[Duffman was persuaded back to playtest this fine shoot-‘em-up release for the Nintendo Famicom (aka the NES).]

Developed by High Level Challenge, Blade Buster is essentially a classic style single player “score attack” shoot-‘em-up. Taking control of a small space ship, the player navigates the vertically scrolling screen, taking out enemy ships, picking up score bonuses, weapon upgrades, while avoiding oncoming laser fire and explosions.

Admittedly, with two level options – two minutes or five minutes with an end of level guardian on each – what is here is not much, but it is done so effortlessly well that it is a fantastic quick-play game. A game that you will come to time and time again, trying to beat that last high score.

For 8-bit hardware, the graphics are tremendously lush and smooth with no sign of jerkiness. The main sprites may be pretty small, but they are well defined and never clash with the background scenery. The end-of-level guardians are particularly impressive, well drawn and take up nearly half the screen. Equally impressive is the sound. Here the programmers have squeezed out a fine soundtrack out of the Famicom hardware, along with spot effects such as laser fire and explosions.

Just because the game only sports two levels doesn’t mean to say that they are walkovers either. Waves of enemy ships close in, gun turrets fire away, and the screen constantly scrolls upwards, giving the player no chance of respite. The controls can be configured to the player’s preferred settings. Whatever way the y are set up, one button fires the weapons while the other changes speed of the ship up and down from slow, medium and fast.

It’s not often we get to see Famicom/NES homebrew titles and it’s even rarer to see one with such a high quality production as this. According to the developer’s website, the game could have been finished in 2001, but there were delays regarding the visuals. Ten years in the making… It’s been worth the wait.

Weblink: Blade Buster Homepage
Weblink: TIG Source entry

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