Genre: Action Developer: Cyclone Systems Publisher: Sages Creation Players: 1-2 Released: 1990
Shadow Blasters was made in 1990 and is one of Sage’s Creation’s seven games for the Genesis (including Ka-Ge-Ki and Insector-X). I still remember most of it just from that one time I rented it in 93′ or 94′ (times when nothing new or good came out). In most cases that would be a good sign, but not in this one.
After the gods had been protecting mankind for millennia, the humans lost their morals as time went by. The gods were deeply saddened by this and they eventually got so overwhelmed by the wickedness of humans that they were forced to seal the portals between their world and the human world. Ashura, the master of Evil World (no, it’s not an amusement park), decided to take advantage of the human’s vulnerability and launched an attack to easily make all mankind submit to his evil. The gods argued as to whether or not they should aid humanity until Hyprion, the most powerful of them, decided that humans would take care of their own problems with a slight adjustment: he choose the four mightiest human warriors on Earth and assembled them as a collective to keep Ashura’s evil forces in check.
These four enchanted warriors are Leo- a Japanese fencer, Marco- a muscular Buddhist monk, and Horatio and Tiffany, both of whom are ninjas. Here’s how the gameplay works: the buttons are set in the basic ”special, attack, jump (in any order)” control. The special button does the typical big flash that hits all enemies, the attack button fires each warrior’s shot, and the jump button pulls out dual bazookas. When attacking, you can power up each shot (Mega Buster style) an amazing FOUR times! I’ll give one example; with Leo, his normal shot is a tiny crescent wave, his second shot is double that, his third is a giant boomerang wave and the fourth is a double boomerang wave. Each character has distinctive attacks. The male ninja shoots shurikens, the female shoots crystals that fall like grenades, and the Buddhist shoots lightning. There are also items called Emblems that you acquire from destroyed enemies. They’re shaped like candle flames and they can enhance your jumping, speed and life, and they can ascend you to the next power level (so you won’t have to hold the button down) four times- although it takes nine Emblems to do so.
Oh yes, and did I forget to mention that this game is two-player? Both players control the same four characters. You can switch between them at ANY point of the game just by pausing it. When a character dies, you can’t pick him again until after you use a continue, so it’s highly recommended that you play with someone that doesn’t suck. Either way, it’s suggested that each player picks two characters to play as through the entire game. If you both like the same characters, you’re screwed.
Shadow Blasters has some very original ideas, like choosing who you want, when you want, and powering up the shots are cool too. In fact, this was probably the first Genesis action game with a charge-up shot. The characters are different enough from each other and there are enough attacks to keep you satisfied. Too bad that the characters move way too slow (even at top speed) and the jumps are too hard (even at top jumping ability). The control isn’t the most responsive out there, especially when you’re forced to do frequent jumps.
You play through everything one would expect from an action game; stages that go through mountains, streets, labs, etcetera. The most original stage in the game is the volcano. None of the levels have anything really special in them obstacle-wise, just a few hard jumps on platforms mostly. The enemies aren’t anything special either. There must be about seven throughout the entire game. Most of them are just mindless Samurai (or variations that act the same) and a bunch of little bat gargoyles. Not one of them actually comes after you or anything. They just aimlessly walk forward (or fly forward in a looping pattern). The bosses also follow simple patterns but they’re pretty diverse, ranging from a giant golem, to a brain in glass, to a simple knife throwing thug!
The graphics aren’t too bad for game produced by such a small company. Don’t expect anything too vivid but there are a few nice effects like the purple and black sky of dusk time on the street level. There are a few nice extra details like the cracked buildings with only certain lights turned on, and the many tree sizes in the forest stage. None of the graphics or sprites are very colorful but they’re good enough. The characters are too generic for my tastes. In fact, they look suspiciously similar to the Gauntlet cast. Except for Leo, who looks more like an extra from the fantasy movie Sinbad.
I have some problems with the sound. Often it’s too drowned out by the music. All you ever hear are the shots of your characters anyway and they almost sound like whispers! The music is certainly interesting, though. A bit sounds like techno (of 1990) but most of it is done on a ”cosmic” style keyboard, like what plays whenever you see a spaceship in a cartoon or something but not quite as synthesized. Some of it is very dry but some is very good. One in particular comes to mind. Sometimes I sit back and listen to the ”continue/end” music for quite a while. Makes you want all of your characters to die sometimes.
As for difficulty, there are easy, normal, and hard settings. This influences how fast the enemies move, how much they attack, and how many hits it takes to beat them. 99% of the difference is made in the bosses, though it doesn’t change the fact that they have the same old patterns of movement. It’s cool that you can do the levels in any order you want (the first six, at least) like in Mega Man, as it adds a bit of strategy. It does irk me that there are quite a few cheap hits, not TOO many but sometimes your character is just too slow to avoid things that pop up. Your health bar is pretty large, however, and you can usually take five hits or more (you have a very weird nine hit points). The hardest parts of the game are those that require you to jump a lot. Any enemy hit can take you completely out of a jump and off the cliff. It’s bad but not a Ninja Gaiden bat situation or anything.
Shadow Blasters takes a good 35 minutes to beat it if you don’t continue. Speaking of which, they should NOT have given you unlimited continues in this game! I strongly suggest that you try to limit yourself to 1 continue per game. There are only 8+ levels (I don’t know if the last one counts) and they can be beaten very quickly- you can storm through the glen (mountains) in three minutes! By the time you finish it three times, you’ll have seen all of the moves, all of the paths, and everything else. After that you’re just likely to play it six years later for nostalgia (like I did a while ago).