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Burning Force – Genesis

Burning Force – Genesis

Reviewing Burning Force for the Sega Genesis
Burning FOrce Coverart

Platform: Sega Genesis

Developer: Namco

Publisher: Namco

Release Date (NA): 1990

Genre: Shoot ‘em Up (Shmup)

Nerd Rating: 4 out of 10

Reviewed by NerdBerry

Burning Force hits the screen with a powerforce unparalleled by most Shmups. Instead of sporting the traditional left to right side scrolling 2D visual layout of your traditional shmup (namely Gradius, Sol-Feace, and more), Burning Force utilizes a 3D level design much in the vein of Space Harrier, both of which provide a similar look to Super Nintendo games utilizing their Mode 7 graphical capabilities. This is the first 16-bit shmup that I’ve ever seen with 3D graphics, as I wouldn’t play Space Harrier until much later. Granted, this is Sega Genesis, so “3D” is a somewhat subjective term. But regardless, we’ll treat it with the respect it deserves.

Bay Yard

Bay Yard

Burning Force tells the story of Hiromi, a student at Earth University. Like other youths at the school, she dreams of becoming a space pilot. Join Hiromi in a quest to conquer her rigorous graduation tests. You and Hiromi must master five days of battle tests on the planet Earth. If you are skilled enough, you will earn the final challenge of battling in deep space. Pass this sixth level, and you earn the title “Space Fighter.”

What an odd story to set up the entire game. I can’t say that I’m a fan of this story for a couple reasons. One reason is that it’s somewhat odd. What sort of training program throws you directly into battle before you graduate? I mean, I guess this is an internship? Oh wait, no. It’s a 6 day exam. But anyway, that brings us to the second reason… It almost reduces credibility of the game. It takes away any mystique or feel of being in unknown territories or exploring new galaxies. Instead, we are students and our professors know where we’re going and have it all planned out for us. The story just doesn’t do it for me but that doesn’t affect the way Burning Force plays at all.

Sahara Sands bonus round

Sahara Sands bonus round

There are six levels, each with four “testing” areas. In each level (except the 6th) you will battle your first two rounds on your ground vehicle. The third round is fought in a fighter plane in the air, and in this round you will face off against the big boss of that level. And the fourth round is a bonus round in which you operate the aircraft.

  • Day 1: Bay Yard. The layout and design of the first level appears to be beautiful and unique since it’s the first one you see. But you will quickly begin to see similar patterns in all subsequent levels. In the Bay Yard, the enemies can appear from the left and/or right of the screen, or from under the ground (which appears to be water).
  • Day 2: Sahara Sands. Fought in the dessert, the layout is nearly identical to that of the Bay Yard, except it is colored yellow/beige. Much like in the Bay Yard, enemies can emerge from the sand and from behind you.
  • Day 3: Aerospace. This round is more like an obstacle course, and depending on your gaming abilities, it can either be your favorite or your least favorite of the six levels.
  • Day 4: The Meadow. In Day 4, you will fight in the meadow. Just like in days 1 and 2, you have enemies coming at you from all directions, except now the enemies are considerably harder than in the first 2 days. Huge fireballs also fall from the sky and will land on you at random. Very upsetting.
  • Day 5: Another World. Now we’re playing a sci-fi game, finally. We are now battling in another world… but wait, why does it look so similar to all of the other levels?
  • Day 6: Lunar Spaceport. In lunar spaceport you will only battle with the space jet. A much more enjoyable backdrop and level layout is provided in this one. This is the final exam for your quest to become Space Fighter. Good luck and Godspeed.
Aero Space

Aero Space

A sci-fi shmup of a unique design, Burning Force puts you at the helm of a hovering space craft, which more closely resembles a motorcycle of sorts, and a fighter jet. The hovercraft is not overly complex in its build or capabilities but it does have extremely limited capabilities. You will not be able to move your vehicle forward or backward, only left and right. Furthermore, your vehicle cannot jump, so there will be times where you may be forced to take a hit, as dodging a complete barrage of missiles proves an impossible task.

The Meadow

The Meadow

Maneuvering the aircraft is a much simpler and more enjoyable experience. The aircraft can move up, down, left, or right which provides more options for evading the enemy and their attacks. While the aircraft is generally the preferred vehicle of the two, it is not without its flaws. One of the worst features in the game is how the space jet blocks your view of the enemies sometimes, and even worse blocks your view of oncoming missiles. You will sometimes take a hit and not even know why. Your space jet gets right in the way of being able to see almost anything sometimes. It’s wildly frustrating and really makes it tough to enjoy the game, to be honest.

I had such high expectations for Burning Force as I remember playing it years and years ago but I couldn’t recall how I felt back then. But right now in December 2013, I’m pretty disappointed and unsatisfied. I know that the capabilities for creating decent shmups are possible as we saw in Sol-Feace, Gradius III, and more. But I never quite understood the concept behind developing highly technical games without the technological capabilities to do so. Sure, maybe developing the game as a way to know your actual strengths and weaknesses, but to publish that game… eh, not gettin’ it.

Switching from hoverbike to space jet

Switching from hoverbike to space jet

Despite my current thought process on the matter, let’s not forget that hindsight is always 20/20. Back in the late 80s, arcade patrons (by the way, this was originally an arcade game in Japan… did I mention that?) were much more forgiving of graphical limitations as games like Burning Force were actually very revolutionary. But games like this have not aged very well at all. That is why I think making a 2D platforming game back then was the best decision a company could make, even with the high level of competition. Those platforming games are timeless and for the most part, age exceptionally well. Hell, it’s like watching a cartoon. Disney’s Snow White came out in 1937 and kids (and adults) still watch it to this very day! And maybe I’m not being fair. While I should recognize the technical achievements Namco reached when they created this game, it’s a bit of a letdown to see a game age so horribly.

Overall, Burning Force hits the screen with unabashed speed and intensity, but that powerful feeling wears off almost instantly as soon as you start dealing with a sluggish control scheme, poor 3D designs, and shoddy A.I. The concept for Burning Force is sound but the game that materialized is lacking any depth. The monotony hits you within the 2nd round of the 1st day. And once you reach the 2nd day of training, that monotony sets in and you know you’re in for a long hour. Dodging the enemies’ attacks can be nearly impossible at times and landing a hit can be ambiguous with the poor graphical design. I cannot recommend Burning Force to anyone, which is a shame as the shmup genre as a whole is one of my personal favorites!

Nerd Rating: 4 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Written by 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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