Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hellfire S

NEC Avenue / Toaplan

The awful Genesis version of this sidescrolling shooter takes a lot of heat for being ridiculously difficult and employing an irritating checkpoint system. This decidedly superior rendition is less difficult than its Genny counterpart, as enemies fire slower projectiles and take fewer hits (though the adjustments certainly weren't taken far enough to make the game easy) and respawns occur instantly. Fantastic red book audio (courtesy of T's Music) and nice anime cutscenes are thrown in for good measure.

I'm not a huge fan of the "choose a direction" cannon system (you use only one weapon throughout but decide on the fly whether it fires horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), and I don't lament the fact that it wasn't taken on by any other PCE shooters, but Toaplan implemented it well enough that it's effective as a one-game gimmick.

You visit deserts, jungles, and odd outer-space gardens while contending with villains that rate as respectable...

...though I would've liked more out of the bosses, who often ask that you simply shoot a "marble" or pull off minor-league evasive maneuvers.

The large steel knight who acts as your final adversary is pretty impressive, however.

The big draw here is the brilliant soundtrack. The number played for Stage 5 is one that I rank among the best PCE CD shooter tunes, as it features an outstanding lead that actually goes a melodic route rather than a wailing one. The theme of the subsequent level is of such heavenly caliber that it calls Ys to mind.

Most second-tier PCE shooters have obvious flaws, but Hellfire-S manages to do at least "pretty well" in every area save for boss design. Back when I bought it, it almost always sold for $40-50, but it seems easy to obtain for a modest $20-30 these days. Considering its solid action and great music, I'd say it represents a good value within that price range.

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