Bullet hell fans rejoice, another entry has been made available on both iOS (version 4.0 and higher) and Android for everyone to enjoy. This time, it comes in the form of an old favorite from SNK Playmore called Blazing Star.
Released previously in 1998 for the Neo Geo, Blazing Star is the sequel to the very popular (and acclaimed) Pulstar and shares similar ties to its cousin, the R-Type series. With use of 3D-looking prerendered sprites, "Engrish" dialogue, and cutscenes featuring both CGI and anime, Blazing Star was a very popular game; some fans, though, didn't look upon the game favorably due to finding it 'easier' than Pulstar as well as not enjoying the look and style of old 2D bullet hell shooters.
Following the story, the player commands one of six ships, each of which has their own specific play style and character pilots. These pilots begin their journey in rebelling against an alien force that had assimilated all of the life on their planets and has brainwashed them into endless cycles of fighting. In order to regain their lost humanity, the player must battle through seven levels to ultimately face Brawshella, a sentient creature born of both organic and alien technology.
Controls are rather simple, utilizing either a virtual joystick or simply touching the screen to steer the ships while buttons 'A' and 'B' are used to shoot; 'A' being the primary weapon button that can be held for charged shots while 'B' will split your projectiles to fill the screen. The nice thing about the controls is that they are customizable so players can assign the buttons where they'd specifically like and can change controls on the fly. There are also screen options such as playing in 4:3 or 16:9 mode, having scanlines or not, and video filtering. Language options are available in English, French and Japanese. Difficulty ranges from easy to very hard, so both beginners and veterans alike can find their level of comfort. Arcade mode is what one would expect: going through all of the levels, while Mission mode allows players to select which level they'd like to play to perfect their run. Another aspect of play is a multiplayer option that utilizes Bluetooth so players can team-up for some co-op fun.
After spending a bit of time with this game, it's very much an improved arcade-perfect port due to having Mission mode. Characters are charming due to very '90s designs, as well as the "Engrish" used in the game. Controls are tedious using either the virtual joystick or the touchscreen, though if playing on the iPad, one can utilize the iCade for better controls. According to a post by DotEmu on the Touch Arcade forums, the company responsible for the port, they will be issuing a patch supporting 1:1 mode for more instant controls, and support for auto-fire as players are currently forced to tap the screen as fast as possible to maintain this ability. Do not expect the patch for a few more weeks.
For now, this game is decent but the controls definitely hindered the experience. Having to spend a good chunk of money ($99 USD) just for a controller adapter is not really something I'd like to do, so it looks like I'll be waiting for the patch to see if controls improve. DotEmu does seem rather responsive to player feedback, which is a good sign. The story is very cheesy, but then again, that's part of the charm of the game and something that I liked. There are lots of options available as well as Game Center achievements, so replayability is very high. Overall, this game is a decent pickup, pre-patch, for me.
Things I Loved:
+ High replay value
+ Multiplayer support
+ Better than perfect arcade port
+ Lots of options available for players to play their way
Things I Hated:
- Lack of auto-fire (no, tapping the screen repeatedly is not the same)
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor
Images copyrighted: SNK Playmore