Check out my full (and death-filled) Playthrough of Skyblazer here:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZNEsibju69xAzVopx74xM7N5HmqSOGsn
What are your favorite SNES platform games? A lot of the well-known greats are generally on everyone’s list. Super Metroid, Super Castlevania 4, Super Mario World, Mega Man X, Donkey Kong Country, Skyblazer, Earthworm Jim………Wait, what’s Skyblazer? To be very fair, I didn’t discover this game until just a few years ago, and I regret it. While it may not have the notoriety of the aforementioned, this game outclasses most of the SNES’ offerings just looking to cash in on the new powerful hardware while ignoring what made them fun to begin with (I’m looking at you, Super Adventure Island). Perhaps it’s because attempting to localize this game for a mainstream American audience might proved to be a little too difficult, what with its mythological themes seemingly out of Eastern Asia that most kids in the 90’s wouldn’t understand, but it goes to show how even if a game is very good, if nothing can grab the mind of the casual gamer (by essentially judging the book by the cover), it may not achieve the success that quantifies the effort put into the final work. A real shame, because the moment I pressed start and got going, I found it hard to stop playing.
Skyblazer’s graphics are great! It looks like a Japanese fantasy-action film, boasting great colors, a myriad of enemy designs, very scenic backgrounds, and sweet flashing light effects (that may, or may not affect the noggin. Especially the second boss). No two stages look the same, so you can be traversing the tree tops, kicking enemies out of the foliage, then you’re soaring through the sky, as if you were in Gradius, fire punching demons out of the sky! A fundamental law in good game design is having an amazing atmosphere. There’s never a point where things get boring to look at in Skyblazer. Each screen is lush and busy, but never distracting. And then there’s the monster designs. These are, by and far, some of the strangest creations I’ve seen on my SNES. Even the most practical of enemies have a distinct flair to them, seemingly popping out of a magical scroll that withheld them, but suddenly broke free. I’m not too versed on Japanese folklore, so it’s pretty hard for me to describe them, but one boss has a round body, bat wings, an elephant trunk, and a snake head on the end of the elephant trunk. I don’t even know how to go about what you would even call that, but it looks really cool!! It’s almost like Ganondorf placed a demonic curse on a Donphan and gave it armor from Big Trouble in Little China!! I love Demon’s Crest and that game has some pretty freakish-looking monsters, but nothing even close to the bizarre creatures that are throughout these stages. I mean, snake elephant trunk!! Which orifice does it eats from!?
Then there’s the game’s hero, Sky. (Blazer apparently isn’t his last name, since it’s all one word.) The game art depicts him clad in armor, but he looks like Goku. It’s not even subtle, same color scheme and almost the same hair. DBZ was probably at the peak of popularity in Japan around this time, so it’s bound to happen. The orange gi and spiky hair wouldn’t become common knowledge with the rest of the western continent until eight years later, so back then, when we played as Shinobi or Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden, this young man in orange probably wouldn’t register as well as the cool ninjas. He has a pretty cool-looking jump and free fall animation and sports a bunch of neat poses, all in all, Sky may not be Simon Belmont or Samus, but he’s pretty stylish. Even in his death animation, he goes out in a “blaze” of glory. (kill me!!) SCORE 9/10
That rocking boss music is lodged in my head, especially those cymbal clashes! While the sound quality doesn’t seem quite like dual stereo (it sounds like the treble was turned down way low), the themes and sound effects are great and pretty memorable after a while and fit the game’s mythological lore perfectly. All the bosses emit the same grunt when you wail on them, which isn’t all that bad. Outside of that, Skyblazer has an amazing soundtrack. SCORE: 8/10
As a side-scrolling, action platformer, you have to do some pretty unique things to keep from getting left behind in the pack, and ‘Blazer doesn’t skip any details. You go mostly from left to right, laying waste to foes with you fists, or your multiple abilities you gain as you progress further that require an MP cost, measured by the orange indicator atop the screen. Sky’s punching range is very short, so best make as much use of out his skills as possible. One of the abilities Sky gets is the Comet Flash, which might be the most useful move in the game.
Comet Flash will get Sky out of most of the game’s rough patches, it has a relatively low MP cost. He has other powers, like the ability to stop time, which I honestly never actually used, the power to heal (abuse it maliciously!!!!) and Warrior Force, which gives Sky brief invulnerability. Pfftf!! Really!? He’s inconceivably dressed like Goku and can glow golden at any time!? This was 1994, so everybody was doing it. Why not!!?? Sky can cling to the walls like Ninja Gaiden while also being able to scale them, even under water!!!
I’m a big fan of Sky’s previously mentioned jumping. Unlike most platform game characters, Sky doesn’t succumb to gravity and hangs in the air for longer than you would expect. Well being one whom blazes through the sky, I suppose that is to be expected. Well played, Sky. This helps you out of some spots, as it seems you can catch yourself to a wall and make a last-minute save if you feel you undershot your mark. Skyblazer happens to move slower than most platformers (I’m not sure if this was a design choice or if the low frame rate and speed is the sacrifice for the crisp visuals, like the cases with R.P.M. Racing and Rock’n’Roll Racing. The latter didn’t look as good, but ran much faster), but game seems lag free. Remarkable, given how much is going on. SCORE: 8.5/10
Even if you have the ability to heal yourself whenever you like or become invincible, this game can be pretty hard. At the halfway point, the game can jump from challenging to no more f***ing around in a snap! I wouldn’t call it one of the hardest games ever, but Skyblazer’s difficulty is very respectable. Preferably the hardest stage in the game, the Storm Fortress of Sh’Lar.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this is one of the most creative levels I’ve seen in a 16 bit game, if not the most. You traverse entirely on wind currents that will push you up, down, and all around. Death can come if you are too hasty and mistime when to move. Comet Flashing can help, but I got dragged into down currents when I tried it one too many times! At the end of each major level is a terrifying-looking boss, like Wall Face….…who is the only boss that can kill you with one hit. But man, that looks cool. Sadly, the bosses can be pretty easy when you find out ways to land extra shots on them since they get locked into certain animations that leave them vulnerable for extended periods of time. Even Ashura’s (the main villain) first form can be defeated like this. While each boss can be chump killed, no two battle are the same and boast different obstacles to get around before finding ways to land you shots in. Ashura’s final form is a bitch, because your jumping has to be precise to avoid his cheap laser!SCORE 8/10
I REALLY LOVE THIS GAME!!! I highly recommend it! It has great music, an easy password system, the game feels great, it looks really cool, and will be great to have on your shelf if you are a retro collector. Even when I was long done gathering footage for key spots, I just kept playing!! It’s too bad this didn’t get any love when it first came out. Skyblazer is 2D platform action that can hang with the top dogs of the genre!
FINAL SCORE 9/10
PROS: Solid difficulty. Beautiful graphics and animation. Awesome music. Almost everything!!
CONS: Accidental wall clings can possibly throw off your timing.