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Burai Fighter


How many of you remember Taxan?  This little known publisher during the NES era released a number of gems for the system, like Low G Man (my first review!) and the first G.I. Joe game.  Although they never achieved the level of notoriety of a Capcom or Konami their games were just as good in many respects.  One such hidden gem was Burai Fighter.

A race of beings known as the Burai have their eyes set on world conquest and unleash a slew of cyber demons across the galaxy.  As a lone fighter the odds seem impossible but if you can destroy their 7 manufacturing plants the tables will turn.  Structurally similar to Thunder Force 2 with its mix of side scrolling levels and overhead segments I doubt many have even heard of this game.  Which is a shame as it is one of the better shmups for the platform and has enough challenge and incentive to replay the game to satisfy any fan of the genre.

A robust selection of weapons is on hand to at least even the odds.  The Missile, Laser, and Ripple might sound familiar but have a few distinctions that make them separate from other games.  Missiles are powerful but detonate on impact.  Lasers are a middle ground, strong and can pass through multiple enemies in one pass but not walls.  The ripple is weak but can shoot through walls.  An option can be found in some levels for added protection and smart bombs can be stocked up to 7.  In addition each weapon can be upgraded multiple times but never to the point where you feel as though you are a walking death machine.  And that is owed to the wonderful level design.

Each level is scrolls in every direction possible and features a relentless assault of enemies from all corners.  You can fire in 8 directions and lock your fire when necessary however depending on the direction the screen is scrolling you may not have an optimal angle of attack.  It is in these situations where weapon selection makes a difference.  Weapon pods are dropped or placed frequently enough that switching is never a problem.  Also you do not lose weapon levels as the game keeps track.  Not that it’s mandatory; I used the laser the majority of the time and was fine for the most part.  But being equipped with the Ripple and destroying enemies long before they can return fire is immensely satisfying.  And you’ll need every edge you can get since this is not an easy game.

Your cyber suit might make you look like a bad ass however it does make you a large target.  The forced scrolling is used to great effect by placing power-ups in areas where you won’t see the immediate danger until it’s too late.  The enemies are laid out in such a way that can screw you by trapping you in a short tunnel with no room to maneuver and bullets flying.  The other blemish on the game would be the two overhead levels that show you a brief map once with the boss’s position and that’s it.   If you weren’t paying attention you can literally wander around the level for close to an hour trying to find your objective.

Speaking of challenge, there are 3 initial difficulty settings with marked differences.  Aside from faster and stronger attacks new enemies will also appear.  Working in your favor is the increase in the score multiplier at the end of each level, enabling you to score more extra lives.  There are different endings for each although I should preface this by saying the changes are slight; this is an 8-bit game after all.  And for the masochists out there Ultimate difficulty is unlocked after completing the prior 3.

Burai Fighter is definitely one of the better shmups for the NES and just an overall good game.  We’ll never know why it isn’t more popular but that’s why I’m here to sing its praises.

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Low G Man

Those of us who grew up in the 80s are familiar with using the back of the box to determine if a game is worth buying or not.  Gaming magazines weren’t on most of our radars until the 90s or so, so to take their place all we had to go on were either word of mouth or the dreaded ad copy on the box.  I say dreaded because, and I’m pretty sure of it, publishers would use deceptive tactics like screenshots of the title screen or cut scenes to get your childlike imagination running about the adventures to come.  In reality, we were 20 minutes away from getting our asses reamed by the latest licensed Acclaim shit fest, but at the time we were too young to comprehend a company putting out bad games to take our money.  But I digress.

Low G Man was bought strictly because of the box art, (or lack thereof) and the description on the back of the box.

This is what we had to go by in the 80’s.  Scary huh?

Like most kids, I only received new games on birthdays, Christmas, or the odd holiday.  In this case I bought the game using birthday money.  Walking through the Toys R Us aisle I felt like the world was my oyster.  The urine yellow box immediately stood out, and the blurb on the back about jumping 3 screens high sent my mind alight thinking of all the cool stuff you can do if you can jump that high.

Released in 1991 a few things stood out right away.  Your primary attack consists of a freeze gun that only stuns enemies, but also leaves them susceptible to your secondary attack, a spear that can only be used from above and below.  This 2-fisted approach greatly switches up how you deal with enemies; there are many situations where you’ll have to prioritize which ones you can actually reach to finish off while also being mindful of how long your stuns will last.  The game knows this, and puts you in many situations where you have to make snap decisions.  4 sub weapons are available and you’ll know which enemies drop them as they will be using it.  While they are powerful I mostly saved them for bosses and truthfully, the game can be beaten using nothing but your freezing shot and spear.

In addition to the sub weapons you also have the ability to capture certain enemy vehicles and use them as your own.  Aside from protecting you from damage these vehicles boost your attack power and also have secondary functions that allow you to explore the levels and find secrets.  The spider mech can super jump and moves faster than your default walking speed for example.

Graphically, the game is very good by NES standards and thankfully avoids many of the common platform game tropes.  As the game takes place in the future, most of the backgrounds consist of dark blues, grays and browns.  Normally this would be a bit of a turnoff but they make excellent use of the colors chosen to give visual variety.

The music doesn’t rise to the same level but doesn’t get in the way.  The level designs take full advantage of your jumping ability and almost dare you to use it to explore and find hidden items and even hidden levels.  There are very few bottomless pits as it would be unfair, seeing as how you can jump nearly miles straight in the air and platform jumping is also kept to a minimum.   Some of the bosses make up entire levels themselves.  I found it annoying that they didn’t have life bars to indicate how close they are to dying, but on the same token you can guess how much longer they have to go when it takes fewer shots to freeze them.

On the whole the game is very much worth your time.  I remember finishing the game and seeing the hints dropped about hidden levels and specifically where to find them.  That was enough to get me to replay the game again (not that I had any other new games to play either) but it also gives you a second and third quest which are just the main game but harder with slightly different endings. Regardless, I wholeheartedly recommend this game as it will more than likely only cost a few bucks.

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Buy Low G Man