Like many teens, I did the whole rock band thing. In the mid 2000s, I was in bands, writing and performing my very own terrible music, and spending a lot of time in dingy urban rehearsal studios. It was in one of these rehearsal studios that I encountered a classic shooter of yore, Blazing Star. At the time I didn’t make register its name – it was simply one of four games available to play for 20p on a NeoGeo arcade cabinet. It was the first 2D shooter I’d every played on an arcade cabinet, so it really stood out to me. The arcades I went to were host to lightgun games, Dance Dance Revolution and networked racing games that cost £1 at a minimum – whereas this NeoGeo cab was something completely different at a fraction of the cost.
And that was that. It was a one-off experience, and yet the memory of this cool looking game I once sunk a credit into stuck with me. And coming back to it all these years later it’s easy to see why. Even as a complete novice to the shooter genre, Blazing Star was a game I recalled and wanted to try again. Not so long ago I read a series of articles about the best NeoGeo games and was immediately pleased to see a screenshot that rang a bell. Watching a video of it in action I was quickly convinced this was the game I had briefly played and enjoyed all those years ago.
Coming back to Blazing Star via the Switch release from Hamster, the art is still beautifully vibrant with bold colours throughout, the controls remain tight and the shooting satisfying. There’s also charming Engrish, a jazzy soundtrack, and awesome screen-filling bosses. What more could anyone ask for?
Blazing Star was made by a developer called Yumekobo, who were made up of former Irem staff. (Irem have quite a legacy, especially on the NeoGeo platform: Nazca Corporation, the developers of the famed Metal Slug series, are also ex-Irem.) Both Blazing Star and its predecessor, Pulstar, share a lot with Irem’s R-Type games. Unlike R-Type though, Blazing Star isn’t a game that requires strict memorisation of enemy patterns or stage hazards. By comparison Blazing Star is extremely flexible about the way a player should approach it – evidenced by the ten or so playable ships with their own unique movement speed and weapons.
The game has a smooth difficulty curve and a relaxed first stage which make the game relatively accessible. Every stage ramps things up a notch, until by the end the game is practically a bullet hell shooter, and the visuals become trippy as hell – it’s quite the journey!
Blazing Star was well worth my 20 pence in the mid-2000s, and the same is true for the modern re-release on Switch for £6. It may not be among my all-time favourites shooters but it’s a fun time alright.
Post script: I had only intended to take a couple of snaps of the game but I got quite addicted so here’s a whole gallery of screenshots, including one or two I captioned. Enjoy!