North American TurboGrafx-16 cover art
|Publisher(s)||Hudson Soft, NEC|
|Designer(s)||Koji Teramoto |
|Genre(s)||Shoot 'em up|
Blazing Lazers, known as Gunhed[a] in Japan, is a shoot 'em up video game by Hudson Soft and Compile. It was released in Japan and North America in 1989 for the NEC PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16). It is based on the Japanese film Gunhed, and the references to the film were removed for the North American release. In the game, a fictional galaxy is under attack by an enemy space armada called the Dark Squadron, and this galaxy's only chance for survival is the Gunhed Advanced Star Fighter, who must destroy the Dark Squadron and its Super Weapons. The gameplay features fast vertical scrolling and a wide array of weapons for the player to use.
Blazing Lazers was produced by the same personnel who developed other video game series such as Puyo Puyo and Super Bomberman as well as other games such as Zanac, The Guardian Legend, and DoReMi Fantasy: Milon's DokiDoki Adventure. It was one of the first games released for the TurboGrafx-16 and has received critical praise for its graphical capabilities, lack of slowdown, intense gameplay, and sound. The game has been released on the Wii's Virtual Console service in North America, Europe and Australia in 2007, and in Japan the following year. It was later released in Japan on the PlayStation Network in 2010, and on the Wii U's Virtual Console in 2014.
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. Players lose a life if they are hit by an enemy or projectile, with the game continuing at a previously–crossed checkpoint, unless they grab a flashing orb which destroys all on-screen enemies and allows them to continue at the point where their previous ship was destroyed (represented by the icon illustrating the remaining number of ships turning gold). The game ends when all lives have been lost, but the game awards 1-ups when the player scores a particular number of points. The game provides four continues in which players can restart the game at that level in which their previous game ended provided the system is not turned off.
The player controls a rapid-fire main cannon, which can either be upgraded or changed to other types of weapons by collecting various numbered power-ups and purple orbs called "gel capsules." Players can collect optional power-ups to help fight through the game such as "multibodies" that shadow their actions, homing missiles, shields, and enhanced firing capabilities known as "full fire". The player carries a limited supply of "cluster bombs" that can be deployed, destroying large quantities of enemies and bosses within the player's vicinity. Players have the function of selecting the speed of their ship, which can be toggled by pressing a button on the gamepad, among five different speeds (the button cycles between them in order). The number of triangles that appear below the player's score designate the speed of the player's ship. This allows players to customize the behavior of their ship at any time, trading off freedom of movement against ease of control: a faster ship is more agile, while a slower ship can be maneuvered more precisely.
Blazing Lazers was co-produced by Hudson Soft and Compile. The game was directed by Masamitsu "Moo" Niitani, president of Compile and creator of Zanac, The Guardian Legend and the Puyo Puyo series; Mikio Ueyama, director of the Super Bomberman series for the Super NES, and Tadayuki Kawada, designer of the Super Famicom game DoReMi Fantasy. The game was released as Gunhed on July 7, 1989 for the Japanese PC Engine console as a tie-in to the live action film of the same name. It was subsequently released in North America as Blazing Lazers in November 1989, with the game localized for the North American audience by removing the references to the Gunhed film. The game was rereleased on the Wii's Virtual Console service in North America on May 21, 2007 , in Europe on May 25, 2007 , in Australia on July 30, 2007 , and in Japan on June 17, 2008 . It was released for the PlayStation Network in Japan on July 21, 2010 . During development of the game Super Star Soldier, NEC considered calling the game Blazing Lazers II because of the similarity in gameplay with Blazing Lazers. The game was featured in a preview of future TurboGrafx-16 games in Electronic Gaming Monthly in November 1989. In a section previewing new TurboGrafx-16 games, said that game was a "total blast from start to finish".
The game has been considered by game reviewers as one of the better shoot 'em up video games in the genre as well as one of the best games on the TurboGrafx-16 gaming console. Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser from Dragon reviewed the game in its "The Role of Computers" column, giving the game 5 out of 5 stars. Japanese game publication Famitsu gave the game a 30 out of 40 score. VideoGames & Computer Entertainment featured a walkthrough of the game which spanned over two issues in 1990; they praised the game, saying that it is "one of the fastest games for the TurboGrafx-16", that it "will keep you going for hours".
Steve Harris reviewed the game in Electronic Gaming Monthly in November 1989. He said that Blazing Lazers was the next best game to the much-anticipated port of R-Type. He noted the great gameplay and spectacular graphics, sound, and music. He appreciated the amount of detail in the game's graphics. He said that the large bosses in the game were the best part, saying that they "were enough to make even die-hard veterans of video game wars cringe in terror". His only criticism of the game was its difficulty, especially in the game's final level; he says that the final level is near-impossible if players have lost all their power-ups. The game would be featured in a series of cheats in the magazine's January 1990 issue. It was reviewed again in the magazine's December 1989 issue by Harris and three other reviewers. In the review, Harris added that the game takes advantage of the TurboGrafx-16's processors with its animation and gameplay. Ed Semrad appreciated the detailed backgrounds, difficulty, and action, but he criticized the game for being repetitive. Donn Nauert called Blazing Lazers the best game on the console, while Martin Alessi called it the best shoot 'em up on any console; Alessi added that the gameplay, graphics, and sound are "near perfect".
Blazing Lazers received further praise after it was released on the Virtual Console. Mike Fahey from Kotaku describes the game as the "best damn shooter on the TurboGrafx, if not best game overall". Lucas Thomas from IGN referred to the game as superior to other shoot 'em up games such as Super Star Soldier, Gradius III, and the R-Type series. Thomas further asserts that the game had "pushed the [TurboGrafx-16] to its limits". Frank Provo from GameSpot also gave positive reviews for Blazing Lazers, saying that the game, despite the plain graphics and aesthetics, compensates with intense gameplay and a "ridiculous orgy of firepower". He also lauds the game for its diverse weaponry, lack of graphical slowdown seen in some older console games, and the superior, futuristic audio, which he says has an "optimistic quality" to it.
Jeremy Parish from the site 1UP.com praised Blazing Lazers, saying that the game is "drowned in goodness". Justin Leeper from GameSpy especially praised the game also for its lack of slowdown, stating that prior to 1989 players could only experience the same in arcades. He claimed that the game surpassed any game on the Nintendo Entertainment System at that time. He lauds the smooth scrolling, lush background graphics, and "catchy tunes." Paul Glancey from the UK-based magazine Computer and Video Games gave it a score 96%, praising the gameplay, difficulty, graphics and sound, calling it "utterly incredible" and stating "Anyone on the quest for the ultimate shoot 'em up—this is it! THIS IS IT!!".
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