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Sky Blazer

Talk about flying under the radar.  Sony Imagesoft weren’t known for putting out quality games during the 16-bit era; I’m talking drek like Cliffhanger and Last Action Hero.  Every so often the planets would align and we were graced with classic gems like Hook or Mickey Mania.  However few were even aware of this classic of the era, a game highly revered by all who have played it.  That game is Sky Blazer.

A young sorceress named Arianna has been kidnapped by Ashura to be used in a ceremony.  Sky, a descendant of the legendary Sky Lord has pledged to save her.  Developed by Ukiyotei, the creators of the SNES version of Hook, a lot of that game’s DNA is evident in Sky Blazer.  With 2 years since the release of that game the gameplay has been refined, creating one of the most enjoyable platformers of the era.  Why it is so overlooked is a mystery, however sites like this exist to shine a light on lost classics among which Sky Blazer certainly as.

Combining some of the best aspects from multiple games makes Sky a nimble protagonist.  The standard punch and kicks can be strung into a 3-hit combo, he scales walls like Spider Man, can fly at select points like Peter Pan and has access to a wide variety of magic spells.  New spells are earned after defeating one of the game’s many bosses and eventually you’ll have 8 at your disposal.  It’s quite the arsenal and with 17 levels you’ll have ample opportunity to use every move at your disposal

Perhaps the strongest aspect of Sky Blazer is the level design.  Not content with the bog standard ice, fire, and water levels your journey will take you to a variety of locales.  How about a level in a maelstrom with wind currents dictating your flight direction.  Or auto scrolling flight levels.  From lush forests to a rotating tower full of disappearing platforms all of Sky’s abilities are given a thorough workout.  For the most part you are free to explore the world map at set points, with numerous stages available at any given time.   Some you can skip but potentially miss out on a powerful new spell.  Overall the game isn’t too long since most levels are on the short side.

The challenge falls on the easy side.  Most of the time you’ll face little opposition from the game’s few enemies although they are usually placed in devious locations.  The stage mechanics are where the meat of the game lies such as the aforementioned rotating tower.  The use of magic never boils down to spamming the strongest spell; they all have their side benefits, such as the Comet Flashes invulnerability as long as its active.   Boss fights as well feature similar mechanics, sort of a puzzle you have to figure out.   The giant crustacean that grows with every hit until it occupies the entire room is one of my favorites.  The only letdown is the loose collision detection; because your primary attack is melee based you’ll have to get far too close for hits to register sometimes.  It isn’t game breaking but should be mentioned.

Featuring the same level of vibrancy as Hook its apparent Ukiyotei had a firm grasp of the SNES’s capabilities.  The art is extremely detailed and the use of special effects is subtle and never over the top.  Transparency is used extensively, from waterfalls and sand falls to some of the bosses.  The Mode 7 effects fall into the same category as well; the rotating Tower of the Tarolisk is a stand out as well as the Ice Wall boss.  The music tracks are of good quality but because the levels are so short you won’t hear them that long.  Overall it’s a quality package.

Maybe all of Sony Imagesoft’s shitty movie licensed games created a bad taste in gamers’ mouths but I put the fault squarely on the lack of marketing as to why Sky Blazer isn’t more popular.   But that’s why I’m here, to sing the praises of a game that deserved better.  Buy this game.

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