I’ve always had a soft spot for a good old fashioned scrolling shoot-em-up. Be it the Irem’s arcade classic R-Type or Xenon II on the Amiga right up to the more modern-ish shooters like Ikuraga on the the Sega Dreamcast, Blazing Lazers (Gunhed in Japan) on NEC’s PCEngine/Turbo Grafx 16 has all the ingredients of a damn fine shooter.
The player takes control of the Gunhed Star Fighter through nine vertically-scrolling areas. The player’s mission is to destroy the Dark Squadron and its eight enemy Super Weapons. Every area contains one or more bosses, all of which must be destroyed before continuing in the game.
Things are getting a bit gooey!
This game is pure, classic shmup fun and still amazes me how a machine dating back to 1987 and a game dated 1989 can throw so much at the screen without a hint of slowdown!
Blazing Lazers also has a fantastic weapons system offering four base types that can be beefed up to five levels. I = bullets, II=Plasma waves, III=lasers (my fav) and IV=Spinning Balls. By collecting power balls of the same weapons number or by picking up lots of purple balls left over from shot down enemies, you can create a huge amount of firepower to unleash on your foe. Further upgrades to these base systems are frequently available like shields and homing missiles and of course, there’s always the ‘get out of trouble’ super bomb that kills pretty much everything.
The first boss is easily dispatched with a few super bombs.
Despite the hefty amount of fire power on offer, enemy fire can be constant and often intense therefore pin point dodging is often required. Thankfully, your ships speed can be controlled too with slow mode providing precise control to dodge incoming fire and at the opposite end will get you out of trouble quickly if you have the reflexes to boot.
Sound wise, Blazing Lazers is spot on and has some really nice explosion and bullets FX. The background music very catchy and, in the instance of level two, is truly superb.
Blazing Lazers/Gunhed was/is was one of those must have games for a particular system and thanks to the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console you don’t have to own a PC Engine to experience this cracking game. It also plays very well via emulation on the DS with the small screen compressing the visuals and as a result, makes Blazing Lazers look incredibly slick.
Unlike the uninspiring US box art, the Japanese original is much better.