Skyblazer Review

It’s human nature to place great importance on “firsts.” First date, first kiss, first anal fisting; we tend to value and remember these experiences for our entire lives. But there are only a handful of noteworthy “onlys” in a persons’ lifespan. Only kiss, only date… only paycheck. And these memories tend to be neglected for some odd reason.

Chickenpox, due to the nature of the disease, is something we only get to experience once in life, yet few people remember the experience fondly. It’s really not as miserable as it might seem to someone who hasn’t yet had it; it’s not particularly painful or anything. For the most part, you just lounge around, bored out of your mind, incessantly flipping the TV from channel to channel. This channel-surfing serves an important purpose; if you don’t keep your hands busy, they will unconsciously begin to tend to your multitudinous itches. And that serves only to exacerbate the itch-situation greatly, making the next five minutes of your life a gut-wrenching exercise in self control (because you’re not suppose to scratch your pox, though I have no idea why).

These were the issues I was dealing with when my father decided to take the initiative and rent me a videogame as a surprise. The game he tossed on the germ-encrusted ottoman was Skyblazer, a game with one of the most gaudy and artless pieces of cover art I had and have ever seen. For years I assumed that he chose the game completely randomly, but I’ve come to realize that he probably put substantial thought and care into the process.

At the time, superheroes, Marvel’s eclectic cast of characters in particular, were all the rage. I’d say it was probably comparable to the Pokemon craze of the slightly younger generation, if not moreso. I, having a ridiculously large collection comics and (more importantly) trading cards, was far from immune to this phenomenon. It is now my understanding that my father mistakenly identified the glowing golden birdman with sunglasses and a huge grin as being a superhero.

Turns out he was right. Skyblazer is one of the most sadly overlooked action games of the 16-bit generation, probably due in large part to the sadly not overlooked cover art. The game has great graphics and music, a fabulous variety of levels, excellent controls, and some of the most memorable and creative bosses around. It’s not particularly original or innovative, but it still manages to forge it’s own unique sense of style and pizazz, and the whole experience is polished to a blinding sheen.

The dorky birdman turns out to actually be a really badass character named Sky, and he’s charged with the daunting task of killing a bunch of badguys. To this end he carries out his objective with an excess of style and panache. Glowing Strider-like standard attacks, supplemented by a wide variety of magical abilities – all executed quite stylishly and flashily by Sony Imagesoft.

Obviously this game holds a special place in my heart, and I could rattle on and on about it. How cool the “air” level is… how well the Ninja Gaiden-style clinging to walls mechanic is implemented… how impressive the mode-7-heavy bonus levels are… but this review has already dragged on longer than I intended. Don’t think I’m just blinded by nostalgia either. The game is genuinely very good, and while my fond memories of other games have faded to dust, I can still pick up Skyblazer and be thoroughly entertained from start to finish (except for that dreadful underwater maze level). The game is a tad on the easy (and brief) side, but it’s also decidedly on the inexpensive side, so don’t hesitate to give it a try. And thanks to me (and my dad) you don’t even need to have the chickenpox to discover it.

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on April 5, 2008.

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