Video Game Archaeology: Burai Fighter

It’s back, hopefully as something regular. Video Game Archaeology is my monthly exploration of an artifact video game found during my excavations of various bargain bins and yard sales; an examination of a game cast off and long forgotten.

This entry in VGA is Burai Fighter, yet another NES game. I discovered it while looking up information on Low G Man. Both games were made by KID, a smaller NES developer whose output I am coming to really appreciate. Once I turned the game on, I realized I had played it a little at some point in the past. Probably at a friend’s house for a birthday party. Burai Fighter is a solid NES game, not quite spectacular, but definitely better than the average. Burai Fighter was published in America by Taxan in 1990. It is a shooter with less of a focus on the shooting and a greater emphasis on navigation. KID, the developer, also made the GI Joe games, as well as Low G Man and more recently some visual novels. They never really had that big breakout hit, but all of their games that I have played are good. KID also developed the well-regarded shooter Recca, which I have never played. One thing worth noting outside the game is its amazing boxart. The cover to this game looks awesome. According to the game’s manual, the Burai are the are Super-Brains bent on conquering the universe.

Burai Fighter is quite a bit different than the average scrolling shooter. Instead of the usual ship, you play as a man in a flying space suit. Instead of just scrolling to the right or up, Burai fighter scrolls in all directions. Usually it does go in just one direction, but there are places where if you push against the screen at the right time the direction will change. Unfortunately, looking for these can get you squeezed into trap corners. Still, the way it does it is pretty neat. Stage 5, I believe, is kind of a trick stage, where the game scrolls a little way before changing direction and trying to trap the player. Like most shooters, it requires some memorization to beat, but for the most part you can just play. Stages 3 and 6 are completely free scrolling. At the start of the stage it shows the player where the boss is on a grid and it is up to the player to go find it. Those stages are interesting in theory, but the best that can be said of them is that they are better than the bulk of NES special stages.

The controls take some getting used to. You shoot the direction you were pushing, eight possible directions, when you started shooting. As long as you hold the shoot button you will shoot that way. To change you aim you must stop shooting. The other button unleashes a screen clearing attack as long as you have collected enough red whatevers. There are three different weapon upgrades, with a well thought out system behind it. There is the ring, which isn’t very strong but does shoot through walls. Then there is the missile, which shoots right all the time but us very strong. Finally there is the laser, which can shoot through multiple enemies. You collect upgrades and the game saves all the upgrades you get, with three different levels of power for each weapon. When you die, you only lose the one you currently have. The only way to change weapon is to pick up an upgrade for that weapon.

There are a lot of friendly features in Burai Fighter, at least for an NES game. Infinite continues, fairly regular checkpoints, multiple difficulties, keeping weapons after death. Those are all good things. The problem with the game is that the levels are rather simple. Outside of some scrolling tricks, there is just not a lot going on. There aren’t many different enemies and few different patterns. The game is largely simple. It looks good, it plays good and it sounds good. The music for level 2 is especially good. Fans of 8-Bit games should at least give it a try.

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