You miss a lot of video games when you're a twelve-year-old kid with a paper route. You miss even more games when you have a mother who insists on sticking half your paycheck in the bank, leaving you roughly $30 a month to divide between Batman comics and cartridges for your Super NES that ran between $60 and $80 apiece. (In fairness, Mom's lesson stuck with me. Did I appreciate Street Fighter II after three months of chucking papers at customers finally earned me a trip to KB Toys? You better believe it.)

It could have been worse. I could have set my sights on the Neo Geo AES, or Advanced Entertainment System, a home console based on Neo Geo's arcade hardware, giving literal meaning to the term "arcade perfect." (If you're too young to know what that means then get out of my article and off my porch. I also propose a haircut.) The $650 AES was a jewel for wealthy collectors, but unattainable to a humble paperboy. Plus, the cartridges went for $250 each. Each. No wonder Neo Geo's mascots never caught on in the living room like Super Mario and Sonic. Fast forward to today and you can splurge on an AES and must-haves like Blazing Star [$0.99] for... well, right around the same price. Or, iOS gamers can snag the game from the App Store for three bucks. Welcome to the future.

Blazing Star is a horizontal shmup with one goal: gun down all the things soaring and swooping and shooting at you. The game's six ships pack a unique normal attack and charge attack--some more suited to offense, others built for defensive play. Mash the A button to spray your normal attack, or hold it down to build up a more potent charge attack. During each level, you collect power-ups that extend your attack meter, boosting your firepower. The Hellhound, my favorite ship, starts out spraying bullets but adds on rows of homing missiles and a wider wave of bullets. At full power, I could sit in the middle of the screen, tap fire, and lay waste to ships almost as soon as they dared materialize.

Being derived from a coin-op game that was designed to gobble your lunch money, Blazing Star won't sit idly by while you power up and lay waste to its legions of enemies. A longer attack meter means more time required to charge up, and getting hit means losing a life and one bar on your meter. The ability to level-up ships, coupled with a finite amount of continues that you won't need at first but will cling to from level three onward, inspired me to invest more effort in staying in one piece instead of mindlessly pounding on buttons as I do in most shmups.

Strategic play, beautiful 2D backgrounds, and Japanese announcers who delight as much in rubbing your nose in each death as they do in rapturously shouting out your every accomplishment come direct from the game's Neo Geo cartridge, but there are some new toggles exclusive to the App Store offering. Mission Mode lets you start on any stage you've cleared, and Bluetooth multiplayer lets you bring in a friend to reduce opposition to flaming scrap metal. It's fun, but given the inclusion of Game Center, I would have liked an option to jump online and team with strangers when my friends aren't around to play.

The controls are the game's only downside. You pilot your ship using touch controls or a virtual stick. Even with each ship's particular speed rating factored in, both control options feel sluggish; your ship will twist and dive for a few seconds before stalling out like it's a clunker instead of a sophisticated vessel in an intergalactic war. This poses a problem, since like most shmups, the screen invariably clogs with enemies and bombs and lasers and chaos, making constantly readjusting your thumb one more thing to think about.

You can mitigate the issue by steering with a forefinger or applying a lighter touch with your thumb, but that's hard to do when the action heats up and you unconsciously grip your device. Joystick support is the most obvious fix, and our forum members are having some success playing on their iCades.

Stuttery control issues aside, Blazing Star features some of the most intricate shooter gameplay you can find in the vast pool of shmups available on the App Store. The best part? Even paper carriers can afford to indulge.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kale.menges Kale Menges

    Love this one. Another near perfect SNK port, although the controls can seem a little sluggish at times.

  • http://twitter.com/jinchoung jin choung

    why the hell is there a space baby in that video?

  • himanshu modi

    How does this play on the iPad? Virtual sticks can be better or worse on the iPad depending on the exectution. If this plays half good on the iPad... it will be bought.

    • http://twitter.com/Arcadelife JohnT321 Arcadelife

      I play it mostly on my iPad (1st gen) and it's fine. I use the relative touch control, not the virtual stick, best score around 865,000 which put me 16th on the GC leaderboard last time I checked. It's a very good game that improves the more you experiment with - and master - the advanced scoring techniques. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/dlcraddock David Craddock

      I preferred playing on the ipad if only because of the greater screen real estate. My thumbs took up less space, which made it easier to dodge enemy fire. The controls are slightly better since you have more space to slide your thumb around on, but otherwise perform the same as on the iphone/pod.

  • egranata

    The first paragraph of this post sent me straight back to 1993. Thank you.

  • ImJPaul

    Will get this game eventually. Had a spoiled kid down the street. We'd always take turns playing this. Have many fond memories with BS. It's no SNES era Gradius but it's still one of the best horizontal shooters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/erikbmoller Erik Moller

    It's a pixel-for-pixel port of the NEO GEO game, with one major exception, the controls suck. Just as Craddock (if that's even a real name) said, it's a major flub from this being a perfect 5-star game. I hope they can fix this up and learn from CAVE how to do controls right. Otherwise, I can't complain - but it's too hard to start dodging stuff when your ship isn't responding like it should be.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dlcraddock David Craddock

      If you admit Moller is real, I'll admit Craddock MIGHT be real.

      • http://www.facebook.com/erikbmoller Erik Moller

        Ha, ha! Mine's a Danish last name that translates into "Brown Thumbs." It's because we spend all of our time with our thumbs up our butts. Who knew?

  • JCat_NY

    Does this have Unlimited Continues?  Something that bothered me about a number of Neo*Geo games was the unlimited continues which killed the fear/excitement of trying to stay alive. Of course, you can always restrain yourself from using it, but really.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dlcraddock David Craddock

      No unlimited continues, but Mission mode lets you start on any stage you cleared in Arcade mode. So if you make it to stage 4 in Arcade and run out of continues, you can select stage 4 in Mission mode and press on from there.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CKBNMJGLGCBQOSH2BM264QIHLI Bridget

    No auto-fire in this one is the real game-breaker for me.  I cant tap the damn fire button 23457456037604 times, as this will cause my arm to flare up (physical issue).

    WHY there isnt auto-fire, in a damn SHMUP of all things, and specifically a shmup ON A TOUCHPAD DEVICE, just baffles me, and screams "lazy".

    And I'd been all excited for it, too.  Bought it right away, downloaded, fired it up..... and deleted it 5 minutes later.

    Though, considering the ultra-low, bare-bones quality of the many SNK ports on the PS3 (the ones available on PSN), this one isnt surprising me very much.

    Will be sticking with Mame if I wanna play this.   At least Mame can FORCE autofire on things.

  • Remote_

    Having played it to bits as a rom on an emulator I'm struggling with the controls here. On both iPad and iPhone.

    Tried desperately to get something from it but the joy of the game eluded me as I tried to tackle the sluggish movement.

    If you've never played it before and love shooters then I'd definitely give it a punt as you'll most likely get used to the controls, but for those that have Mamed it up or emulated it in the past I'd give it a miss, to be honest.

  • ken arthur

    The controls suck; they make it unplayable on the iPad. Disappointment +++

  • http://www.mozzarellashop.it MasviL

    Last update fixed controls and added autofire.

BLAZING STAR Reviewed by David Craddock on . Rating: 4