Reviewed by Malc

I'd only ever played a NeoGeo once, and that was when it first came out in the arcades. I chucked my money into Magician Lord, and came away 30 seconds later distinctly unimpressed - probably because I only lasted 30 seconds. After that I decided to spent my last two months at college studying, and never saw one again. A couple of years ago a friend bought the NeoGeo CD, and I was entranced by the likes of Viewpoint and Last Resort, and vowed to get one some day!

Well, I've finally got my NeoGeo now, second hand, with a veritable pile of lovely games, and I'm irreedemably hooked! Best game of the pile has to be Aicom's Pulstar, and although I've only got a few tiny pics of it, I just had to put it up here. I don't know much about Aicom, (can't find their website) but I have a strong feeling that there are some Irem designers working there. Yes, you guessed it, shades of R-Type abound!

Pulstar doesn't so much pay homage to R-type, instead it has slept with it and left early in the morning. First glances will reveal many similar elements, the way the enemies move, the design of the bosses, and most obviously the powerup orb. After a few plays the subtle nuances will show themselves. Firstly, a few plays with the weapons system highlights what must be one of the best in recent years. You've got your normal shot, and pressing the fire button rapidly actually increases the firepower strength. It's a bit like Hypersports if you know what I mean! At full manic-button-pressing strength, if you have an orb, you can release it as an imploding smart bomb. Holding down the same button will release different bolt blast, depending on what type of powerup you have attached. Sundry other R-typisms are present, such as missiles, and above-and-below protectors, which can be fixed to shoot in certain directions. All in all a lovely system, the mastering of which is necessary to get through Pulstar.

It's also bloody hard. I'm still on level 2, and refuse to spoil it by using continues! It's hard, yes, but still fair, you can only blame yourself for dying - there's nothing worse than exploding without reason in so many other games. That elusive on-more-go factor is definitely present in Pulstar, you learn exactly what you should be doing at tricky points, but you always muff it up! I'm gagging to go away and play just thinking about it!

As you may have worked out, it's a horizontal shooter too. The orientation of a shooter makes definite differences to a game, personally I prefer the horizontal style. These types usually have surrounding scenery that you have to navigate through, and are generally slightly more sedate and require a bit more strategy than the vertically scrolling kind. Vertical shooters are often sheer visceral rushes, the screen filling with bullets and baddies, but it's not often you have to interact with the scenery. Having said that, if I've only got ten minutes, I'll pick up Battle Garegga or Do Don Pachi instead anytime!

Graphics are undeniably ace. It's got a semi-rendered look to it, but without that fuzzy unreal stuck-on crappiness that rendered games usually look like. The end of level first boss morphs from a pile of rubbish, very impressive! The variety throughout the levels I've seen is fab too, with an awful lot of different enemies per level - lots of snakes, crab monsters and organic blobs. Haven't though about the sound yet, I really can't remember what it's like, so it must be a bit average then!

Anyway, here's the poor selection of pictures I could find, if anyone's got better ones I'd be glad to hear from them! I'm currently searching for the followup (cunningly called Pulstar 2 I think) which is being annoyingly elusive. And I've just found out's not coming out on CD:( WHY NOT!?

SCORE: 9/10

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Level one, and things are looking very R-Typish. This level in particular is a complete remake of the first stage in RT1..

Especially this part. Remember the jaws in the first game, the ones that you used to wish snapped shut once in a while? Well, they do here!

Dunno which level this is, but you can see there's a few snakes about. Doesn't that ship look familiar?

Level 2, and even more snakes! The grey crab things are the big brothers of those in level 2 of R-Type, hiding in the scenery and pouncing out.

Level three, and homage to salamander... the firey bits in the background dont hurt you, but it seems like they should.

I love the watery levels, I've died many times just splashing the ship into the water and out again, watching the drips and bubbles run off the paintwork:)


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie