Burai Fighter
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Developers:
    • Disco (NES)
    • KID (GB/GBC)
  • Publishers:
    • US Taxan (NES/GB)
    • JP Taito (NES/GB)
    • UK Nintendo (NES/GB)
    • JP KID (GBC)
    • US Agetec (GBC)
  • Released:
    NES
    • US March 1990
    • JP 07/20/1990
    • UK 1990
    GB
    • JP 06/27/1990
    • US January 1991
    • UK 1991
    GBC
    • JP 07/23/1999
    • US 08/28/2000
Score: 70%

This review was published on 01/24/2017.

Burai Fighter is a shoot 'em up video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally published by Taxan in North America in March 1990, Taito Corporation in Japan on July 20, 1990, Nintendo in Europe in 1990, and Mattel in Australia in 1990. A scaled down Game Boy port titled Burai Fighter Deluxe was published by Taito Corporation in Japan on June 27, 1990, Taxan in North America in January 1991, and Nintendo in Europe in 1991. Lastly, an enhanced Game Boy Color port of the Game Boy version was published by KID in Japan on July 23, 1999, and Agetec in North America on August 28, 2000. The Game Boy Color version was titled Burai Fighter Color in Japan and Space Marauder in North America. The original NES version of the game was developed by a company called Disco and KID developed the portable Game Boy and Game Boy Color ports. If you're a fan of shoot 'em ups, then you'll probably be a fan of this game.

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In a distant part of the galaxy, there exists a race of super intelligent brains known as the Burai. They have been attempting to conquer the universe with their advanced mental capabilities for thousands of years. In order to accomplish this nefarious goal, they are constructing colossal armies of robotic mutants, which are one part robot, and one part living flesh. The Burai are producing thousands of robotic mutants each day at their seven manufacturing bases. Soon, the Burai armies will overrun the entire galaxy. That's where you come in. It's your mission to halt the Burai's expansion into the galaxy, and thwart their efforts to conquer the universe! This will require that you penetrate through their forces and attack each one of their seven bases to stop them from producing more freaks of nature. However, each base is guarded by a dangerous super mutant that you'll have to exterminate. Are you up to the task?

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Unlike most shoot 'em ups, you don't control a tiny spaceship or other aircraft. Instead, you control a dude in a spacesuit who's equipped with a hover pack or something that allows him to fly around endlessly. This is similar to S.C.A.T.: Special Cybernetic Attack Team, another NES shoot 'em up created by Natsume, which itself strongly resembled an old arcade classic by Capcom from 1988 called Forgotten Worlds. In Burai Fighter, you can smoothly maneuver your little man in all eight directions with the d-pad. The big thing about this game is that you aren't limited to shooting towards the right, as you can also fire your gun in all eight directions. To do that, you hold the B button down to rapidly fire in the direction you're currently facing, and as long as you keep holding it, your character will be locked into shooting in that direction. If you want to shoot in another direction, you'll have to release the B button, make your man face elsewhere by moving in that direction, then hold it back down again. These controls definitely take some getting used to, but they give you more control, no pun intended.

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The main power-ups come in the form of glowing orbs with letters on them to signify what they are, and they slowly cycle between three different weapons: Laser, Missile, and Ring. The Laser pierces through multiple enemies, the Missile fires in the same direction or directions regardless of where you're aiming, and the Ring passes through walls. While the Laser replaces your regular gun, the Missile and Ring fire in tandem with it. If you collect five of the same weapon type, it'll receive an upgrade, usually allowing it to shoot in multiple directions at once. Up to ten of each weapon type can be obtained, and the quantities are listed at the bottom right of the screen. Unfortunately, you can only switch weapons by grabbing a different power-up, and you lose the full stock of whatever you were currently using when you die, but the other two weapons will remain at the same quantities. Additionally, you can get power-ups to enhance your speed and a little rotating shield thing that'll damage nearby enemies. It's nothing too fancy, but the power-up system in this game is pretty decent.

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In addition to the power-ups, enemies will sometimes drop floating gems that, when collected, will slowly fill a meter at the bottom of the screen. When filled up enough, this meter lets you press the A button to use something known as the Cobalt Bomb, which is a powerful blast that destroys every enemy and bullet on the screen. However, this doesn't work on bosses, plus you'll get an extra life if you let the meter fill up all the way, rewarding you for holding off on using Cobalt Bombs. This is very handy, because like most shoot 'em ups, you die in one hit. Every death results in the loss of a life, and you get a Game Over once all lives are gone. You do get infinite continues, though. Plus, you can use simple four letter passwords to resume from any stage. On top of that, there are three difficulty modes, and you can unlock a fourth one if you beat the game on the hardest default difficulty.

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Most of the game takes place in a side-scrolling perspective where all action is viewed from the side, similar to shooters like Gradius. The screen will automatically scroll at a constant pace while countless enemies and hazards fly your way, generally forcing you to continue moving to the right or left. However, sometimes the screen will scroll vertically instead of horizontally, forcing you to move in different directions, like downwards or upwards. One unique feature of the stages is that they'll sometimes have hidden areas, and if you fly close enough to these areas, the game will scroll in their direction to reveal a secret stash of power-ups. Unlike most shooters like Gradius, touching walls doesn't kill you, so it's encouraged to hug the walls and edges of the screen to locate these hidden areas. At the end of each stage is a big boss, and most of them are creative, decent, or both. You've got spider-like crustaceans with rotating tentacles, giant worms that split off into smaller worms when damaged, and even a wicked snake-like dragon that slithers back and forth. Overall, the main stages are solid.

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Some of the stages will change the perspective to an overhead one and give you a different objective. Instead of simply defeating the boss at the end, your goal for these overhead stages is to destroy the base that's shown on the ambiguous map screen before the stage begins, similar to Contra III: The Alien Wars. Unlike Contra III, you can't see the map while playing these stages, so you have to memorize the general whereabouts of the base before you begin playing. If you don't do that, then you may find yourself endlessly wandering around as an unlimited supply of enemies bombard you from all sides of the screen. You do get to see the map every time you die, but your starting position and the location of the base will also change. Once you reach the base, you must shoot out all its turrets to destroy it. This is difficult to do, because unlike the regular stages, you can't lock your aim. You also can't stop your movements once you get going, further adding to the frustration. These stages suck, but luckily, there are only two of them.

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As mentioned at the top, there are three versions of this game: the original Burai Fighter on the NES, Burai Fighter Deluxe on the Game Boy, and Space Marauder on the Game Boy Color. While the portable ports are mostly faithful recreations of the NES original, they have some differences due to the hardware they're on. Being that Burai Fighter Deluxe is on the Game Boy, it lacks color, has a smaller resolution, and suffers from some really bad slowdown, making the "Deluxe" part of its title rather misleading. It does add a simple two player versus mode, but it sucks. Space Marauder is a slightly better port, as it has color and fixes the slowdown the Game Boy version had, though it lacks the versus mode. However, while Space Marauder is an overall upgrade over Burai Fighter Deluxe, it's still an overall downgrade from the NES original. Out of all three versions, the obvious best one is the NES original, with Space Marauder coming in second place and Burai Fighter Deluxe coming in dead last. The only good thing about the handheld versions is that they lack the awful overhead stages.

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KID, which stands for "Kindle Imagine Develop," produced a fair amount of solid titles for the NES, such as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor, Low G Man: The Low Gravity Man, KickMaster, and Burai Fighter. KickMaster is by far the company's greatest achievement on the NES, but Burai Fighter isn't bad. In fact, this game is surprisingly good. It's not necessarily a classic, but it's decent enough and has enough unique mechanics to make it memorable. Just be sure to play the NES version and not the inferior portable ports.

Word Count: 1,574

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