Change Air Blade

-Sammy (1999)



The Story

In the future a new competition emerges from the off-season of war. Taken out of the back alleys and streets, fighters now participate in a fierce “one-on-one” competition that puts their flying and shooting skills to the test. They battle for respect, honor, and of course, the big prize money.



My Thoughts

Change Air Blade is what you’d get if you combine the aesthetics of a fighting game with an overhead shooter. It’s just like a fighting game. That is, if the fighters always threw fireballs at each other…and flew futuristic jets. You select your ship and the computer “selects” theirs. In the one-player game you are the attacker and the computer is the defender. As you hit the defending ship with your attacks, bomb and shot power-ups get dropped from it. You will also collect special weapon or shield power-ups.

This fight is not entirely fair though, as it favors the defending ship, i.e. not you. During the battle smaller enemies will appear and attack you, so this isn’t a one-on-one fight like you originally thought. At times the defending ship will call on its personalized battle armor, which basically turns it into a boss that would appear in a normal shooter. Part of the armor, be it a bigger ship or a tank, opens up and the smaller fighter docks. This is all done with speed lines flying by. Yea, speed lines rock! You think that you should hear the pilot yelling "Change Air Blade!" like they do in fighting games when the fighters do a big attack. Of course this “boss version” of the ship defends itself with boss type weaponry. Actually, it’s more like they become the attacker and you the avoider. Oh, there’s one more power-up. When you collect it, the two ships change positions. The once defending ship is now the attacker and you are the defender. The coolest thing about this is you can now call on the huge battle armor. If you’ve ever wanted to control the bosses in a shooter, this is your chance. You can do all the different attacks the computer can do. It’s just so cool. 

For some odd reason, your ship will transform when it starts shooting in either position, often looking like a completely different ship. It looks pretty neat but I don’t understand what it really adds to the game. If the transformation actually did something strategically, like alter your speed or something, I could see why it would be good to have. This brings me to my next issue, the lack of speed power-ups. The ships move fairly slowly, so you’ll be narrowly escaping death more than a few times. Had the transformation actually slowed your ship when you attacked, it would be pretty handy to stop shooting so you can avoid some shots.

Like a fighting game, the ships have three life bars (as some fighting games do). In actuality it means you have three lives, but the life bar scheme makes it feel somewhat fresh. That is, until you learn that the life bar only depletes when you get hit by the defending ship’s normal pink fireball weapon. If you get hit by one of the other ships’ weapons, or something the boss version throws at you, you will die with that one shot. So much for the power bar being any good, back to the one hit kills. It would have been better if the other attacks would just deplete your life bar, but shooters tend not to fair as it is. Another thing that the developers should have done was to make the battles random. In a real fighting game, like Street Fighter 2 or Soul Calibur 2, you don’t know the order in which you’ll face your opponents. Change Air Blade took the typical shooter stage order set-up and each enemy ship is just a corresponding stage. It’s disappointing, because you always know that first ship is going to be very weak and that last ship will be extra tough.

The real gem this game offers you is the two-player mode. It’s a best out of three matches, again, just like a fighting game. Each ship even has player one and player two colors! Cool. One player starts as the attacking ship, the other is the defender, and you do your usual shooter thing to each other. Now you can really prove who has the mad shooter skills. Change Air Blade scores very high in originality and the two-player mode is a blast. 

Score: 8.5    









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