Lightning Fighters

-Konami (1990)



The Story

A massive black ship has crashed near a dormant volcano. Immediately following the crash an entire armada of alien fighters burst forth from the strange vessel. The aliens have already established a base of operations and have begun an unrelenting conquest of the surrounding areas.  Before the crash, the Russians had an investigation team up there to “study the volcano,” as they have stated, but we never believed that’s what they were up to. At any rate their transmissions were silenced soon after the crash. There last transmission mentioned something about a dragon wanting the power returned back to it. We are not quite sure what this means.

We are sending you and a wingman in two of our most advanced fighters to combat this alien threat. We can not allow them to take over our planet or regain control of whatever “power” they speak of. You two will need to work together and use the new Trigon weapons systems. With the Trigon we will eliminate whatever plans these invaders have for our planet. 

My Thoughts

Lightning Fighters is one of those shooters that was designed and meant to be played with two players. It can easily be played with one, but playing with two is the only way to use the awesome Trigon weapons. When a Trigon icon is collected, a somewhat of a lightning beam connects the two fighters. In the middle of the beam is one of three cannons that add some much needed firepower. The two players need to fly in tandem to control where the weapon is aimed, so some good communication and team work is paramount for the Trigon to be effective. It’s too bad there wasn’t an option to have a computer-controlled wingman because the weapon is pretty unique.

Only playing in one player? Not to worry, because there are plenty of power-ups for the collecting. However, the game will be more difficult as the enemies are ruthless and fairly efficient in their attacks. The rest of the power-ups are available in both play modes. The slow shooting regular weapon can be powered-up to a spread, or you can choose to collect a missile firing weapon, which is also rapid fire. The super weapons are pretty sweet and are a pleasure to use. The first is a huge, bright plasma beam that can take out almost anything. The second is another unique weapon. An energy dragon shoots out of the ship and flies around the screen destroying any enemy it touches. When it comes to bosses, the dragon isn’t quite as powerful as the laser beam, but it does look damn cool.

Both of the player ships are different from one another. Konami smartly didn’t just do a color swap on the two. Many of the enemies are typical shooter foes, although there are some enemy fighters that resemble the Gradius series’ ultimate ship, the Vic Viper. Most of the bosses are excellently designed. In particular, one boss is a comprised of five smaller crafts that form into one super jet, kind of like Voltron minus the roaring. The other bosses are various large flying things, hovering crafts, and one that looks like a cross between a Corvette and a tank. To be cheap Konami also makes you fight most of the bosses a second time during the final stage. The final boss is an orb encased in a metal dragon skeleton. How can you be fighting a dragon and using the power of the dragon? Did the ancient dragons come back from space to reclaim the power of the dragon? Or did some Earthling steal the dragon balls and the dragon wants them back? I’m not sure, but I do know the final boss is extremely tough. The only way to hurt it is to hit the black orb which is only vulnerable for a few seconds at a time.

The stages are all typical city, sea, and winter areas, but the second to last stage is where you fly over the crashed alien vessel. The massive ship has pulsating red alien characters engraved all over it and it looks very cool. Also, every bigger ship has the aliens' circular, pointy symbol on it. I don't know what it means or represents, but makes for a sweet identifying mark.

***Spoiler Alert****

If you’re looking for surprises in your shooters then this one has it as the most unexpected things occurred after what I thought was the final stage. I had just flown over the crashed alien vessel and destroyed some crazy flame thrower hover tank. A cinematic popped up and I was flying over the volcano. Suddenly, with a mighty roar, a fire dragon popped out of the top and devoured my ship. Holy crap! The final stage, I assumed, was inside the dragon inside the volcano. It was a bit odd that the inside of a dragon was all mechanical and full of machinery. Yet when I finally destroyed the dragon the mechanical head popped out of the volcano as I made my escape. How could the mechanical dragon head be bigger than the fire dragon that it was inside of?

****End Spoiler**** 

Most of the music was alright but the music of the first stage deserves some props. It had a great shooter theme that really pumps you up for some hardcore shooter action. The sound effects were also good and a few of them were pulled from the Gradius games.

Overall, Lightning Fighters is a solid shooter with a few nice surprises. I highly recommend playing this game with two players if you can. The Trigon weapons have to be tried at least once.

Score: 7.0 








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