View Full Version : [GAME] Air Fortress (NES)

01-30-2010, 12:50 PM
As I'm currently working on a speedrun of this game, I figured a review of it would be in order.

What is Air Fortress? It's a game released in 1987 (1989 in the US) by HAL Laboratories. You probably know the name from the Kirby and Super Smash Brothers games. Air Fortress is nothing like those games. It's a game that alternates between side-scrolling shmup and action-adventure game. Oh, and it's hard.

Like most games of the era, the story for the game may as well not even be in the game for all that it affects the gameplay, but here it is in a nutshell. The planet Farmel, which has enjoyed a long era of peace, suddenly finds itself threatened by 8 mysterious air fortresses (Hence the title). The Federation of Intergalactic Powers has thrown all their defenses at these fortresses, but to no avail. Now, they've decided to send one man, Hal Bailman, in his lightship to infiltrate the fortresses and blow them up from the inside.

The graphics in Air Fortress are serviceable, although there are times int he Shmup sections where you'll get confused as to what's background and what's foreground and will kill you. Likewise with the sound--the tunes are catchy enough, but there simply aren't enough of them...beat the first level and you've heard pretty much the entire soundtrack until you get to the ending.

Air Fortress is hard. Oh sure, it starts off easy enough. The first three levels are basically a warmup in that the fortresses themselves are either linear or have a single fork inside them. Level 4 is where the game stops playing around, as the fortress gets quite a bit bigger, and the game starts throwing other nasty tricks at you here as well. In level 6, well, you'll take one look at all the route choices you have in the initial hallway (Three separate elevators and a teleporter) and probably break down crying. Additionally, you have a very short invincibility time between damage in the fortresses, making it easy to lose gobs of health in a matter of seconds.

In all, Air Fortress is a fun game from HAL Laboratories' early days. It's worth playing if you like action-adventure games in particular, as that's where the bulk of the gameplay is. Its main problem is that which infects most multi-genre games, namely that in its attempt to cover a variety of genres, it doesn't really nail any of them particularly well. On the other hand, it doesn't do them that badly either.