Blazing Star has the “ultimate in computer graphics!”

You fail it! Your skill is not enough, see you next time…

Blazing Star, the 1998 sort-of sequel to Neo Geo horizontal shoot-em-up Pulstar is famous for all the best reasons. If you’ve never heard of the game, you’ve almost certainly heard of its supposed contribution to modern catchphrases – the FAIL!

Thanks to developer Yumekobo’s fabulous “Engrish”, the use of the word “fail” became an interjection rather than a simple verb. It’s not certain that this is the case, but this post from the New York Post believes it is, and who am I to argue!

Obviously the unusual English isn’t a reason to try the game though. What you should look for is some spectacle, and Blazing Star delivers the goods with its pseudo-3D pre-rendered graphics. Lots of arcade shooters look ‘nice’, but Blazing Star looked (and still looks) incredible. It’s impossible to show you this with a few screenshots though. You really need to watch a video of the action, like this one:

I’m in awe of how this game looks. And if you make it to the end of the game, you’re rewarded with a fight against a baby! I’m not making this up!

Hey poor player!

Thanks to a recent update on smartphones, SNK have some nice character visuals on their website. I’ve never understood why shmups really need highly developed character bios and storylines, I’m just in it for the space-based kills!

Character Profiles for Blazing Star

Thanks the wonders of the internet, you can find lots of further reading about this classic game. I was particularly pleased to find the website Shmupulations which has gone to the trouble of translating some Japanese developer interviews from Neo Geo Freak magazine.

You can also check out the always-awesome SNK Wikia site which handily informs you that Blazing Star can be played not only in the Arcades, but also on a Neo Geo, the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, via Microsoft Windows, on a Nintendo Switch, or on iOS and Android devices.

This post continues a new series from me:
An irreverent and artistic A-Z of Neo Geo Gaming.

Battle FlipShot and Bang Bead

Like Atari’s Pong? Play Battle Flip Shot and Bang Bead!

Getting people interested in a video game can be really hard. Sometimes the concept just doesn’t jump out at the reader in a summary of hype and exclamation marks. Pong-alike Neo Geo titles Battle Flipshot and its rare sequel Bang Bead are two such games.

Pong, upgraded.

The best way to learn about these games would be to play them, or watch them. Anyone familiar with Atari’s Pong, or an Air Hockey table, will instantly grasp the concept.

Both games have you select a character and go head-to-head in a pong-esque battle, defending your “goals” whilst trying to score against your opponent.

Battle Flipshot

In developer Visco’s first pong-alike, Battle Flipshot, you play as fun characters like Mr. Justice and Bloody Wolf. Between rounds you’ll get to see some wonderful “Engrish” as you progress, such as this nugget:

“There are marshall arts fighting freaks!”

Check out this Battle Flipshot arcade play-through and tell me this doesn’t look fun!

I usually include lots of promotional posters and box art covers in these Neo Geo posts. Unfortunately, it seems like someone forgot to market both games! It’s as if nobody could work out how to promote the concept! Here is their best effort for Battle Flipshot:

Battle Flip Shot
Sequel Bang Bead doesn’t fare any better in getting people hyped up. The tag line is fun though:

Turn the tables with a Miracle Ball!

And they have a stab at making the game sound exciting:

Seven wiley humans (and one robot) face off against each other in the frantic, smash hit sequel to Battle Flipshot! Put your reflexes to the ultimate test – Dash, dive and time the perfect shot to claim your fame as Bang Bead champ!

The box-art too is pretty cool, though gives you no clue about what the game might be about:

Bang Bead

Thankfully, Youtube makes it easy to see just how good Bang Bead is:

Without doubt, my favourite thing about Bang Bead is the Allagash Brewing Company “Best at Bang Bead Tournament”. Whilst researching the game, I discovered this really is an actual arcade tournament with Band Bead as its promoted star attraction!

Allagash Bang Bead

Better yet, Allagash know how to promote!

This time we are challenging your skill at an underrated classic that was never officially released in the US: Bang Bead! Sequel to the game Battle Flip Shot, this underground hit is known for its eccentric anime-trope characters and dubious English translations, but also for its extremely fast placed exciting game play.

Best described as a cross between pong and dodgeball, this is definitely one of those “minutes to learn, lifetime to master” type games. Chose your character, each with different speed and skills, and smash the ball back and forth trying to destroy all the stars behind your opponent, power sliding and blocking, all while building up energy to fire your “miracle shot”.

As you might have gathered, the only way to play Battle Flipshot and Bang Bead is on a Neo Geo. In this instance, I’d recommend firing up an emulator.

This post continues my series:
An irreverent and artistic A-Z of Neo Geo Gaming.

SNK's Art of Fighting on Neo Geo

The Art of Fighting

…or The Art of ‘Art of Fighting’

There are so many places I could start when writing about SNK’s Art of Fighting, I feel giddy just thinking about it. What could I add that hasn’t already been written about exhaustively by more authoritative sources?

Fortunately, this continuation of my Neo Geo series has a focus on the art and hype of games, and Art of Fighting knew how to handle itself in both regards!

Lightning

Before we get to the art, let’s look at the hype. This game, according to blurb at the time, surpassed all predecessors. No one knew of the awesome experience ahead of them! Art of Fighting would usher in a new wave of fighting games, with full-screen action and zoom-in sequences for close action and wide-screen effects during its all-out battles.

Playing Art of Fighting would let you see 8 Dealers of Destruction fight The Greatest Match Ever!

The Greatest Match Ever

For me, the best part of Art of Fighting is the character design. Take a look around the internet and few people will agree with me on this, but I’m not talking about the in-game characters. No, I’m looking at the art released at the time of the games’ release which varies a lot!

The image at the head of this post is from an advert released by SNK to boast about their No. 1 status in the arcades. But who are these fighters? Few seem to bare resemblance to the characters in the story poster above?

The two lead characters, Ryo (the invincible dragon) and Robert (the raging tiger) don’t suffer too badly. Except for the mullet… Ryo would probably prefer we didn’t notice that!

8 characters

The guy with the blue face and long nose is a bit of a mystery? He’s in the picture at the start of this article but he’s nowhere to be seen in most of the other artwork. Unless you’re looking at the box art (below) which definitely has someone with a long nose. Turns out this is Mr. Karate, the final boss! When you reach him, I recommend hitting him in his face!

Art of Fighting Box

Learn more about the Art of Fighting

I began this post by stating that others on the web have already covered this great game. If you like what you see here and would like to learn more, I recommend starting with the following:

The Arcade Flyer Archive – a truly fantastic resource for anyone interested in the history of games. You’ll find things like the image below!

Art of Fighting Guide

SNK Wiki – everything you could ever hope to learn about the Art of Fighting series can be found here.

Hardcore Gaming 101 – one of the best retro gaming sites on the internet, and a wealth of information about the Art of Fighting series.

If you’d like to play Art of Fighting, you have a lot of options. The original Neo Geo versions are my favoured choice, but you can find an Anthology release on the Playstation 2 and a Virtual Console release on the Nintendo Wii, both are arcade perfect.

You’ll also find less faithful ports on the 16-bit consoles of the day including the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.

This post continues my series:
An irreverent and artistic A-Z of Neo Geo Gaming.

Alpha Mission 2

Suit Up, Hold Your Breath and Stand Ready for the Unbelievable Alpha Mission 2

Surely they meant Beta Mission?

One of the things that makes “retro gaming” so much fun for me is being able to use the internet to look back at how the game was perceived at the time. I enjoy playing the games, but looking back at old magazine reviews, seeing the hype and marvelling at the advertising; that’s what I really love about the hobby.

Except when you can’t do those things. Alpha Mission II, or Armored Scrum Object II: Last Guardian if you’re in Japan, is a brilliant shoot-em-up. It’s also a game that defies the logic that the internet is the source of all knowledge.

Alpha Mission 2 Box Art

You can find a few magazine scans, box art images and other material from its release in 1991. But, compared to other games produced for the MVS and Neo Geo platforms, Alpha Mission 2 is remarkable because of the lack of hype.

That’s surprising for a sequel, especially when they had such a good backstory…

The lunar nightmare of a bloody 200-year space war was thought to be over in the “original” ALPHA MISSION. But now with the advent of more technically sophisticated weapons, the evil “Fulvar” and his “Seven Star Alliance” have returned to destroy all planets that stand in their way of the ultimate target… Earth! Now in the year of 2525! Your mission as pilot of the new SYD-FX fighter is to use every weapon at your disposal to rid the galaxy once and for all of the evil that now dominates and threatens Earth. So suit up, hold your breath, and stand ready for unbelievable graphics and stereo sound that’ll suck you into the far reaches of deep, dark inner space. Be prepared… you may never come back!

And how cool does this bad guy look. He’s one of the smallest you’ll fight!

Alpha Mission 2 Baddie

Believe the non-existent hype, Alpha Mission 2 is awesome!

In Alpha Mission 2, you’ll find a smart, visually arresting, vertical shoot-em-up. It’s as tough as nails to stay alive, but you can keep feeding the game credits to see all seven levels. The bosses are magnificent and HUGE. Your ship is the perfect foil for them provided you learn how to use its power. You’ll also find a superb soundtrack beating away in the background.

I really can’t say enough to promote this game. If you still need convincing, this play-through is messy but lets you see everything.

If you don’t have access to the arcade or Neo Geo originals, you can also find the game on Sony’s Playstation Network, playable on PS3 and PSP.

This post continues a new series from me:
An irreverent and artistic A-Z of Neo Geo Gaming.

Spanky / Whity the Dolphin

Meet Spanky, the fighter pilot dolphin from the Aero Fighters series

Imagine for a moment a world where fighter jets such as the Northrop YF-23 Gray Ghost could be piloted by a talking dolphin.

That world would be a cool place, right? If it sounds like somewhere you’d like to be, you should check out the Aero Fighter series of games. Starting with Aero Fighters 2 in the arcades, Spanky (or Whity as he is known in Japan) is a “genius dolphin” who joined the United Nations Peacekeeping Force and fights on the side of nature!

Aero Fighters

The Aero Fighters series, better known as Sonic Wings in the East, are vertical shooters, similar to Capcom’s 1942. The first game is mostly a serious shoot-em-up where “the world’s hope hinges on your combat skills and sheer determination as an Aero Fighter“.

I say mostly serious, but you do have the option of playing as Rabio and Lepus, the twin mechanical rabbits hailing from the world of Bunnyland.

Dolphin

The second game, Aero Fighters 2, changes the tone considerably. For a start you can play as Spanky the dolphin, or as Arthur Sid Pride, the baby pilot with a milk bottle! Later games also have much funnier character stories, especially when “Engrish” creeps into the narrative.

I never thought I’d be frying over a jungle!

Spanky is a pretty popular dolphin, he even gets his own fan-art, like this from Jacquelline M. Kimminau.

Jacquelline M. Kimminau - Spanky the Dolphin

The best thing about Spanky though is his positivity. What should a dolphin say when faced with mass destruction? The Capitol was destroyed, but hey, what can you do?. Exactly!

Spanky Go Home

If you want to see Spanky in action for yourself, I’d play through the two Neo Geo titles in the series – Aero Fighters 2 and 3. You can also read loads more about him on his own character page on the Sonic Wings Wikia.

Sonic Wings 2 and 3

You could also watch Spanky paired with the baby pilot in this Let’s Play video:

Baby Power! Dolphin Power!

This post continues a new series from me:
An irreverent and artistic A-Z of Neo Geo Gaming.