STORY / GAMEPLAY
The human beings living on Farmel, a small planet located somewhere in the Cromat Galaxy are developing their own high technology. They created a new type of spaceship called “LightShip”, enabling them to travel to other galaxies. Now they dispatched Space Frontier Exploration Fleets to finally go where no Farmellian has ever gone before. But while scouting the Yubbert Galaxy, the Farmellian fleet came across a group of eight huge air fortresses, inhabited by alien entities that survived by destroying and feeding on defenseless civilizations. Their tremendous firepower is about to destroy your world as well. You are Hal Bailman, on a last hope mission to defeat the Air Fortress and save planet Farmel from imminent destruction. The game offers two different styles of gameplay. The battle against each Fortress will begin on the Air Base, in which Hal is mounted on the LightShip, flying above enemy territory and shooting different projectiles on the incoming, multiple alien formations. This game is a pure horizontal-scrolling shoot 'em up, much like R-type. Hal must also avoid obstacles and other mounted deadly traps otherwise his energy bar will decrease significantly. If he successfully defeats his adversaries on the Air Base, he will be taken through the Air Lock and land on the main body of the Air Fortress. Then, the perspective changes to a multi-platform shoot 'em up , in which Hal will uses his jet packs and his laser guns to take down enemies and finally destroy the Central Reactor of each Air Fortress. Upon completion, the perspective changes again to a horizontal-scrolling shoot 'em up and so on. Along his way (either airborne or on foot) Hal must collect energy bonuses (depicted with E and B) to increase the number of his laser Bombs or restore his Energy levels. The Energy Bombs are limited, thus you are advised to collect as many as possible. What is really frustrating here is that by losing a life you have to start the stage all over again. Air Fortress is a decent game, offering intensive gameplay much like the R-type series but adding more to the genre as the perspective changes in between stages. I think Air Fortress is one of the best shoot 'em up titles for the NES.
GRAPHICS / SOUND
The game’s graphics are good, offering fluid sprite animations and quite smooth screen scrolling. Each level has nicely detailed backgrounds and enemy ships. The sound FX and music are similarly effective, presenting some of the best explosion sound FX we ever found on a NES game and several spot effects for every single laser shot, along with a nice (but rather repetitive) tune during gameplay.