Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

fighter

SEP
11
2017
0

#51 – Dragon Fighter

Don’t just fight a dragon, become one!

You can’t start until you see this title screen twice. Lame!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat the game in the secret hard mode
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 5/19/17 – 5/22/17
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
Video: Dragon Fighter Hard Mode

It’s funny. I just finished playing through Dragon Warrior, and then the next game to come up on the list is Dragon Fighter. Don’t let the names fool you, for these two games are really quite different. Dragon Fighter is a side scrolling action game, not an RPG. Dragon Warrior is an early NES game, while Dragon Fighter is a later release. While Nintendo Power gave away Dragon Warrior, Dragon Fighter is a hard to find game that is very expensive now. Finally, Dragon Warrior is really well known, and Dragon Fighter is still pretty obscure. While I can’t get the price down on a cartridge, I can help make this fun game a little more well known.

Dragon Fighter was first released on Famicom in August 1990. The game was developed by Natsume and published by Towa Chika. Natsume developed a few action games on the NES, including S.C.A.T. which I have already completed. Towa Chika did not publish any games outside the US. Perhaps the most infamous game they published is the Famicom platformer A Week of Garfield. Dragon Fighter was brought over to the NES in January 1992. The NES version was published by Sofel, who brought only five games to the NES.

Dragon Fighter is a side-scrolling action game. An evil warlock named Zabbaong attacks the land of Baljing, who are known as a peaceful people with a dragon statue as a symbol of their good nature. The Dragon Spirit had given the people the dragon statue, and now under the enemy attack he brings the statue to life as a fierce warrior. You play as this warrior as you strike back again Zabbaong.

Don’t run away! The green guys aren’t that scary.

This is a relatively straightforward game. In fact, this is a pure horizontal scroller with the playfield only scrolling to the right, just like Super Mario Bros. As the fighter, you wield a sword and can perform basic techniques. Use the D-pad to walk around. You can crouch by holding Down. Press A to jump, and B to swing your sword forward. You can swing your weapon when standing, jumping, or crouching. If you hold down the B button, you will start to flash. Hold it for long enough, and then release the button to perform a charge attack.

The main feature of Dragon Fighter is that you can become a flying dragon. At the top of the screen there are two meters. The top one is your health meter and the bottom one is called the metamorph meter. For each enemy that you defeat with the sword, you will add to the metamorph meter. Enemies beaten by charge attacks do not fill the meter. Once this meter is at least halfway full, then it will start flashing indicating you can morph into a dragon. Hold Up and jump with A, and at the top of your jump you switch over to a flying dragon.

In dragon form, you can fly around in all eight directions and you can fire with B. You always face to the right in this form. Also, the screen begins to scroll forward automatically as your metamorph meter dwindles away. You get more firepower and can avoid attacks much easier as a dragon, so this form is very useful. You can switch back to the fighter at any time by holding Down and pressing A. Keep in mind that you may need to fight more enemies in fighter form to build the metamorph meter back up before you can switch back to a dragon again. If the meter runs out, then you will automatically shift back into the fighter.

Sometimes a defeated enemy will drop a helpful item. There are only a few item drops. The power pearl will restore a couple points of health, while the larger pearl pot will restore eight health units. The power ring wipes out all enemies on the screen. Finally, the dragonweed, shaped like a dragon’s head, will fill up eight points in the metamorph meter.

With the dragon, you can fly over enemies.

In some of the stages, you will find powerups labelled G, R, and B. These are always found in the same location and are not dropped by enemies. Picking up one of these icons will change your fighter into the Green fighter, Red fighter, or Blue fighter. Each color fighter has both a distinct charge attack and dragon attack. The default fighter at the start of the game is the Green fighter. Your charge shot is a green ball that travels to the right, and the dragon form gets a three-way spread fire. The Red fighter’s charge shot is a set of three fireballs that arc in the air and fall down. The Red dragon’s attack is a fireball that spreads out when it hits the ground similar to the holy water in Castlevania. The Blue fighter gets a homing charge shot and the Blue dragon can fire two homing shots.

At the end of each stage is a boss battle. These include a fight with a werewolf, a giant centipede, and a large skeleton with floating hands. The metamorph meter is emptied upon starting the next stage, so don’t be afraid to use the dragon form for the fight. When you defeat the boss, it will drop a staff that you acquire to end the level. Collecting the staff increases the size of your health meter and also restores some health for the next stage. A little spoiler here: The sixth and final stage plays entirely as a horizontal scrolling shooter and you are forced into dragon mode for the whole thing. It culminates in a final boss battle with Zabbaong.

There are no extra lives in Dragon Fighter, so when all your health is depleted it is Game Over. You do have three continues. However, using one sends you back all the way to the start of the stage. Even if you reach the boss and die, you have to replay the entire level. This is the kind of game that you learn over multiple plays.

This was my first time playing through Dragon Fighter. It was among the final 30 games or so I bought for my NES licensed collection, mostly because the game is hard to find and expensive. I bought it in February 2015, and at the time the game was selling for around $100 for a loose cart. I explored many avenues looking for these final games, and for this one I ended up taking a chance on an Amazon listing with no pictures. The cart was only $50, but the game was badly cracked. It was punctured right over the label causing attached shards of plastic to be pushed into the cart shell. I opened the cart up and pushed the damaged part outward to make it flatter. It’s a shame because the cart is in really nice shape otherwise. It does look great on the shelf at least! As of August 2017, a Dragon Fighter loose cart sells in the $250-$300 range, so I’m happy with my choice.

Deploy the dragon strategically during boss battles.

Beating the game wasn’t too much of a challenge for me. I ended up beating the game the first night in over two hours with a few practice runs. A lot of it was figuring out when to deploy the dragon and which color fighter to use. There is a little bit of platforming, but most of the game centers around enemy combat. I think I’m pretty good at seeing the enemy patterns and figuring out how to react. Some fortuitous item drops also came in handy! I gave the game a difficulty rating of 6/10 because of the limited continues and no checkpoints when you use one. I maybe should have rated it higher because I think many players are going to have more of a struggle with it, but I’ll stick with my choice because I figured it out so quickly.

This is not all Dragon Fighter has to offer. The game has an unlockable hard mode. When you beat the game and leave it on the ending screen for a little while, a cheat code is displayed. Correctly inputting it at the title screen changes the copyright text from blue to red, indicating hard mode is activated. There are two major differences in hard mode. First, there are no item drops. This makes health preservation critical as you can only heal once per level after defeating a boss and grabbing the staff. The other difference is that for each enemy you kill in dragon form, a homing bullet fires as the enemy’s death explosion finishes. As far as I recall there were no further changes to the game. It’s a good mode that tweaks how you approach levels. I spent a separate night beating hard mode. For some reason, I was determined to beat the game on hard mode without dying, and I’m happy to report that I accomplished it. It’s one of my better achievements captured on video.

I know the term is overblown to NES fans, but Dragon Fighter is indeed a hidden gem. It’s a straightforward but competent hack and slash action game with the ability to morph into a dragon, so there’s already a lot going for it. The graphics are well done, the music is good, the gameplay is solid, the bosses are fun to fight, the challenge is appropriate, and the optional hard mode is well thought out. Dragon Fighter checks most of the boxes from what you would expect out of one of the most expensive NES games. The price is obviously a major barrier if you want the authentic experience, but if you have a Powerpak or play on an emulator, Dragon Fighter is a game that is worth checking out.

#51 – Dragon Fighter

 
OCT
05
2016
1
S.C.A.T. Box Cover

#27 – S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Action Team

You would think this game stinks, but it’s actually really fun!

It's an ordinary title screen, but the introductory cutscene is really nice!

It’s an ordinary title screen, but the introductory cutscene is really nice!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat the game with each character
My Goal: Complete the game
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 8/30/16 – 8/31/16
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10

This is one NES game that stands out almost completely because of its unfortunate name. It’s also known based on the high price tag a loose copy of the game commands. The going rate in October 2016 is around $120 for just the cart and with NES game prices showing no sign of slowing down that price likely will be outdated in a matter of months. S.C.A.T. fits the profile of a high value NES cart as it is both a late run title and a quality game.

S.C.A.T is interesting in that it has three different names depending on the region where it was released. The Famicom version is called Final Mission and it was released in June 1990. The game was localized for North America as S.C.A.T. in June 1991. The game was renamed once again to Action in New York for its European release sometime in 1992. The game was developed by Natsume and also published by Natsume in both Japan and the US. The publisher for Action in New York is Infogrames. I have found several claims that Action in New York was also released in Australia and published there by Konami, however I cannot find solid evidence to back up those claims. As far as releases go, S.C.A.T also saw Virtual Console releases on Wii, 3DS, and Wii U in both North America and PAL territories.

S.C.A.T is a side scrolling shoot-em-up. The story goes that aliens led by Vile Malmort are planning to invade Earth through an “Astrotube” connected to New York City and the Special Cybernetic Action Team (abbreviated of course as S.C.A.T.) was formed to combat this invasion. You play the role of one of two S.C.A.T members and you can choose either the blue clad Arnold or the red clad Sigourney. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how those character names may have been inspired! Both characters play the same so the choice is just cosmetic. This game has a two player simultaneous mode where controller #1 is Arnold and #2 is Sigourney.

This is my second shooter game with a man that flies around!

This is my second shooter game with a man that flies around!

The game play feels reminiscent of Burai Fighter that I played earlier this year. The player sprites in both games are an armor-wearing human wearing a jetpack and the character can fly freely in eight directions. In both games the levels are auto scrolled and change direction periodically however the level is laid out. Here is where the games diverge somewhat, but this is the general idea of how both games play.

A unique feature of S.C.A.T. is the inclusion of two attack orbs that constantly swing back and forth in half circles, one above and the other below the player. The character’s primary weapon can only be fired either left or right, but the orbs fire their own shots in a wide range of directions both upward and downward depending on where they sit relative to the player. They can fire straight up or shoot at an angle either forward or backward. This is really useful for targeting enemies along walls and in hard to reach spots. Furthermore, the orbs can be locked in place at any time by pressing the A button. You will have to use good timing during combat to lock them to the angle you want. They can be unlocked by pressing A again, allowing them to resume their arcs. The key to success in S.C.A.T. is to get the hang of being able to lock the orbs in the optimal direction so that you can attack any threat in firing range.

There are item pickups that will help power up Arnold and Sigourney. These are represented by gray squares with a letter written on them. The L powerup changes the standard gun into a laser that can be auto-fired by holding the B button. It can cut through walls although not consistently so, limiting its usefulness. The W powerup is a wide beam that shoots a tall but powerful shot that can hit multiple targets just because the shot is so large. The B powerup is a bomb shot that generates an explosion on contact that can deal extended damage to stationary targets and anything that flies into the explosion. You can only have one of these weapons at once, so any other powerup will replace the current weapon. There are a couple of other non-weapon powerups. The S powerup increases the movement speed, and the R powerup restores two points of health.

Two player co-op is always an excellent feature.

Two player co-op is always an excellent feature.

You begin the game with six bars of health. When shot you lose a bar of health, so you are able to take some hits before being killed. However, you can be crushed by the stage hazards or pinned against the wall by the screen scrolling which is always instant death. If you die it is Game Over but you may continue at the start of the stage and there are infinite continues. The screen displays up to eight points of health but it is possible to get more than that with some good dodging and some health powerups.

S.C.A.T. has five levels each with a boss battle at the end:

Stage 1 is the New York City ruins. Despite the theme of a wrecked iconic city, this level is a good introductory level that is not too difficult so you can get the hang of positioning the orbs. The level winds around skyscrapers and such which demonstrates just how small you are. The end of the stage has you blowing up the core of a large battle tank.

This is one of many large scale bosses in the game.

This is one of many large scale bosses in the game.

Stage 2 is the Subterranean Realm. You wind through underground corridors and the enemy attack steps up a bit. One enemy of note is an excavation drone that sort of acts like an arm rising out of the ground that reaches out to you. When you destroy it the pieces fly outward that you also have to dodge. The boss is a large worm that winds around the screen and only its head is vulnerable. This boss happens to be very similar to the boss at the end of Stage 2 in Burai Fighter. It must be coincidence!

Stage 3 is the Astrotube. The level is mostly comprised of a very long vertical section where you fly up the Astrotube from New York up to the aliens. When you get settled into the tube the scrolling goes super fast for awhile and it’s a great effect. The boss I guess is some kind of large enemy base where you have to blow up all the weak spots that also fire away at you.

Stage 4 is the Battleship. To me this is the coolest level in the game. It takes place outside of this gigantic enemy dreadnaught and you fly around the outside of it while destroying all the cannons and enemy hatches that sit along the exterior of the ship. The boss appears to be the back engine of the ship and you need to destroy all of the cores.

This is just a tiny corner of this huge battleship.

This is just a tiny corner of this huge battleship.

Stage 5 is the Orbiting Platform. This level has a couple of nasty gimmicks that set it apart in difficulty from the rest of the game. There are diagonally oriented cannons that intermittently fire off very long laser beams. The shots reflect off of the walls so you have to be mindful of where they end up so you can sit in the safe spots. In some places they bounce several times before eventually landing off screen and in some spots there are more than one to work with at a time. There are also crushers that kind of slowly work their way up and down and you have to fly through when they leave you enough space. They don’t seem like much of a threat since they move slowly, but if you touch the end of them you die instantly. The final boss is Vile Malmort himself.

I mentioned earlier that S.C.A.T. is an expensive game and unfortunately for me it is one I had to pony up and pay retail price to acquire. This was one of the last games I needed to buy to finish off the licensed NES set and at that point stumbling into a copy for a great price was unlikely. I wish I had kept better collecting records, but for this game it turns out I gleaned some information out of some emails with a very good friend of mine. S.C.A.T. was the 12th to last licensed NES cart I bought for my set and I won it in an eBay auction for a little over $80 shipped in March 2015. That was a decent price at that time and in light of current pricing I can’t really complain.

The wide beam rips through enemies like butter!

The wide beam rips through enemies like butter!

S.C.A.T. was a new completion for me. As usual, I had not played it before aside from cart testing. I was aware of the game and I knew it would be one I would like. I wouldn’t say it’s an easy game, but I managed to beat the whole game on my first night with a few continues. I found out early on that the wide beam weapon is clearly the best weapon in the game. Not only does it cover a large area in its path but it also destroys larger enemies in less time than the other two weapons. It definitely helped me beat the game on the first night. I think the whole game took about an hour to finish and about half that time was spent on the final stage alone. Those lasers required some memorization to clear and the last boss is difficult to avoid taking damage. Other than that I found the game to be a romp, but it was fun while it lasted. The ending was pretty cheesy, and that is something I have noticed with a few NES games I’ve done already.

Now for a tiny little spoiler! After I beat the game I checked out the trusty NES Ending FAQ and it states that the ending varies a bit different depending on which character you play with. I figured since the game was short enough it wouldn’t be unreasonable to play through it again to see the other ending. The second time through S.C.A.T. I only died once on the final stage. I’m sure I clear it without dying pretty easily if I wanted to. Back to the endings, the FAQ says that the ending changes again if you beat it in two-player mode. So if you want to see everything you will have to beat the game three time in total. Since I play alone I am fine seeing just the two single player endings. I believe the differences are only in dialogue so it’s not like I missed out on much anyway.

The lasers are a real nuisance on top of the other enemy attacks.

The lasers are a real nuisance on top of the other enemy attacks.

There are some differences between the various versions of the game. The Famicom Final Mission has some significant differences than S.C.A.T. For starters, the game is much harder on Famicom than NES. You start with only three health instead of six, and taking damage causes you to lose your weapon back to the default. S.C.A.T. lets you keep your powerup until either you die or grab a new one. The orb shots are much weaker and they do not automatically orbit the player. Instead you have to aim them by press A and inching either left or right. When you do that they slide behind you a bit and that’s how you set the aim. Press A again to lock them into place just like in S.C.A.T. Final Mission does not show the map screen in between levels like S.C.A.T. does, and Final Mission has both playable characters as men instead of having both male and female players. Finally the introductory cutscenes are different. The ones in Final Mission are much darker as they show the annihilation of New York.

The changes between S.C.A.T. and Action in New York are minor. The characters were renamed Silver Man and Spark, and the team is called S.A.T. instead of S.C.A.T. The title screen was also changed obviously. Other than that the game play is the same as the US version.

S.C.A.T. would be an easy game to recommend if it weren’t for the high price tag. Thankfully it is still on Virtual Console as that version is much more affordable. If you like shoot-em-ups then you will like this game. The graphics, sound, and gameplay are top notch, the difficulty is fair, and you can even play through it with a friend if you are inclined. I just wish they had picked a better name for the US release!

S.C.A.T. Ending Screen

#27 – S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Action Team

 
APR
25
2016
0
Burai Fighter Box Cover

#22 – Burai Fighter

That menacing dragon and his friends pose quite a stiff but fun challenge.

Not pictured is the dancing circle of letters in "Burai Fighter"!

Not pictured is the dancing circle of letters in “Burai Fighter”!

To Beat: Finish all 7 stages
To Complete: Beat the game on the highest difficulty
My Goal: Complete the game
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 3/31/16 – 4/14/16
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 9/10

I’ve taken on a number of shooter games already for the blog but there has yet to be a more typical style space shooter until Burai Fighter. The game stands out a bit with its bright yellow label, but behind the scenes there is a fun and challenging action game that is worth a play.

Burai Fighter was originally developed for the NES and released in March 1990. It was developed by KID and published by Taxan. It was released on the NES in Europe and Australia later in 1990 and was also released on the Famicom in July 1990, published by Taito. Burai Fighter was also developed for the Game Boy and was released first in Japan just prior to the Famicom version, debuting in June 1990. It would come out in North America and Europe in 1991. The Game Boy game is called Burai Fighter Deluxe even though some elements of the game were lost in moving to the handheld. There was also a Game Boy Color version released in Japan in 1999 as Burai Fighter Color and in North America in 2000 as Space Marauder.

Burai Fighter is one of the first games designed and produced by Ken Lobb. He is perhaps best known as a designer for the original Killer Instinct. After Taxan closed, he briefly worked for Namco contributing on Splatterhouse 2 and 3 for Sega Genesis. Next he would work for Nintendo where he worked on Killer Instinct and other games such as Super Punch-Out!!, Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, and many others. He left Nintendo to work at Microsoft Game Studios where he is still employed today. It’s always nice to see where a well known personality in gaming starts out!

Starting off the game with a wall of enemies!

Starting off the game with a wall of enemies!

Burai Fighter is a shoot-em-up where you control an unnamed protagonist in his efforts to defeat the evil Burai and their armies from taking over the universe. You are equipped with a jet pack that lets you fly in any direction as the game scrolls forward. One of the unique features of this game is that the scrolling isn’t just in one direction. The scrolling direction changes in whichever direction the level was designed though it does follow a linear path. It’s important to pay attention to your surroundings so that you can avoid getting trapped if the level veers in an unexpected direction. Because of this scrolling, you can fire your gun in eight directions. Holding down the fire button locks the direction you are shooting so you can maneuver at will while firing in whatever direction you want.

There are three types of weapon enhancements to your standard gun. The Laser changes your standard shot into a high powered beam similar to the Laser powerup in Gradius. The Ring power fires a round projectile in addition to your standard gun and this shot can go through walls. The Missile powerup also augments your standard gun but always fires to the right no matter what direction you are aiming the basic shot. These weapons can be powered up by collecting powerup icons. The letter on this icon cycles between L, R, and M for their respective weapons. You can switch your weapon by grabbing this icon whenever the letter on it changes to which weapon you want. Certain enemies drop these but they are also scattered throughout the levels. There are a couple of other powerups to collect. The S icon increases your movement speed, and there is a spiked ball you can grab that rotates around you killing most enemies when they touch it.

Choose your path wisely because the level can smash you.

Choose your path wisely because the level can smash you.

Each weapon type can be powered up between three different strengths. Collecting 5 icons of the same type gives you the Level 2 weapon, and collecting 10 icons gives you the Level 3 weapon. The Level 2 Laser fires a second laser in the opposite direction of your shot, and the Level 3 Laser shoots in all four diagonal directions plus it restores your basic gun for even more firepower. The Level 2 Ring similarly adds another Ring shot behind you, and Level 3 adds a spread effect in the direction you are aiming. The Level 2 Missile adds missiles that shoot to the left, and the Level 3 Missile adds missiles that fire both up and down giving you four missiles at once. The game keeps track of how many icons of each type you have so you know when you are about to add some firepower. When you die, the weapon currently in use goes all the way back down to zero. However, the other two weapons maintain their current level so this is less of a setback than in many other shooters. Of course if you have to continue then everything resets back to square one.

Lesser enemies will occasionally drop these shards that you can collect in order to fill a meter at the bottom of the screen. This meter has notches in it breaking the meter down into eight segments. Each segment of this bar represents a cobalt bomb that you can fire off by pressing A. This is a very powerful bomb that destroys all bullets and most enemies on screen. However it deals no damage to the bosses. I found it especially useful as a defense move to get out of situations where I was trapped by oncoming enemy fire. If you are able to fill the meter up completely it will award you an extra life but you lose all your bombs in the process.

Burai Fighter has seven levels in two distinct styles. The majority of the levels play out with the multi-directional linear scrolling as described previously. Each level has a boss encounter at the end. They are huge screen-sized bosses with lots of moving parts and they put up quite a fight. These levels also contain hidden rooms that can be found in the gaps on the edge of the screen. When you find a hidden room the level scrolls briefly to reveal the room and all the nice powerups and prizes hidden inside. There are ten hidden rooms in the game and they are difficult to find. I only found two or three of these rooms when I played and I had problems getting in to the room even when I knew where it was. Maybe there’s a trick to it that I didn’t figure out but after awhile I didn’t even bother looking for them.

It wouldn't be a shoot-em-up without needing to destroy all the cores!

It wouldn’t be a shoot-em-up without needing to destroy all the cores!

Levels 3 and 6 deviate by playing from a top-down perspective. These stages were removed from the Game Boy versions. Before you start the level you are presented with a map indicating your starting position and the location of the base that you must destroy. The map shuffles these placements every time you restart the level so some attempts will have a more favorable setup than others. The idea is to head in the direction of the base and destroy all the targets on the base once you find it. If you get lost trying to find the base it is almost always a lost cause since you only see the map one time before the level. The other important element is that you cannot lock the firing direction in these stages. You can only shoot in the direction you are moving. This can be pretty challenging whenever you are being tailed by an ever-growing group of enemies. The level ends whenever the base is completely destroyed. It’s a short stage and it’s a decent diversion from the normal levels.

Graphically the game has very nice visual effects and the coloring is pretty bright and varied for this type of game. The level graphics themselves are kind of non-descript and don’t really stand out much aside from the organic look in Stage 2. I like the music in this game, particularly the track from the first level. This game really shines in visual flair. The game makes heavy use of rotating individual sprites, such as in the swinging arms of bosses and the star splash effect when using a cobalt bomb. It’s even evident from powering on the game and watching the letters in Burai Fighter form a circle and rotate around. This makes the game look really interesting.

There are three difficulty levels in Burai Fighter: Eagle (easy), Albatross (normal), and Ace (hard). Each difficulty level increases the number of enemies and the rate of enemy fire. There are multiple endings based on the difficulty level, so in order to get the best ending you have to take on the challenge of the hardest difficulty. Fortunately to help out there are not only unlimited continues but also stage passwords. The passwords are only four characters long and they are actual English words so they are really easy to memorize and input. The downside with simple passwords is that the game will start you off with no powerups every time.

Meet the rotating arm of death!

Meet the rotating arm of death!

This was my first attempt at beating Burai Fighter, but I had completed the first level on Albatross difficulty when testing out my cart. From that short experience I knew this game was good and I was very excited to take on the challenge. Since I want the best ending I started right off on Ace difficulty. The first level took a bit of time though I learned it fairly quickly, but Stage 2 slowed me down almost from the start. That level goes on for awhile and it winds around with different challenges at every turn. Each continue is a setback as it bumps you back to the start of the stage. About halfway through I got my groove and that led me to finishing the stage. Level 3 is the first top-down level and I died and lost my weapons while trying to get my bearings. After that small setback it didn’t take too long to finish, and Level 4 also went by quickly.

Level 5 was my biggest stumbling block in the whole game. The initial scrolling segment is really erratic with tight quarters and it took a lot of trial and error to figure out the best way through the mess of enemies. This was where I realized I should probably start using cobalt bombs! Even with the bombs I needed lots of practice on this stage. The boss was hard too as there are several moving parts to account for and avoid. Level 6 is the other top-down stage and this time I cleared it on my first try! The final level is the hardest of all but I spent less time here than on Stage 5. The final boss is the Slimedragon that you see on the cover of the game. The best way I can describe this creature is he is an elusive bullet sponge. It’s okay once you figure out the rhythm of the fight but the battle goes on and on for quite some time because he is so hard to hit. Beating that boss was a real feel good moment and a weight off my shoulders.

Now, it’s spoiler time! Skip ahead if you don’t want to know what happens next. After sitting through the ending, the developers felt that it was a great time to reveal that the game actually has a hidden fourth difficulty level labeled Ultimate that contains the true best ending. So it was back to the drawing board for another playthrough. From what I could tell there were no significant differences between Ace and Ultimate. The enemies move a little bit faster and fire more bullets. The bosses have higher health as well. I thought for awhile that the scrolling was a tiny bit faster than before but now I’m not so sure that’s true. This mode was no cakewalk for certain but I got through it quicker the second time around since I already knew what to expect in the levels.

Tough boss fights look really good in full action.

Tough boss fights look really good in full action.

This game was quite a challenge even with continues and a password save. Having to beat the game on the hardest difficulty may have made it seem harder to me than it really was. I don’t think Burai Fighter is in true top tier difficulty but it’s up there. I am guessing clearing the game on Eagle difficulty is still a stiff challenge but much more manageable than the higher levels. My difficulty assessment here is really a gut feeling and may be completely off base. Either way, I am sticking with my choices.

I get the impression that Burai Fighter is an unheralded good game on NES since I hardly ever see it discussed. It’s a great original title that I think would be a lot of fun for shooter fans. I particularly like the bosses and how they are technical showpieces while they also pose a nice challenge. The game has this visual pizzazz to it that doesn’t show up in many other NES games. Plus the game is still very affordable for a loose cart. It’s a mystery to me why this game is not more popular. It’s a fun game and I recommend it!

Burai Fighter Ending Screen

#22 – Burai Fighter

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