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4 sentient biological weapons spawned from a conflict between two planets is the catalyst that propels you into the world of Blazing Star.

Originally released by SNK in 1998 and developed by Yumekobo the game continues to be released across multiple formats as part of the ACA NEOGEO series. We’ve played Blazing Star across all formats including the Arcade, Steam and the Nintendo Switch. These iterations from the original MVS version hold up very well and providing you find the right control method for you, there’s not a lot to begrudge.

IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU EXPLODE

It’s a beautifully crafted affair that is rich in colour with animated pre-rendered sprites. The design for the enemy ships and bosses hits all the high notes as it echoes design features from other shooters like, R-Type. There’s enough variety in the design and environments that you never find the levels boring, and once you’re climatised to the bullet hell formula there are moments to appreciate just how much detail has gone into the backdrops making repeated play throughs a joy.

The introductionary animated sequence showcases Harumi Fujita and Seisuke Ito’s soundtrack and from this a good first impression is made. The music composition is excellent and the motifs throughout will stay with you long after your play session expires. Sound effects are also well executed, bold gunfire, chimes and explosions but if one criticism is to be made – it is the repeated “Bonus” sampling. It can be a little overbearing on what is a generally well thought out audio structure.

Players have the opportunity to change various game settings as expected. Via the MVS we accessed our unibios (more details here) settings and similar options are presented through the ACA NEO GEO menu. Difficulty, lives, continues can all be adjusted to suit.

“Secondary to shooting, as much as you can, make sure you collect all the Bonus blue items and red power ups. This is more important than hitting the enemies if you want a high score.”

Blazing Star adopts the faithful high-score gameplay mechanic from many shumps of its time – chain attacks, bonuses and collectables inflating the overall score, something central to its replay value and key to obtaining a high score to be proud of. If you’d like some idea of how that looks, just take a look at Twin Galaxies.

BLAZING SQUAD

Pilot: Asayuki

Ship: Peplos

Pilot: Caster Mild

Ship: Hell-Hound

Pilot: Feena Chao

Ship: Windina

Pilot: JB (Jean Bismarck)

Ship: Aryustailm

Pilot: Kaoru Yamazaki & Pilot: Naomi Yamazaki

Ship: Dino 246 & Ship: Dino 135

ENEMY MINE

Ship controls are less Millennium Falcon, and more X-Wing as you pilot your craft with the stick and 2 buttons. Tapping ‘A’ fires your ship’s weapon, holding ‘A’ stores energy for a charged attack.’B’ can be used for early detonation resulting in optional offensive tactics. An example is that your focal shot can migrate to a spread shot depending on the ship you pilot. This combined with power-ups can provide some satisfactory moments that leave a smile on your face, which sure enough dissipates when you die – as you have to start again to power up your weapons.

This balance provides enough risk/reward that you’ll want to keep playing to get the best score. You’ll have to ensure your weapons are fully charged to take out waves of enemies in succession enabling the collection of ‘L-U-C-K-Y’ letters – essential for the extra bonuses and achieving a top spot in the hall of fame.

Make no mistake, Blazing Star can be unforgiving, even unfair at times and in spite of this, you the player will soon understand it’s through no fault than that of your own. The game will need hours of dedication to learn enemy patterns and finessing of controls and it’s here where Blazing Star’s replay value comes in.

Fear not space cadets, we got in touch with Richard Evans who holds the top score in the Guinness Book of World Records to lay out some advice.

TOP 5 TIPS FROM RICH EVANS (Blazing Star World Record Holder)

Tip 1.
Watch the enemies and their shots rather than your ship. Focus on not dying (obvious) and shooting as much as you can. You only get 3 lives and no bonus lives, so once you’ve used them – that’s it!
Tip 2.
Secondary to shooting, as much as you can, make sure you collect all the Bonus blue items and red power ups. This is more important than hitting the enemies if you want a high score. Each time you pick one up your hit score multiplier goes up. If you miss one it drops back a level and you then have to make them back up.
Tip 3.
Pick the right ship. Sustained fire gives you multipliers for each enemy you hit with the same shot. Not all ships you can play with support sustained fire and some are better than others. My personal favourite is the blue ship but you have to get up close and personal with the enemies to use it as its range is very short.
Others favour the orange and green ships for this reason.
Tip 4.
Get the ‘LUCKY’ panels. These appear each stage and if you get them all the bonus points can be substantial. Miss one and you may as well have not bothered getting the other 4. Some stages they only appear if you hang around and dodge enemies.
Tip 5.
Learn the patterns of the enemies. Blazing Star, like Pulstar, R-Type and other shooters – has patterns. Watch where the enemies appear from and how they behave. Knowing where to be and when to charge your shot to maximise your score, and where not to be so you don’t die is a must.
It can be helpful to learn the later stages with the level of power up you would have if you don’t die before and without having to play to there each time only to die just further than last time. For this use MAME and a decent arcade stick along with the save state feature at the end of each level. That way you can start stage 4 (for instance) exactly as you would have if you played there each time.
Blazing Star does have a secret level select but if you use this you will start the selected level with minimal power ups. If you have a universe bios in a Neo Geo you can set maximum power ups to get around this, but using either that or MAME save states will achieve the same thing.

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED

Blazing Star repurposes all the elements of what made classic shooters like R-Type such fun. It builds upon great level design, art style, shooting mechanics, power-ups and collectables – which are far more engaging than previous titles before it. Today, Yumekobo can still be proud of a project that has weathered through the years with minimal erosion, and whilst it has suffered some, the game is exactly as its title suggests, a Blazing Star.

 

PRESENTATION    88%

GRAPHICS    82%

SOUND    90%

PLAYABILITY    83%

LASTABILITY    79%

OVERALL 84%

A great shoot-em-up experience on all formats that will strike a cord to those with a fondness of classics like, R-Type. Even though there is some slowdown on occasion it does little to ruin what is a fun experience.

 

Blazing Star rating breakdown explained here

Blazing Star review by Ash RGB_RetroBlog

Top Tips by Richard Evans from Richard’s Arcade

We also collaborated with Rich on the MVS mobo battery modification which can be viewed on YouTube.

 

 

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