I've must have mentioned multiple times now that horizontal scrolling shooters are not really for me. Still, every once in a while I'll throw one in to see some flashy stuff, blow some things up, and mash a button fervently. I initially started playing Zed Blade, known as Operation Ragnarok in Japan, because it is a Neo Geo game, and it seems obvious that I will write about every Neo Geo game eventually, regardless of quality or monetary value. It was made by a company known as NMK, whom never made any major hits in their short lifespan.
The thing that immediately stuck out to me was the music. It is not your average, generic, upbeat scrolling shooter soundtrack, but some sort of crazy house music. I'm not all that into electronic music, so I can't say what the specific genre it is, and it isn't even the type of music I'm into, but I really respect composers that do something out of the ordinary. The composer is Manabu Namiki, and though this was one of his earliest works (he was only 23 at the time), I can see how his creativity has landed him work to this day. Even though previous video game composers, or maybe it is just Yuzo Koshiro, had tread these waters before, it is quite a rarity.
The game itself is pretty interesting, too. At the beginning you are given the choice between three pilots/ships. The choice of ship is a choice between mobility and number of bombs, so it's really know choice at all, because in a game about dodging bullets, mobility is the only choice. It is a shame though, because I'd like to play as Master Sargeant Uncle Beard (I could never make up a name so amazing), with his awesome beret, beard, small animal combo he is rocking. Instead I had to play as Corporal Swift Arnold, with his douchey aviators and neck the same size as his head. Luckily, the choice of pilot/ship does not limit your choice of weaponry.
Zed Blade offers three simultaneous attacks, known as Shot, Missile, and Back. There are three firing formations for each of these that are selected at the beginning of the game and cannot be changed. The bombs are different than I'm used to seeing in this sort of game. They don't just blow up the whole screen, but do massive damage over a small area shot out in front of the ship, though there are special Hyper Bomb drops that does decimate the whole screen. Thankfully for me, the game isn't a bullet hell game, though it gets hectic, and there is certainly a lot of stuff going on, it isn't as overwhelming as all that.
The graphics are nice, the sprites are big and well animated, and that is normally something to to worry about in a scrolling shooter because if your sprite is big, that's just more of you to shoot. Thankfully, the ship's sprite is a lot bigger than the actual hitbox, so weaving in and out of enemy fire isn't too hard. There is a good deal of variety in the enemies and levels, though the backgrounds are sometimes rather bland. The bosses are big and intimidating, though they seem pretty weak and die quickly. I could have more screenshots of later stages and bosses if they hadn't disappeared into the ether, and I'm just too damned lazy to play that far again. If you are actually interested in that I guess you can go watch a video on Youtube or something. At least you'll get to hear the soundtrack that way.