Air Fortress
Box Shot
Air Fortress
Platform: NES
Publisher: HAL
Designer: HAL
Genre: Action/Shoot-em-up
Players: 1
Published Date 1989
Reviewed by: Adam King

Here's a riddle for all you NES gamers out there: What do you get when you cross the shoot-em-up action of Life Force with the exploration of Metroid? You might get something vaguely similar to HAL's Air Fortress.

Here's the scoop. It's another alien invasiopn. This time its the aliens versus the planet Farmel. These aliens devour any planet they come across. The Farmellian government decided to send certified space warrior Hal Bailman (notice the similarity to the game's designer...Hmmmm) to defeat the aliens and save the planet by infiltrating their floating air fortresses.

There are eight fortresses, and each fortress has two parts. In the approach to the base, you fly on a ship through a shooter stage, blasting anything that gets in your way. You also need to collect E (energy) and B (bombs) for inside the fortress. In addition, you may also get a plus symbol (makes you invincible) and a diamond symbol (destroys all enemies on the screen). You have three lives to do it in.

Once you get past the approach stages, you'll land your ship and enter the base. Lives are not counted here. You'll need the energy and bombs you collected on the approach to get through these sections. Enemies will swarm at you here, but you have a gun and the bombs to defend yourself. The object is to find the core, and that means going through passages and hallways. Once you find the core (a giant ball) you need to shoot it with a bomb. Once that goes, it sets off a chain reaction an activate a destruct sequence. You'll need to find your ship and escape pronto. Then it's off to the next fortress.

It's not easy. In the approach segments, one hit takes yous ship out, and you can't touch the sides of the terrain or else you'll die. In the base segments, you have the ability to fly up to ledges (just push UP), but the gravity will drain your energy. Firing your gun will cause you to recoil and also cost you energy. Standing still replenishes it, but if you get hit by an enemy, that energy is clipped from your meter. Once that happens, you can't get it back. Balancing your energy is very important to your survival. The passages themselves get longer and more confusing the farther you go in the game. However, when you die, you get a password, and you have unlimited continues, so it's not really that impossible.

The graphics are cute, but a little bland. However, when you're trying to escape after you blow up the core, the screen starts to shake, telling you it's time to go. That's a cool effect. The sounds are okay, but the music get repetitive after a while of hearing it, though it's not too awful. The controls are just great, although getting used to the recoiling and method of flying takes just a bit of adjustment.

Air Fortress is an enjoyable game. The graphics and sounds may not be up to par, but the gameplay has some exciting stuff. Would you expect less from the makers of Adventures of Lolo and Kirby's Adventure?