The Laser Guide to Video Games - Review









In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Laser Guide to Video Games

Burning Angels - Naxat Soft - PC Engine - 1990

Suffusing its engine with a little more flourish than might be expected, Burning Angels brings a fresh approach to the genre without taking away the essence of its appeal. Its another traditional vertically scrolling shoot-'em-up very much in the genre of similar titles like Raiden. It has some unique features, the main appeal of which are its pair of protagonists, Phoenix and Dragon who bring a unique set of abilites to the table. Players can choose either one at the start-up screen. Both characters bring different sets of power-up enhancements to the table, though the differences seem more semantic than useful, it brings some variety to the action. Things unfold from that starting point as you'd expect. Firing your weapon across the screen allows you to clear waves of enemies. These vanish fairly quickly and effortlessly with a single-shot for the most part. They throw many bullets at the player and the main task is to avoid them, which isn't as simple as it sounds. Buning Angels' projectiles have a way of converging on your position, making it difficult to get out of their way. Adding to the pressure, colliding with other ships will also drain your energy substantially. Observing the rules, you gain additional energy by collecting stars, so don't overlook them, they make things much easier.

The good news is that you have a plentiful amount of power-ups that you can collect, they fall down prodigiously, giving you plenty of opportunties to enhance your ship. There are multiple types of weapons that can be implemented at the same time, so you can have straight shots and targeted missiles launching, without having to switch between them. Utilizing these effectively allows you to progress deeper into the level where more difficult adversaries are waiting. To aid you in your cause, you don't automatically explode when you get hit. Instead, your firepower is degraded a level when you come into contact, which can be frustrating. However, you can quickly rebuild your ship's firepower by collecting more power-ups, so all is not completely lost. You need to be careful not to let your energy-source get too low, since using it all up ends the game, with no continues offered. This makes things a little bit harder than you might be accustomed to, but reaching deep into the game's levels is not an impossible task.

You'll face several types of bosses, with sub-mission ones offering a minor fight but are relatively easy to defeat. The end-stage bosses can be a little bit harder and require patience, persistence and little bit of luck. While the don't repeat the same attacks verbatim, you can gain an advantage by memorizing their patterns and anticipating their attacks ahead of time. It's fairly simple to defeat these opponents once you get the feel for their approach. However, the difficultly level strains a bit on the harder stages. where more complex patterns and faster pacing makes for an unexpectedly challenging tile.

Approaching this game with a single player mode makes thing much harder, but you can improve your odds dramatically by enlisting a second player who can ensure that the enemies won't stand a chance. You can play through Burning Angels solo, but the gameplay becomes exponentially more difficult if you try to defenstrate its opponents on your own without recieving any help. It maintains a consistent level of difficulty during its standard stages which become increasingly hard to manuever once the later stages are reached. Standard techniques involving pattern memorization and navigational skills honed in a plethora of similar shooter games should come in handy. It's overall interface is fairly straightforward, since the power-ups connect automatically, there's little in the way of management to consider. Most of your energy is spent batling the foes and trying to survive long enough to reach the next stage. Burning Angels unfolds at a good pace and the levels are just long enough to be satisfying without become redundant or tedious.

The game achieves a fairly good design throughout that captures the look and feel of the original arcade game effortlessly. The ability to play in full-screen or vertically-correct arcade mode is fairly unusual for the platform, especially from such an early release, but its utilization is much appreciated. Accordingly, scores are non-obstrusively placed on the bottom of the screen, with both characters' scores and status easy to learn. In-game graphics are highlighted by detailed sprite work and animation which helps to keep the focus on the action. There are some cool parallax effects utilized from time-to-time, these are pretty cool but don't distract from the gsmeplay. The design is relatively straightforward and even with two players onscreen, doesn't feel cluttered or confusing. Burning Angels' soundtrack is average but does a good job of driving the gameplay without getting in the way. Between stage cut-scenes are surprisingly elaborate and help punctuate the action and keep motivation high.
While probably not the most-innovate shooter on the platform, Burning Angels represents a solid port of an excellent arcade game. It's challenging and enjoyable, with an appealing co-op mode that makes things much easier. Elaborate levels and challenging foes deliver some challenge but nothing that's overly intimidating or difficult, making a title that accessible and enjoyable almost immediately. Playing through the game's levels takes some practice but is worthwhile because the later stages are enjoyable. A lack of continues is the game's biggest fault, meaning you have to return all the way to the beginning if you lose. This is frutrating, but doesn't materially detract from what is otherwise an engaging tite. Burning Angels offers a decently challenging title with ample polish and above-average implementation to make it a worthwhile addition to your libray.
- Michael Palisano