Review: Neo-Geo Blazing Star (Nintendo Switch)

Review: Neo-Geo Blazing Star (Nintendo Switch)

Blazing Star, the sequel to Pulstar, was released all the way back in1998 for the Neo Geo AES home console and MVS arcade cabinets. Nearly 20 years later, this fan-favorite R-Type-inspired game arrives on the Nintendo Switch in all its original, poorly translated glory. Is there still some life in this old gem?

The story in Blazing Star is goofy, throwaway fare and involves twoalien factions locked in an endless war. One of the civilizationscreates a super weapon, which is a sentient combination of alientechnology and organic lifeform, which somehow turned the animal life of each warring planet against its humanoid inhabitants. Six futuristic fighter pilots regain consciousness after being assimilated by the organic super weapon, and set out to stop it. It’s a fancy way to explain why you’re piloting a spaceship, shooting alien robots.

Part of the charm of Blazing Star is the awful translation. If you diein-game, you’ll be treated to lines like “Hey poor player!” Or theall-time classic “game over” screen, which reads “You fail it! Yourskill is not good enough, see you next time, bye-bye!” Even after 20years, seeing such hilarious localization is a blast, and in someways, bestows upon the game a personality it may otherwise be missing.

Most Neo Geo games (and all arcade games in general) were designed to vacuum quarters out of players’ pockets, and it shows in BlazingStar’s difficulty. After the first strangely easy level, the game goes from zero to 100 at light speed, throwing endless waves of enemies at your tiny ship and filling the screen with hard-to-avoid energy balls and laser beams. By the penultimate stage, all hell breaks loose, with screen-sized enemies and swirling projectile tornadoes to avoid. The chaos makes the game seem epic in a way that similar games can't muster.

The ships, of which there are six to choose, are generally pretty slow, requiring some careful forethought and methodical positioning on the screen. Some enemy types and bosses give almost no warning when they crash from the top of the screen or rush in from the sides, and becoming truly great at the game necessitates some level memorization. To help with the overwhelming odds, each ship comes complete with a charge shot that can be devastating in the right circumstances.

There are also powerups to collect, each of which upgrades and multiplies your ship’s offensive capabilities. These systems come together in away that feels natural and fluid and give the short game (it can becompleted in about an hour) some depth and replayability.

Playing Blazing Star on the Neo Geo AES is… costly. With copies selling for upwards of $7,000, the Nintendo Switch port of the game looks like the most attractive deal in the world at only $7.99. Frankly, it’s a small price to pay for such a fun, replayable game. If you're a Neo Geo fan, or like games similar to R-Type, Blazing Star should be an immediate purchase.

8.5