Space: the final frontier - a place for new hope, new dreams and... nah, it's somewhere to arm yourself to the teeth before heading on out to kick some alien bottom and Pulse Blade boldly continues the long, brave and somewhat suicidal tradition of launching a single fighter to do battle against the alien hoards from the Tixilyx system or wherever - does anyone ever read the manuals on these things enough to find out which race is getting splattered...?
Pulse Blade can be described at an attempt to take a more current design of scrolling shooter and "skin" it to resemble a NES game; this is possibly what would happen if a Ninty developer from the 1980's had been plucked out of time to the present and then spent a few sweaty hours playing some of the more recent bullet hell shooters before returning, vowing on his way home to attempt a reproduction of his experiences. What we have here is pretty much a hybrid, a game that shares a lot of the aesthetic details of the early NES-era games, but which feels and indeed plays more like a much newer title. The player craft is easy to manoeuvre, tooled up and ready to do some damage straight out of the box and there is very little play on power-ups, traits shared between both 1980s titles and the cream of the current crop, but the player's bounding box is relatively small in the same way that the newer titles handle it because there is a huge amount of airborne, photonic death to scrape the paint off the ship - it isn't bullet hell, but at the same time it isn't messing around when it comes to spewing projectiles at the player!
CATCH A FALLING STAR AND PUT IT IN YOUR ROCKET
The stars, disgorged by the slightly incongruous wooden crates sat on the scrolling background, can be collected in chains to crank the score up, with each being worth 100 points more than the previous one. Collecting ten in a row will give the already good death-dealing capabilities of the ship a bit more kick by throwing a few more bullets into the mix and spreading the fire wider and each subsequent star from that point is worth 1,000 points more than the previous up to a maximum of 10,000 - but if one star is missed, the chain breaks and the weapons revert to their default power level. This scoring mechanic gives Pulse Blade a little extra some staying power and it's an enjoyably simple bit of blasting that, apart from being weak graphically (only the very earliest of NES games look the way Pulse Blade remembers them and don't get me started on that power-up crate again) and unobtrusive on the sound front, delivers the goods wholesale on the shooty bang-bangs.
It might be a total mongrel with inspiration taken from 8-bit era console games such as Astro Warrior on the Sega Master System or Hudsonsoft's NES port of Star Force whilst other elements are donated by the likes of Ikaruga or the Psyvariar series, but like certain brands of poncy coffee they've been skilfully blended to make something quite special and nothing has been added at the expense of the flavour. The only thing that might be an issue for some players is the difficulty level since the challenge starts off hard it gets busier from there! But again, that's well within the tradition of the games that make up Pulse Blade's genetic history and, for more seasoned shoot 'em up players, challenge is always good. It scores low for graphics and sound, but the blasting is where it's at.