Reviews Archive
  Air Buster/Aero Blasters
      PC-Engine Mega Drive

TG-16 - The developers have done quite a good job with the graphics, with everything looking quite recognisable to the original arcade game, but a few of the smaller details are missing here and there and there are definitely some noticeable cuts in some sections.

Some of the missing details include an absent transition between skyscrapers of different heights during level 1 (usually there's a section where they reach nearly the top of the screen), as well as less detailed water (its just a block of blue here). During level 2 the landing pads are absent, and the technology embedded in the rocks is a bit cruder than before. Level 4s foreground is a little simpler (see screenshot 2, the TG-16 repeats one square across the bottom, whilst the Arcade and Mega Drive alternate between two). Level 5s space structure of tubes and pipes (the section scrolling diagonally) is also less elaborate than before. Lastly the final level is missing one of the background transitions (it just carries on with the same background), and also has a much cruder background during the moving block sequence, with the detailed tech motif being replaced by a repeated vertical line background (see screenshot 3).

Where it comes to the more serious omissions, the fast tube section of level 2 is missing its background entirely (see screenshot 1), and one of the transitions on level 6 is also completely blacked out.

Other than that the Status bar is solid (as opposed to the transparent one on arcade and Mega Drive), and the top of the screen above the status bar is also bordered (though during some boss fights the status bar and border are removed, with the whole screen being used for the duration of the battle).

On the plus side level 2 is very accurate here, and extremely close to the Mega Drive version, possibly even looking better overall for that particular level.

Mega Drive - Very good, I would have to say that this version is noticeably closer to the arcade version in graphical detail than the TG-16 version is.

Most of the time the two are very comparable, with the Mega Drive version just having slightly more detail here and there (such as with the level 1 water, the level 2 landing pads, the space structure of level 5 etc) but all the handful of blacked out areas in the TG-16 version are done accurately here, and look much better. The final level's background is also much more accurate here (as mentioned earlier, screenshot 3).

Lastly, mid and end of level bosses also tend to be larger here than on TG-16.

  Winner Is: Mega Drive

TG-16 - This version has very nice colour work, everything is vibrant and well coloured, and all of the sprites have good shading and feature colours that are very well blended.

On the downside some of the bands of colour on the horizon sometimes don't reach the top of the screen, and could occasionally benefit by having a few more colours added to them.

Mega Drive - Again, like the TG-16 this has some very nice colour work, with everything looking similar to the original arcade version of the game, however, in comparison to the TG-16 version I would say that many of the colours used (such as those of the sky, water, buildings etc) look slightly less well chosen.

Where the sprites are concerned, again I would say these are a little worse than those of the TG-16 game (its probably a little difficult to see, but check the enemy ships and explosion in screenshot 2). The mid and end of level bosses are often noticeably inferior here in comparison to the TG-16 game.

On the upside the horizon colour bands tend to be better here.

  Winner Is: TG-16

TG-16 - The sprite animation is pretty respectable overall, but not really anything to write home about.

Unfortunately most of the background animations are absent. In the original arcade version of the game some elements of the background (such as the landing strips of level 2, or the spaceship wrecks and buildings of level 4) would have flashing and glowing lights, these are all missing here.

Mega Drive - Like the TG-16 the sprite animation here is pretty good, I'd say that its maybe slightly better than it was in the TG-16 game (a few of the enemy ship movements look a little better to my eye).

The background animations though are a lot better, with the Mega Drive game's wrecks, and buildings retaining their animated lights, making it a lot closer to the arcade game in this area.

  Winner Is: Mega Drive

TG-16 - The scrolling is good, and they also managed to do an admirable job of retaining some parallax scrolling too (unlike the Mega Drive and Snes the TG-16 doesn't have hardware support for parallax).

There's quite a bit of parallax missing (such as that of the second level boss, and much of Level 6s background), and some of it has been downgraded a little, with smaller foreground parallax being used, or one fewer layer here and there, but under the circumstances this is a very good job overall.

Mega Drive - This scrolls very well, most of the parallax from the original arcade game is also perfectly recreated, with the majority of sections generally having three or more layers. The only sections which seemed to have parallax missing in comparison to the arcade were a few of the boss fights.

Definitely better than TG-16, but its not a decisive difference.

  Winner Is: Mega Drive

TG-16 - The arcade game had some pretty nice music and the TG-16 does an excellent job of re-creating it. The music is catchy and hummable, and fits the game well all in all.

One change has been made to one of the tracks, the music of level 2 has been replaced by a completely new tune. The new track is actually a more memorable composition in my opinion and overall I prefer it.

Mega Drive - Another good job, but I'd say that generally the music here is not quite as rich and warm as that of the TG-16 port, there are some exceptions (some of the later tracks on TG-16 sound a little tinny), but overall I'd say that most of the time the TG-16 does the music a little better.

  Winner Is: TG-16
  Sound FX

TG-16 - I have mixed feelings in regards to the sound effects here, I like the item pick-up, and most of the explosion sound effects, but don't really like the firing sound effects (which are a bit shrill), or the missile firing sound effects (which sound a bit out of place). Overall its ok though.

Mega Drive - OK but nothing special, its probably more consistent than the TG-16, in that nothing really stands out for being neither good, nor bad but not really particularly impressive.

  Winner Is: Mega Drive

Air Buster is a 2-player horizontally scrolling shoot-em-up. You pilot a spaceship as it makes its way through the levels shooting the enemy spacecraft and picking up power-ups. The Power-ups are pretty varied, with some improving your main gun, and others giving you a choice of secondary weapons.

Other than the usual stuff you can charge up a move which damages everything on screen (useful for clearing away bullets, or dealing with small enemies in hard to reach positions), and some of the stages are without gravity, playing with inertia (your craft carries on moving in whatever direction you last pushed).

Its a fun game that plays well in two players, can be quite exhilarating at times (with some very high speed navigating sometimes needed) and tries out enough ideas of its own to give it some personality.

TG-16 - This plays very well overall, recreating the feel of its arcade parent admirably.

Of the few criticisms I have, the biggest is probably that the tunnels of level 2 seem a little slower, and a little less elaborate than they usually are, with seemingly more straights (they're also missing the warning signs). This makes the section easier, but also makes it less exciting.

The difficulty curve has been shifted a little here to make it easier during the earlier stages, but harder during the later ones, which often have higher numbers of enemy sprites at some difficult points. Whether this is a good or bad point probably depends on the particular skills of the player.

Other than that there are a few other minor details. The smart-bomb attack charges a lot quicker here than usual, which makes it a slightly more useful than before (but the higher numbers of enemies and bullets offset it somewhat later on), your ship only fires one missile at a time (though its power has been adjusted up), and the inertia during the space levels is weaker, with you stopping a second later as opposed to carrying on until the edge of the screen is reached. Where the change to inertia is concerned it probably sounds a lot more useful than it actually is, as on those levels you really have to get used to constantly circling and moving around to stand a chance anyway.

Mega Drive - I'd say that this is possibly slightly more accurate than the TG-16 version, but there really isn't that much difference. The tunnel section is faster and has the warning signs, the inertia is more like the original arcade game's (for better or worse), and the difficulty I would personally say is a little more balanced, without the spike that the TG-16 version has at around the half way point.

Outside of this the ship is a bit more fast and responsive here than in the arcade version, experienced players will probably be happy with this, whilst less experienced may have problems.

On the downside this version actually has quite long load times(!) between levels, and a specific type of enemy on level 3 takes more hits to kill than usual, which makes one short section more annoying.

Overall in the gameplay department its pretty close, and arguable, but I'm going with Mega Drive.

Winner Is: Mega Drive

TG-16 - This has some very nice presentation, there's some cool little diagrams of the ships as an intro, and the game has an ending sequence as the credits roll.

Mega Drive - This is definitely worse than the TG-16 as there's no intro, and the ending sequence is more half-assed, with nothing more than a credits roll.

Winner Is: TG-16

This has been a very close race, and a difficult decision between the two. Both versions have their advantages over the other, and its very arguable, but personally I'm going with the Mega Drive version here (which is a shame as I feel that the TG-16 developers put more love into their version).

Graphically I would've gone with the TG-16 due to its colour and vibrancy, but for me the blacked out backgrounds decisively swing the graphics argument towards to the Mega Drive version (with the parallax being a notable point too). Sound wise the TG-16 is probably the better but I find the gameplay a little faster, balanced, and more exciting at some points on Mega drive.

Honestly though the difference here is so slight that either can be bought without regrets.

  Overall Winner Is: Mega Drive
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