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Blade Eagle 3-D Review

Developer: SEGA Publisher: Tonka
Release Date: 1988 Also On: None

Groan, not another shooter title. These were so popular back in the 8-Bit and 16-Bit eras it’s no surprise they’re not so popular anymore. Too many titles in one genre is bound to produce many failures. One would think it wouldn’t be too difficult to make a decent shooter. Have a ship or something to move around in, throw in some cool upgrade powers, perhaps a bonus ship or something that follows around and shoots with you, enemies, some bosses and there you go right? Wouldn’t it be even more interesting if a useful accessory, so uncommon in the 8-Bit days, were put to use to add a bit more flavor to these elements? Sure, it would be, if it were done right. But mingling typical style with experimental elements can be disastrous. Blade Eagle 3-D isn’t a complete disaster, but it does not fair very well in the Master System’s library next to ingenious titles such as Fantasy Zone. In addition, it makes poor usage of an underused and underappreciated accessory, the Sega 3-D Glasses.

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Graphically, Blade Eagle 3-D is pretty disappointing. It’s another space shooter, in space of course, with stars, and, sigh, more spaceships. Each first stage for each of the three levels is some sort of flying battle base sort of thing with teeny tiny guns, tanks and so forth. Some of the guns have been positioned to the far left, shooting to the left at nothing as you pass by because they can’t change direction. Good one guys. The planet
sections following the initial battle station stages have a bit of variety,
so that’s nice, but still they’re nothing very interesting. The second stage
of level two, for example, is a desert area with volcanoes and rock
formations. Another stage is over an ocean with some interesting pillar-like
constructions. I’d have to say they were the only graphical element I can
remember thinking were somewhat unique.

Everything else, especially the enemies, is run-of-the-mill. You have your
little creatures, asteroids, and various ships. They all have this “rushed”
feel to them. It just doesn’t seem like the programmers put much thought
into their construction as they have little, if any, detail. Even their
names, such as “glob” and “fireball” seem dismal. To set apart the usual
gameplay, you have mini-bosses every so often, about two per level. They
tend to be larger, but sadly are not much more detailed than their smaller
counterparts. One is simply a rotating set of two spheres that looks simply
dreadful. Aside from these you also have three main bosses. Yet again,
nothing spectacular. The first is a sphere with little spheres spinning
around it, another is a set of spheres, and the final is a snake-like
creature. I take back what I said before, I do remember this being a bit
interesting, but this was only because everything else was so simple. Alone,
it’s nothing much to look at. At least it didn’t consist of a spherical
shape, which seems to be a recurring and highly annoying theme in Blade

However, still considering graphics, there is one important feature that
bugged the hell out of me. It effects the gameplay as well, so this short
rant is almost a dual section in a way, but I’ll try to separate the issues
as best as I can. Remember, this is a three dimensional game, to quote the
manual. The programmers attempted to make it appear as such by creating two
playing fields essentially. One above and the other below. Basically, since
this is entirely an overhead shooter, what appears as below you really is
below you. If you move your ship down and steer towards a wall in a tight
space, which happens in this game now and then, you’ll die, whereas if
you’re above it, nothing happens because you really are above it. Generally,
it’s done decently. However, I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re
doing something, do it all the way. Enemies that switch from the lower to
the upper playing field in this game look pretty cool, most of the time.

But, when you shift your ship’s position, the entire playing field you’re on
shifts with you. I don’t mean the backgrounds, so let me explain further. If
you’re flying along on the top and there are some asteroids flying towards
you and you shift your ship down, they shift down as well, even though this
makes no sense. Everything that is able to shift “dimensions” shifts the
same time you do. It would have looked so much better if they simply moved
down instead of shifting. It’s not a mistake on my part either, I watched
for it a number of times. In addition, and this gets to the gameplay a bit,
bullets fired at you on the lower level will magically shift to the upper
level with you if you try to avoid them this way. The manual says “if you
get stuck in a corner and can’t dodge the enemy’s fire – change you
altitude.” I can tell you from numerous experiences with this game that
that’s a load of crap. The programmers simply set everything “3-D” that’s
moving on the same plane, and they shift at the same time. Really ruined the
whole three dimensions for me and when I get into the gameplay you’ll see
even more why this effects it. As far as graphics are concerned, some of the
3-D effects are not programmed properly. It took my eyes several shifts of
focus to make the ship appear three dimensional and on numerous occasions I
missed a missile or whatever steering towards me because it simply didn’t
appear to be close due to the fact that I saw two separate images coming at
the same time. Trust me, it’s not my eyes, the 3-D glasses work perfectly
fine on Missile Defense 3-D, they just didn’t program Blade Eagle correctly
and at times it looks horrible. The background dimensions are great though,
so I give them that.

I must say the sound isn’t entirely bad here. Generally, as I’ve said
before, Master System games aren’t too intense in the sound department, but
Blade Eagle really isn’t a total failure. The music is a bit catchy and
different for certain stages, setting the mood somewhat, and sound effects
are fitting. I can’t think of one sound that seemed awkward, so I have to
say it gets fairly good marks in this area.

This is unfortunately shattered by the most important aspect, the gameplay. First off, the story is pretty lame and uninspired. You have a “warrior
race” of aliens called the Arvians who, sigh, of course, attacks this planet
and that planet and now you have to save them all. You’re in the only ship
that escaped capture, and, forget it I don’t have to elaborate. The ship is
called the Blade Eagle. Okay, that’s pretty cool. But wait, Blade stands
for, get this, Border Line Arvian Detection and Enforcement. Blade is some
interstellar organization intended to keep the peace since the Arvians
wouldn’t join some massive peace project. As you can see, this is one of
those, “hey we have a name that sounds pretty awesome, let’s figure out a
game around it” situations. “Border Line?” I don’t even feel like tearing
that to pieces, so let me continue.

As I mentioned above in the graphics section, the three dimensional effect
wasn’t programmed entirely right in Blade Eagle. Since moving up or down
will do nothing to help you avoid enemies or enemy fire if close to you, you
can be certain this will cost you a few lives now and again. Speaking of
which, you only have three and no continues to speak of. It would have been
nice if you could continue say three times, even if it was only back to the
start of each main level. Why does this matter? Due to the graphical
mistakes and general intensity you’ll experience at times, it’s pretty much
impossible to make it to the end. Blade Eagle 3-D is incredibly difficult
and it sadly stems mainly from the three dimensional effect they attempted.
Sometimes it could have been a very manageable difficulty level, but when
Missiles follow you whether you’re up or down, you might as well stay down
and drive yourself into a wall nearby. At least you have control over that.
In addition, you sometimes can’t even tell if a shot is above or below. Some
shots you actually fly over and they won’t touch you unless you’re on the
bottom, others will follow you up or down and since none of the shots adjust
in size much at all, it’s hard to tell what is where because they’re all the
same color.

The mini-bosses are pathetic. If you have the power ups, even the first one,
you’ll down all of them in a few shots. Power ups can only be received after
destroying a mini-boss. I found this quite annoying and very counter to every
typical shooter I’ve ever played. You simply have to have certain basic
enemies providing you with power ups, not mini-bosses, which you sometimes
only see twice per stage. One power up increases your speed, the other
increases your firepower and the third gives you a little ship that follows
you around and fires at the same time you do. You can only get four maximum
power ups, and then if you get any more all the enemies on the screen die.
Since you can only get said power ups from the mini-bosses and since there
are no basic enemies around when you’re fighting them, it’s pretty much
worthless. You can acquire up to two ships to fight with you. The
interesting feature with them is that if you die, one of them turns into an
extra ship and you keep going. So, if you have two extra ships, one of them
turns into you when you die and you still have one extra by your side. I
have to admit that’s a pretty cool feature, but then again anything would
look cool amongst so much mediocrity.

You’d think at least the bosses would be difficult, but they’re not. The
first two are absolute garbage. The first boss will seriously die in about
eight hits if you have the particle beam. Even with the weakest shot it
takes about twenty seconds to level it. I killed it without even having a
single shot fired at me. It started to come from the top of the screen and
didn’t make it much farther. The second boss flies around wildly, so I
thought it had game at first, but once I saw it really did nothing other
than move around like a maniac, it was soon destroyed. The final boss,
Banshee, is a large snake-like creature with a monstrous head. It was pretty
cool in spite of the fact that it was too easy. The best part was that it
changed dimensions as you fought it, forcing you to change from the lower to
the upper playing area back and forth in order to destroy it. I found this a
nice touch, but then I remembered, this is pretty much the only character in
the game that made good usage of the three dimensional feature. With this,
my mind sank into sadness and I again thought about how much this game
failed me on so many different levels.

Creativity in Blade Eagle 3-D is almost nil in my opinion. It’s just another
shooter with very little variety, basic enemies, basic movements, basic
weapons, and basic arrangement. The only feature setting it apart from
anything else is the three dimensional programming, but this is rather
ruined from the issues I mentioned above. It’s a shame too, because the
Master System “3-D Glasses” actually function properly and create a
believable effect, unlike the shameful blue/red glasses given out for the
NES games Rad Racer and 3D Worldrunner, neither of which worked at all. If
the programmers just worked a little harder at this one, it could have come
off a little better. Unfortunately, as it stands, the creative element is
ruined because it appears they tried to bank entirely on the three
dimensional factor, forgetting to relate this directly to the most important
feature of all, gameplay.

After beating it, though the cinematics for the ending were pretty good, I’d
have to say there’s pretty much nothing here to make me want to try Blade
Eagle 3-D again. Something like Missile Defense 3-D is playable over and over
because the three dimensional element was programmed correctly. Since you
don’t find that here and really can’t beat the game without the level select
cheat, I doubt you’ll try it after completing it. The ending says “You and
your eyes deserve a much needed rest.” So does my brain, and I think it will
take several decades, if they’re lucky. I really wouldn’t care if the
Arvians took over.

In conclusion, Blade Eagle 3-D is not a title I would spend the time looking
for. If you find it, I suppose pick it up because it’s pretty hard to find
for the NTSC market, especially complete. However, do so on a tight budget because it’s not worth a hefty sum and it’s even more scant in terms of its
gameplay worth. You’ll regret spending too much on it, especially your time,
even if you happen to be a hardcore shooter fan. The more I see titles like
this and play PAL releases such as Sagaia, I wonder what Sega of America was
thinking. Chock this one up as another reason the SMS failed in the states.

Graphics: 5.5
Sound: 7.5
Gameplay: 3
Creativity: 2.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 2
Final: 4.1
Written by Stan Review Guide