AeroStar
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Vic Tokai
  • Publisher:
    • Vic Tokai
  • Released:
    • JP 06/28/1991
    • US September 1991
    • UK 1991
Score: 70%

This review was published on 04/16/2018.

Not to be confused with the Ford Aerostar, AeroStar is a shoot 'em up video game developed and published by Vic Tokai for the Game Boy. It was originally released in Japan on June 28, 1991, North America in September 1991, and Europe in 1991. There's not much of a history to his game, as it's fairly obscure and not part of any series or franchise. The developer, Vic Tokai, isn't exactly well known, either, but they have created a plethora of other obscure titles. In a genre as overcrowded as the shoot 'em up, it's hard to find a game that isn't just like everything else. That's where AeroStar comes in. A vertically scrolling shooter with an overhead perspective similar to Xevious, AeroStar may appear to be another generic shooter, but it's actually got a unique feature up its sleeve. This feature doesn't make the game amazing, but it does make it interesting.

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In the sci-fi world of AeroStar, Earth somehow managed to withstand five world wars. Such a thing could only be possible in a work of fiction. However, the planet was unable to survive a sixth world war, because it was just really big or whatever. World War VI left Earth desolate and uninhabitable, so mankind packed up its bags and left. Quite a few years later, the Intergalactic Council discovered that Earth could once again be populated, and people returned to rebuild their lives. Unknown to them, mutant forces had gone undetected, and are now wreaking havoc on the defenseless humans. Fearing the total extermination of all human life on Earth, the Intergalactic Council has deployed AeroStar, the most powerful fighter ever built. This state-of-the-art vehicle of destruction is Earth's only hope for salvation, but it's useless without the right pilot. Are you good enough to be that pilot? You better be.

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Like most shoot 'em ups, you're able to move in eight directions with the d-pad and rapidly fire your gun by holding down the B button. Unlike most shoot 'em ups, your ship doesn't fly by default, and is instead mostly restricted to moving along the paved roads that are beneath it. However, holding the A button allows it to fly for a brief period of time. How long your ship is able to stay airborne is based on the "JUMP" meter located at the top of the screen. Flying drains this meter, and when it's empty, you'll be forced to stay on the ground. Thankfully, the meter does regenerate whenever you aren't flying. Additionally, you can't fire your gun during flight. Because of these reasons, you have to be strategic about when you take flight, making sure to keep the meter full for when you really need it. This is the most unique aspect of the game and the main thing that makes it noteworthy.

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Every stage pits you against pits, which you can't cross unless you're in flight mode. On top of that, enemies can attack either in the air or on the ground. You're able to avoid grounded enemies and attacks while you're in the air, whereas aerial foes and assaults can't touch you while you're on the ground. On the other hand, your own shots are able to destroy foes regardless of whether they're on the ground or in the air. Considering you can't shoot while airborne, this is a good thing. The only problem, and it's kind of a big one, is that it's hard to tell which enemies and projectiles are in the air and which ones are grounded. This confusion will likely lead to many of your deaths, because in typical shooter fare, you die in one hit. The general rule of thumb is that big objects are in the air and small ones are on the ground, but the game doesn't always adhere to this, and that's where the confusion stems from.

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Naturally, AeroStar also has power-ups. Whenever you encounter an icon with an alphabetical letter on it, you can shoot it to cycle through five letters, and each letter will give you a different power-up when you collect it. S projects an energy shield to your sides when you're firing, L shoots two lasers that go left and right when you release the fire button, B shoots missiles, O gives you two drones that protect you from the sides, and V is a massive spread shot. The defensive power-ups, such as S and O, can be combined with the offensive ones. However, picking up the same class of power-up will replace the one you currently have. Power-ups also can't be stacked to make them stronger. Similar to Contra, the spread shot gotten from V is by far the best offensive power-up in the game. Balance issues aside, the power-ups are decent enough.

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There are seven stages total and each one puts you through the armed forces of the mutant opposition. You'll be facing off against tanks, planes, warships, and other manner of deadly machinery. The stages do a good job of getting you to use your flight ability in ways that feel natural, such as having you fly from one road to the next. There are also situations where you'll need to take flight in order to avoid enemy bullets, like when you're trapped on a narrow road with a foe directly in front of you. Some stages also have impenetrable walls that you can't pass over even whilst in flight, forcing you to go around them. The final stage even has you dealing with enemies that construct and deconstruct roads. All of these elements come together to keep the game engaging until the very end. Speaking of, bosses appear at the end of every stage, and they all look rather impressive. While it's still hard, this game is easier than your average shoot 'em up. That's by no means a bad thing, though.

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Besides decent graphics and music for an early Game Boy release, AeroStar also has the whole ground versus air thing that keeps it interesting. It does take some getting used to, but once you do, it makes the game more fun. AeroStar isn't a mind blowing game by any means, but this is one shoot 'em up that's worth checking out if you want a unique take on the genre.

Word Count: 1,063

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