The NES has no shortage of space shooting games, though most people tend to think of the heavyweights such as Konami's Life Force or Compile's Gun*Nac while everything else gets brushed aside. Many of those other shooters are content to follow the standard formula, but there are a few that try to shake things up. One such example is Burai Fighter, Taxan's little known shooter that went virtually unnoticed by the NES nation. It may not be that different from other shooters, but it does contain some intersting features that might warrant your attention.
This game uses the same basic story that most shooters use. Once again the universe is threatened by an evil race of beings (in this case the Burai) out to conquer all known life, and once again you're the only hope the universe has. This game features seven stages and you can pick from three difficulty levels. Five of the stages are side-view auto-scrolling affairs that have you guiding a space fighter through a fortess crawling with enemies and obstacles. Your fighter has the ability to move and shoot in 8 different directions and can make use of one of three types of special weapons, depending on the icon you pick up. You can choose from the Ring weapon which can penetrate walls, the Laser Weapon that fires a steady line, and the Missile weapon for powerful missiles. You can switch weapons by picking up different icons but you can also keep collecting the same icon to upgrade your current weapon to different levels. You can also collect a speed power-up to make you guy move faster and can get a rotating orb that acts like a shield, plus you can collect little red fragemtns to form cobalt bombs that destry all enemies on the screen. In addition some levels have hidden rooms you can find that contain special bonuses. However one hit will kill your guy, and you lose the special weapon you were using. When you reach the end of the level you have to battle the boss in order to proceed to the next stage, and passwords help record your progress. Stages 3 and 6 are overhead-view levels where you try to search out an enemy base and take out the turrets to blow it up. The base is in a random spot every time you start the stage so you must study the map screen to see where to search it out.
The graphics are actually pretty good. Each of the stages has its own look with bright colors and some nice backgrounds. The different character sprites look greant and sport some good details and smooth animation, especially the large bosses you encounter. There is some breakup when the action gets intense, but no slowdown. The sound is also decent. Some of the level themes are pretty catchy and the sound effects are standard shooting noises which aren't special but get the job done.
The gameplay in Burai Fighter is pretty well done even thought it doesn't offer too much mew from other shooters. There is plenty of enemies to carve up and the non-stop action keeps you on your toes. The 8-way controls work pretty well with little lag and you can hold down the B button for rapid fire and to lock your weapon in one direction, though it can be tricky to switch directions at times. The difficulty is a little high with the one-hit deaths but it is beatable with enough practice and memorization. The three challenge levels offer some good replayability and each one has a different ending. To get the best ending you have to beat the Ultimate skill level, which is unlocked once you beat the game on the Ace level. The only real flaws are the overhead levels which aren't very fun at all but fortunatley there's only two of them.
So while Burai Fighter doesn't necesarily break too much new ground, that doesn't mean it's not worth at least a look. The gameplay is solid enough to satisfy shmup fans and the different features help it seem like slightly more than just another space title. It may not give the top titles a run for their money, but Burai Fighter is another long-forgotten NES title that at least deserves a look.
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