Pulstar (video game)

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Pulstar
Pulstar arcade flyer.jpg
Developer(s)Aicom
Publisher(s)SNK
Composer(s)Harumi Fujita
Yasuaki Fujita
Platform(s)Arcade, PC, Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release
  • WW: 28 August 1995
Genre(s)Horizontally scrolling shooter
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
CabinetUpright
Arcade systemNeo Geo MVS

Pulstar[a] is a 1995 horizontal-scrolling shooter arcade game published by SNK. Players control a starship in its mission to eradicate the Solar System of a hostile race of aliens that threaten mankind. Its gameplay has been compared to the R-Type series for its similar premise and mechanics; players must complete each of the game's eight stages by destroying constantly-moving formations of enemies and avoiding their projectiles. There are power-ups that can be collected that provide additional abilities for the player. It runs on the Neo Geo MVS arcade system board.

Developed by Aicom, a Japanese company founded by former Irem employees, Pulstar is the first Neo Geo game to incorporate 3D pre-rendered visuals. Its music was composed by Harumi Fujita and Yasuaki Fujita, both of whom previously worked for Capcom on the Ghosts'n Goblins series. Pulstar has been ported and re-released several times, seeing conversions for systems like the Neo Geo CD and digital storefronts such as the Wii Virtual Console. The game and its re-releases have received mixed reviews from critics, who felt its gameplay and graphics were good but its difficulty was too high and it lacked originality. A sequel named Blazing Star was released in 1998, which aimed to correct the flaws present in the original.

Gameplay[edit]

The player facing off against a boss

Pulstar is a horizontal-scrolling shooter video game, often compared to games such as the R-Type series.[1] The player controls a starship, the Dino246, in its mission to protect the entirety of the Solar System from a hostile race of aliens. There are eight stages total, which become progressively more difficult as the player progresses.[2][1] They scroll automatically, and the player is given a free range of movement. In these levels, the player must destroy constantly-moving waves of enemies and avoiding their projectiles, as well as dodging moving obstacles.[3] Levels conclude with a boss that must be defeated.

The player's main form of attack is a forward-moving projectile. The player can hold down the button to charge their attack, with its power indicated by a meter at the bottom of the screen; the blue half creates a powerful charge shot, while the red half creates a barrage of rapid blasts.[1] Players can also acquire an auxilary drone that acts as a shield by protecting them from enemy fire. It can also be used as a battering ram to destroy smaller enemies. The drone can also be destroyed to create a powerful bomb attack that can destroy anything in its radius.[1] Destroying large carrier-like enemies drops a power-up item that grants different abilities. These include capsules that increase the player's speed and smaller ships that follow the player and provide additional firepower.[4]

Development and release[edit]

Pulstar was released for arcades on 28 August 1995.[5] It was developed by Aicom, a Japanese developer founded by former employees of Irem, and published by SNK.[5][6] Produced for the Neo Geo AES arcade system, Pulstar was known under the codename of Project Dino during development, and was designed to be technologically-impressive for the time period.[7][8] It is the first Neo Geo game to incorporate pre-rendered graphics, which are 3D models converted into 2D images to create the illusion of a 3D environment.[9] The soundtrack was composed by Harumi Fujita and Yasuaki Fujita, both of whom were previously employed at Capcom and worked on their Ghosts'n Goblins series.[7] Harumi Fujita composed the music for Pulstar under the mindset of its freedom from sound chip limitations, allowing her to create music that corresponded to the game's environment and match her vision.[7]

A version of Pulstar was released for the Neo Geo AES system in September, followed by a home release for the Neo Geo CD in October.[5] In France, the AES version was distributed by Guillemot International.[10] The Neo Geo CD version adds a higher-quality soundtrack and cutscenes between stages.[11] In 2012, Pulstar was digitally re-released for the Japanese Wii Virtual Console service, courtesy of D4 Enterprise.[12] Pulstar is included in the Neo Geo 25th Anniversary Humble Bundle, released in 2015.[13] Hamster Corporation re-released Pulstar for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in 2017 under their Arcade Archives series.[14][15]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Review scores
PublicationScore
AllGame4.5/5 stars[16]
GameFan277/300[17]
GamePro16/20[18]
Next Generation1/5 stars[19]
Nintendo Life7/10 stars[20]
Maximum4/5 stars[21]
Neo Geo Freak18/20[22]

In Japan, Game Machine listed Pulstar on their 1 October 1995 issue as being the seventh most-successful arcade game of the year.[23] Harumi Fujita claims that the game was received positively by SNK and Neo Geo fans.[7]

Pulstar drew a wide range of opinions from critics,[24] many of which drew comparison with the R-Type series.[25][26][27][28][29] Maximum gave the Neo Geo AES version a rave review, particularly applauding the impressive-looking bosses and the extremely high and intelligently designed challenge. They also regarded the game as a sign that SNK was branching out from one-on-one fighting games.[21] Major Mike gave it a more mixed review in GamePro, describing it as an imperfect and unoriginal shooter which manages to distinguish itself through its high difficulty and rendered graphics. He criticized that objects often blend into the backgrounds, but like Maximum, he particularly noted the visually impressive bosses.[18] A reviewer for Next Generation panned the game, contending that the gameplay mechanics fail to surpass even shooters of the early 1980s. He concluded, "If it weren't for the molasses like pace of the game, then Pulstar could've been another generic shooter. Instead, it's even worse".[19]

Sequel[edit]

A sequel named Blazing Star was released by SNK in 1998. Blazing Star features multiple additions to the core gameplay of its predecessor, such as a wide selection of playable ships and new power-up types.[30] It was developed by Aicom, who had changed their name to Yumekobo during production. The development team noticed the stigma against Pulstar in arcades for its high difficulty, and wanted Blazing Star to have its own identity and improve on the original's flaws.[31] Upon release, Blazing Star received far better reviews for its graphics, gameplay, and difficulty balance,[32] and was described as being part of SNK's efforts in keeping older game genres alive.[33][34]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Japanese: パルスター Hepburn: Parusutā

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Rasa, Chris (18 June 2016). "Pulstar". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on 11 November 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  2. ^ Dr.Ace (30 December 1995). "攻略 - パルスター". Gamest (in Japanese). No. 159. Shinseisha. p. 87.
  3. ^ Ace (15 December 1995). "攻略 - パルスター". Gamest (in Japanese). No. 157. Shinseisha. pp. 64–65.
  4. ^ Herranz, Sonia (December 1995). "Novedades – Neo Geo CD: Pulstar - "Shoot'em up" en estado puro". Hobby Consolas (in Spanish). No. 51. Hobby Press. pp. 80–81.
  5. ^ a b c "Dossier: Neo Geo Y SNK — Shooters". GamesTech (in Spanish). No. 11. Ares Informática. July 2003. p. 58.
  6. ^ García, Marcos (January 1996). "Neo Geo CD a fondo: Pulstar – Pulso A Lo Imposible". Superjuegos (in Spanish). No. 45. Grupo Zeta. pp. 76–79.
  7. ^ a b c d Greening, Chris (15 August 2015). "Harumi Fujita Interview: Ghosts, Goblins, and Gargoyles". Video Game Music Online. Archived from the original on 19 November 2019. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Pulstar - Q&A". Neo Geo Freak (in Japanese). No. 8. Geibunsha. December 1995. pp. 84–85.
  9. ^ "Pulstar: Fantastic Shooting Experience with Incredible Rendered Graphics!!". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. No. 2. Emap International Limited. November 1995. pp. 84–91.
  10. ^ Taborda, David; Vilner, Lionel (November 1995). "(Critiques) Pulstar - Neo Geo". CD Consoles (in French). No. 11. Pressimage. pp. 128–131.
  11. ^ Hellot, Grégoire (December 1995). "Test International – Neo-Geo CD: Pulstar". Joypad (in French). No. 48. Yellow Media. pp. 165–166.
  12. ^ "パルスター - ゲーム情報GAME". SNK Playmore (in Japanese). D4 Enterprise. 5 June 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  13. ^ Moscaritolo, Angela (9 December 2015). "Don't Miss the NeoGeo 25th Anniversary Humble Bundle". PC Magazine. Ziff Davis. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  14. ^ Moyse, Chris (6 July 2017). "Neo Geo shmup Pulstar blasts onto Xbox One". Destructoid. Enthusiast Gaming. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  15. ^ Moyse, Chris (22 December 2017). "Neo Geo shoot 'em up Pulstar available now on Nintendo Switch". Destructoid. Enthusiast Gaming. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  16. ^ Biondich, Paul (1998). "Pulstar (Arcade) - Review". AllGame. All Media Network. Archived from the original on 16 November 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  17. ^ Halverson, Dave; Rickards, Kelly; Loe, Casey (December 1995). "Viewpoint – Pulstar (Neo Geo)". GameFan. Vol. 3 no. 12. Metropolis Media. p. 20. Archived from the original on 4 January 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  18. ^ a b Mike, Major (December 1995). "ProReview: Neo•Geo – Pulstar". GamePro. No. 87. IDG. p. 110. Archived from the original on 17 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Finals - Neo-Geo - Pulstar". Next Generation. No. 17. Imagine Media. May 1996. p. 94.
  20. ^ Frear, Dave (6 January 2018). "Pulstar Review (Switch eShop / Neo Geo) - Not just a pretty face". Nintendo Life. Nlife Media. Archived from the original on 3 August 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  21. ^ a b "Maximum Reviews - SNK Neo Geo: Pulstar - Is this the ultimate sideways scrolling blasting game?". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. No. 2. Emap International Limited. November 1995. p. 154.
  22. ^ "NF編集部にまる - ネオジオゲームㇱインレビュー: パルスター". Neo Geo Freak (in Japanese). No. 25. Geibunsha. June 1997. pp. 124–128.
  23. ^ "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - TVゲーム機ーソフトウェア (Video Game Software)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 504. Amusement Press, Inc. 1 October 1995. p. 25.
  24. ^ "Aquí Tokyo – Línea clásica para lo último de SNK: Pulstar - Volvemos a estar en manos de los alienígenas". Hobby Hi-Tech (in Spanish). No. 5. Hobby Press. July–August 1995. p. 24.
  25. ^ Huyghues-Lacour, Alain; Panda (January 1996). "Neo Geo CD Review - Pulstar". Consoles + (in French). No. 50. M.E.R.7. pp. 104–105.
  26. ^ Knauf, Andreas (November 1995). "Spiele-Tests - NG: Pulstar". MAN!AC (in German). No. 25. Cybermedia. p. 72.
  27. ^ Souleiman, Sandrie (November 1995). "Test – Neo Geo: Pulstar". Mega Fun (in German). No. 38. CT Computec Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. p. 92.
  28. ^ Delpierre, Christophe (December 1995). "Test – Neo Geo CD: Pulstar". Player One (in French). No. 59. Média Système Édition. pp. 126–127.
  29. ^ Schaedle, Wolfgang (January 1996). "Neo Geo CD – Reviews: Fire and Forget - Pulstar". Video Games (in German). No. 50. Future-Verlag. p. 48.
  30. ^ McFerran, Damien (9 May 2017). "Review: Blazing Star (Switch eShop / Neo Geo)". Nintendo Life. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  31. ^ "ブレイジングスター設定原画集&開発インタビュー". Neo Geo Freak (in Japanese). No. 34. Geibunsha. March 1998. pp. 73–79. (Translation by Shmuplations. Archived 2016-04-10 at the Wayback Machine).
  32. ^ Rasa, Chris (18 June 2016). "Blazing Star". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on 23 January 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Arcadeview: Blazing Star". Edge. No. 55. Future Publishing. February 1998. p. 97.
  34. ^ "Arcade: Blazing Star" (PDF). Next Level (in German). No. 24. X-Plain-Verlag. April 1998. p. 96.