It’s not easy being the fan of a dying console. It usually goes one of two ways: you’re not aware how dire the prospects for your chosen console are so blindly hope things work out for the best. Or you know just how fucked it is but still cling to a misguided belief that all it needs is one game to turn things around. Usually people who fall into category number 2 are irrational fan boys, and we all love fan boys right (sarcasm)? But sometimes that one game is so awesome you actually sympathize with the fan boy. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Blazing Lazers.
Blazing Lazers was released in 1989 for the Turbografx-16. The galaxy is under attack from the Dark Squadron, with its only savior being the Gunhed Advanced Star Fighter. The plot, such as it is, is based on the movie Gunhed, which did not see a US release. Regardless, even in a sea of shooters Blazing Lazers stood out and to this day is one of the top games as well as shmups for the console.
Despite the overwhelming odds you aren’t going in unprepared. There is a veritable sea of weapons at your disposal. Your primary weapon can be powered up by gel capsules that drop like water. Any of the 4 primary weapons (Bullets, Waves, Lasers, and Rings) can be further upgraded by collecting more of the same number, increasing the power to a ridiculous degree. Optional powerups like shields, homing missiles can be selected for even more firepower. You’re never locked into one weapon that you’ve upgraded; at any point you can switch and the power level will be the same. If you’ve played any Compile shooter such as Zanac or the Guardian Legend then a lot of the tropes will feel familiar.
I’m not even gonna go into detail about that last screenshot. Needless to say it’s a giant WTF moment.
All of this firepower is not wasted however. Blazing Lazers puts up adequate resistance to meet your armaments. At times it veers close to bullet hell levels of lunacy but never quite crosses that line into comical insanity. The action is punctuated by moments of calm before the next storm of enemies arrives. Any weapon in the hands of a capable player is capable of wreaking havoc but you can just easily change if you feel underpowered. As hectic as things can get the game always remains fair; loose bullets will only downgrade your current weapon, which does suck, but power-ups are in such plentiful supply and fly by so frequently that you won’t be gimped for too long. This also applies to the bosses; you can definitely tell a lot of these considerations were made by fans of the genre.
One of Blazing Lazers’ biggest claims to fame was the total absence of slowdown. No matter how frenzied the action it never, ever slows down, a feat only arcade games had achieved. If you were raised on a diet of NES shooters then this was practically a revelation. Although this is primarily a space shooter you visit a variety of planets, from a desert planet to what looks like the inside of an alien body. The soundtrack is solid with a wide range of memorable themes.
Even after all these years it still holds up. Despite all of the shooters I’ve gone over I’ve never necessarily considered myself a diehard fan of the genre but Blazing Lazers might possibly be in my personal top ten. Its accessibility is its greatest strength; non fans of the genre can jump in and have a blast and that goes a long way in my book.