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Black Fire – Sega Saturn

Black Fire – Sega Saturn

Black FirePlatform: Sega Saturn

Developer: Novologic

Publisher: Sega / Virgin Interactive

Release Date (NA): 1995

Genre: Flight simulator, 3D Shooter

Nerd Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Black Hawk Down! Black Hawk Down! Combat helicopter battling is here, and your Sega Saturn is fueling the way. Black Fire takes your average 3D graphics, and makes them… Saturnized. I can’t always sit here and tell you that a game from 1995 still looks great today, but I can tell you when a game looked good in 1995, and Black Fire is average at best. Black Fire isn’t your everyday helicopter combat game, nor is it a traditional flight simulator. Is there more to this game than meets the eye?

You’re a crack helicopter pilot doing battle with a take no prisoners enemy! The only catch is that these guys are outfitting their weapons with alien technology. You don’t stand a chance unless you fly and fight like there’s no tomorrow – and if your aim is off, there might not be!*

Black Fire is a Sega exclusive, and possibly one of the many reasons the Saturn failed to capture an audience as this game is nothing but a miserable bogie. After 15 minutes of flying around in this pixilated world, I couldn’t stay in tune with what was happening in the game. It’s not all a terrible mess, though, as there are some really neat features to Black Fire that were pretty badass for its time.

Can’t Have Maverick without Goose

Black Fire kicks off with a gnarly intro scene that features some stunning graphics, a great musical score, and some entertaining, movie-like elements. With a scorching explosion and a zoom-in camera shot, the words “BLACK” and “FIRE” fold into the center of the screen with a level of power and badassness. Unfortunately, this would be the only enjoyable spot in the game.

Training

The training mode is designed to let you figure out how to play, but not before being thrown into the deep end of the pool. You start off hovering in your chopper with a bunch of radio chatter filling your ears. “Check your six! We’ve got bogies!” And more.  Black Fire 3But there is no tutorial. There is nothing that says, “here’s what you’re supposed to do. Here’s the buttons you should press.” For some reason, all games from the 90s decided to make you figure this crap out on your own, assuming you would forever own a game manual. Thanks Sega.

So, you start fiddling around with the buttons, and you learn that the X-button makes you ascend while the A-button makes you descend. The C-button fires your missiles. So forth and so forth. Alright, training feels pretty good and I think I can… BAM! WHAM! BOP! POW! BOOM! And you’re dead. You got shot down within the first 30 seconds of training. WHAT… THE… FUUUUUUUCK!? Seriously?! But for real, I got destroyed faster than a line of coke on a stripper’s ass. The ONE good thing about training is you have infinite lives, but for some reason they never gave us infinite ammo. Oh well, let’s try this again. This time, you’re prepared, man. You’re out for vengeance. Okay… we’re taking fire. Let me do a little 180 and… what… There’s nobody there. WHO IS SHOOTING AT ME?! COME OUT YOU COWARDS! BOOM! CRASH! FIRE! HATRED! ANGER! DEAD.

What I’m getting at is how fucking difficult and impossible training is. Am I supposed to be patient enough to keep dealing with this nonsense? I tried it a few more times and I always got shot down. I couldn’t tell which helicopters were on my side and which were enemies….. So I fucking killed everyone. But still got shot down. How frustrating. Screw it, folks. Let’s just play the game.

Mission

Black Fire 5The mission is the main game, and this is where we learn more about the game’s purpose. There is an introduction where we are briefed on a special mission. Our overall mission is to stop a new world threat, known as the Consortium. This evil faction is threatening human lives across the entire world, and it’s up to you to put an end to its reign of terror. Operation: First Strike. In this mission, we are to locate the Consortium, a wrong-doing faction who needs to be stopped. Using the laser-guided system provided, we must locate and destroy the Consortium before local law enforcements arrive. We are to get in, destroy, and get out. Without being explicitly clear, I discover that we are some form of black ops. We are an undercover government agency set out to fix the problems that a diplomatic handshake just won’t fix. In we go to battle the enemy, save our freedom, and keep our American civilians unknowledgeable, yet comfortable, and safe.

Story

The story in Black Fire is okay and average at best. It’s neither deep nor shallow. Maybe I’ve seen too many war movies, but it’s just nothing spectacular. There is a level of enjoyment to be had when we are given a really cheesy and elaborate James Bond-esque story, but this doesn’t provide even that much fulfillment. While average, the story does, however, convey a solid goal and purpose. There are clear and definitive instructions that lay out exactly what you are supposed to do. I have to give it credit for being precise, even if it is relatively short and boring. There are numerous missions throughout, all with a sole purpose of saving the world from Consortium.

Graphics

The graphics in Black Fire aren’t horrendous and they’re not mesmerizing either. When going back in time to the mid-to-late 90s,Black Fire 4 one can expect graphics like these. In this open 3D environment, enemies pop out of nowhere and start firing at you. They literally materialize out of thin air. The technological limitations of the time made it difficult to achieve much more, so we take it with a grain of salt. The terrain is fairly textured, making it easy to see the different topographical elevations.

The colors are not too varied, and consist mostly of shades of green, gray, black, and blue. This little variety in color is a bit of a letdown, but I would have to say that at least they are appropriate for the time. We’re not playing NiGHTS here, with colors galore. This is war! You should see everything in shades of gray! Anyway, beyond the average color usage, we are left with a series of pixilated and blocky enemies. Tanks, choppers, gun turrets, land, and more. All of these are ugly eye-sores in 2014 and are tough to handle. But I won’t count it against them, as these graphics were expected for its time.

Sound

The sound effects are actually one of the few bright spots in Black Fire, as they are somewhat above average. One of my favorite moments is the sound a missile makes when it whizzes right past your face. The explosions are enjoyable, and they look decent too. But where Sega really went all out is on the radio-communications sound effects. They start chattering heavily and provide you with very vital information. They actually warn you when you have a bogie on you, and they’ll tell you where the enemy is too. “Six O’clock! 3’ O Clock!” This is all welcome and nice. The decent sound effects can’t save Black Fire, but they do provide some level of enjoyment.

Controls

Black Fire 2The controls aren’t good or bad. They’re just… well, they kinda suck. Okay, wait, I take that back. They lean heavily towards bad and only slightly towards mediocre. The buttons don’t feel very responsive, whatsoever. When I’m trying to fire a missile, or slide right, or ascend, the game actually won’t respond right away. It seems to lag behind a fraction of a second. I also ran into some really quirky issues with trying to turn right. Yes… you heard me. I couldn’t turn my chopper right for a while and essentially it led to my death. I kept pressing right! Right! Right! And it wouldn’t work. But the left button the d-pad made me do a full 360 in a half second! This was frustrating and was basically the last straw for me.

Other than that incident, I found the rest of the controls to be tough to master. I played this one for a while (hating every second of it) only to never really figure them out entirely. I mean, I figured out which buttons did what, but the entire mechanics of the game make it challenging on even a seasoned gamer. And it’s not your fault, man. It’s not. It’s Sega’s fault, bro. Sega did it.

Gameplay

So we’ve learned a lot about the graphics and the sound, but how does it play when it’s all pieced together? Not so bad yet not so good. There’s an entire lack of enjoyment experienced throughout game. Unlike Desert Strike, another similar helicopter combat game, you aren’t being asked to take on the enemy solo. Instead, you are graced with wingmen that are here to save your ass from time to time if you get in trouble.

Black Fire suffers from a lack of clear direction or definable goals. I know, I know, when talking about the story, I said, “there are clear goals,” but what I’m talking about now is how once you get into actual gameplay, it’s tough to know where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do. One of the major issues I faced… not knowing who the enemy was! When I started mowing down everything in sight, everyone started to kill me. As it turns out, your wingmen will fire back at you if you fire at them or destroy one of your own. So when I saw this chopper firing missiles at me, of course I returned fire! But oh well.

Conclusion

The combination of an average story, average graphics, poor controls, mediocre sound, and poor gameplay results in a below-average game. Go back to math school if you don’t get my logic. Yeah, that’s what I said… school… for math.  There are virtually noBlack Fire 1 redeemable qualities in Black Fire whatsoever. Poor controls and a completely forgettable gaming experience really take these black hawks down hard. Sega really struggled to get anything right with the Sega Saturn, and Black Fire is no exception.

While the game does get mildly more enjoyable as time goes by, there is absolutely no reason to force anyone to put up with the bullshit you have to endure in the beginning. I only did it so I can save you a few dollars, and you can buy a better game! I can’t recommend this game to anyone out there as there’s nothing to gain from it. If you don’t believe me, then please go waste your hard-earned dollars on it and tell me I’m wrong. Frustration is the name of the game in Black Fire. And that’s the truth.

My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!** At least that’s what I always say. Or was it Colonel Nathan R. Jessup…? I can never remember.

A few good men

Nerd Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

 

*Quoted from the game insert.

**Quote from Jack Nicholson. A Few Good Men (1992).

Written by Nerdberry

Nerdberry

What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.

 
 

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