Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Skyblazer: Sony's 16 Bit Gem

Once upon a time, before the Super Nintendo CD-Rom debacle that gave birth to the Playstation, Sony was a hit or miss game publisher who released games under their Sony Imagesoft label. Most of their games were basically cash in merchandising that was attached to movies. Those games ranged from Good but not great (Hook for the Sega CD) to utterly abysmal (Hudson Hawk for the NES). Their best achievement as a third party in my humble opinion is a little known SNES platformer named Skyblazer. It is a well crafted platformer that gave gamers a pretty good spin on the tried and true gameplay and storytelling mechanics found in earlier games. What makes Skyblazer such a great game is the way those well worn components are pieced together.

Every piece I've ever read on this game talks about how minimal the story is, even though the game tries to force it's reliance on the story early on. I tend to agree, since it's used as nothing more than a device to justify Sky(the main character) going through the land fighting monsters. Like I stated a few sentences back, Skyblazer follows the well worn damsel in distress pattern made popular by dozens of other games before. This time, instead of saving a princess, Sky is charged with rescuing a sorceress. The main antagonist, Raglan, is very reminiscent of Satan from the Ghosts 'N Goblins games. Come to think of it, This game has moments where it feels like a much easier version of Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts for the SNES.

Gameplay wise, Skyblazer is as solid a game as you can find on the SNES. The platforming feels solid and the inclusion of a climbing mechanic adds a little strategy to a sometimes formulaic gameplay style. combat is handled using standard punches and kicks, as well as special moves acquired after beating boss characters. There's also a sprinkling of shoot em up levels throughout the game. The level design in Skyblazer is actually pretty good, even if most of it is very linear, and sends Sky through treetops, under water, over cliff sides and valleys, and other diverse environment types.

It says a lot that a game like Skyblazer had a production staff of less than 15 people, and the graphics and gameplay still hold up after almost 20 years. If you interested in tracking down a copy, it typically goes for far less than $20 on most auction sites, a mere pittance for such a fantastic game. Skyblazer may be one of the last gems released by Sony before they got into the console business themselves.

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