beloved Circle power is IV, while F is an overpowered orb-shaped blue laser that fires a bunch of shots at once that cover a huge area. They also spin as they go, covering even more area. Combine that with Circle and the enemies barely have a chance.

This thing looks vaguely like the Mana Fortress from Secret of Mana.

In addition to having two different weapons from two different sets, you've also got a regular blaster (seen here firing forward) and smart bombs. Lots of smart bombs. Here, I have 16. The game gives you tons of them. They don't annihilate everything onscreen, though - only everything within their radius, which is a circle covering maybe 30% of the screen.

Circle + Homing Missile is another very potent combination of weapons. Space Megaforce's two most effective powerups, combined in an orgy of destruction.

I take on another boss with fairly limited weaponry. Much like Space Megaforce, taking damage in this game rolls back your weapon level-ups a bit.

One thing I really like about this game? The vibrant color scheme. It's very pleasant to look at, and the lasers in particular really do stand out. You might even say they're... somewhat blazing.

Third boss is a very cool-looking ant that summons smaller ants to go after you over the course of the fight. My time in MMOs has taught me that you always go after the adds when they show up, then go back to the boss when it's clear. That works well here too; ignoring the adds results in getting overwhelmed before too long.

Stage four takes things into the realm of the creepy organic level, complete with flying brains. This is where the game finally begins to be a little bit challenging. Nice slow learning curve early on.

Wow, now that's one freaky-looking boss... it's a little bit reminiscent of The Thing.


Stage five transpires over the desert, where you need to blast pyramids that shoot energy balls at you. That's right, this game has you DESTROYING THE PYRAMIDS. What are we, British colonists?

This two-headed dragon...rock...spider thing is the halfway-point boss of the game, and the first one that gives me a difficult challenge. So far, the game is blowing me away with the general fun and easygoing nature of it. Will the second half maintain the smooth thrill-ride, or will it devolve into frustrating chaos like so many other shooters?

We'll find out... RIGHT NOW.

That's a blazing laser, right there. As the game went on I found myself going for the Laser over the Circle. Unlike other games of this type, most of the danger in this game comes from larger enemies flying at you... not small blockable projectiles. Also, the Circle in this game seems a little less effective overall, even for blocking. The Laser, on the other hand, can take out enemies before they even get near you. It's big and extremely damaging.

Here's a really weird machine...or trio of machines, really. It has this green penis-like gun that slides in and out of an armor sheath while a UFO and a giant metal hand fly around attacking you.

Here's the smart bomb in action. I mentioned how it doesn't cover the whole screen, and here you can see the range that it does cover. Luckily, you get a lot of these. They're crucial at a few points later on when the game just decides to completely overwhelm you with enemies.

Protip: It's generally a very very bad idea to stand in front of bosses as they float down onto the screen. As soon as the fight starts, they usually unleash some big near-unavoidable attack to their front.

Protip 2: The Laser, at higher levels, shoots to the sides of your craft (and up). It's a good idea to actually fly alongside bosses and just hammer them with the side-beam.

The next stage is the longest in the game. It's relatively devoid of enemies. Instead, you get to contend with all kinds of deadly space bubbles.

 They come in all sizes, colors, and attack patterns. Suck it, SNES! Turbografx-16 can do transparent objects too!

Here is what I thought was the final boss. These games really like having giant creepy heads at the end of the game, don't they?

Again, unleashing the Laser while flying alongside it is the way to go. At least for me; this game has so many useful weapon combinations that anyone who plays it might find something else that works better for them.

Inside of the giant skull... is the creepiest brain-enemy in shooter history. This HAS to be the final boss...'s not? Really?

 The real final stage has you fighting all of the bosses again (except for the skull). Now that I've got more of a strategy, it isn't that difficult to get past most of these. The real issue is the minute or so between each boss fight; you get SWARMED by enemies and it borders on ridiculous. There were times when enemies were attacking faster than I could fire new beams to get rid of them.

The final boss is a wall of cannon-panels. After the grueling last couple stages, I just unleashed on this thing with the fully-powered Laser.

And trapped inside is... a woman? This game has a damsel in distress?

.....nope. This woman is actually the alien leader, and immediately commences throwing energy beams at you. Not sure if this is an illusion generated by a computer or what.

While the woman being the final form would be super-unique, unfortunately she isn't. Defeat her and you then have to fight this Ghost in the Shell refugee. None of this is particularly difficult compared to what you go through to get here.

Victory gets you something like fifty lives... not that it matters at this point. Still, kind of a cool little detail.

 Stuff explodes as our victorious hero flies away. So, is this game worthy of the hype? Yeah, it's quite good. It isn't as good as Super Aleste, which makes sense since that game had four more years of technology behind it.

This game also gets very frustrating in the final two or three stages, which is a bit of a stumble because it's such a smooth, fun experience for most of the way. There has to be something for the hardcore players to have fun with, though, and if that's the last third of the game, so be it.

This concludes Shooter Week, and now it's time to get back to The Autumn of Lufia.

Other Noteworthy Posts:


  1. The marketing machine and the GAMES OH MY GOD THE GAMES MARIO 3 IS ALMOST HERE

    What makes those bombs so smart, then?

    Weapons roll back with damage instead of disappearing? That's cool. Cave Story does that too.

    Deadly space bubbles are probably my favorite shooter enemy type.

  2. I read this mail months ago and now I've read it again. It's really good to see the TurboGrafx16 remembered in some way. I'm sure the men who made it had their dreams!