Power Blade Header Image

The header image for this post was created by twitter user @NintendoNEST, the original version is available here

We’ve mentioned Power Blade a few times on this blog so far, so I thought I’d write an article about it.

plus, it’s one of my all time favourite NES games

I honestly don’t remember when we got Power Blade, but it was definitely during out first summer of video games. From the moment that I saw the box art, I knew that I’ve love it. There’s a certain level of 80’s action movie kitsch that goes with it, and it perfectly matches the 80’s action movie feel of the game.

Power Blade box art
I’m sure you’ll agree that the box art is more than a little Terminator-y.

The cover art was based on a self portrait by Michael Winderbauer (who was the creator of the cover art).

The great folks over at Arcade Attack had an interview with him, not too far back, and the topic of Power Blade actually came up.

In fact, the title screen is blatantly a digitised image of Arnold Schwarzenegger as he appears in The Terminator.

Powerblade Start Screen
Tell me he doesn’t look like Arnie

The Game

Power Blade (Power Blazer in Japan) was a NES game developed by Natsume and published by Taito in 1991 (Power Blazer having been released in 1990 for the Famicom).

The (basic) Plot

NOVA (the player character) is tasked with infiltrating and taking down the so called Master Computer. In order to get to Master Computer NOVA must travel to six different zones, defeat the security guard of a computer tape found within each, then travel to and defeat Master Computer.

Along the way, NOVA has to find and meet with six double agents. These agents provide NOVA with a keycard that he must use in order to gain access to that zone’s computer tape.

Once Master Computer has been defeated, society can be restored and the population freed from their bonds.

NOVA fends off robotic enemies with his boomerang, through the use of powerups he can raise the number of boomerangs that he can fire in parallel and the distance he can fire them before they return.

If NOVA can find the legendary Power Blade suit, it will give him access to the power blade (a wave of energy which blasts from his arm). But if he sustains three hits from enemy attacks while using the Power Blade, he’ll lose the suit.

Design

Power Blade started life in Japan as Power Blazer. Put simply: Power Blazer was Natsume’s attempt at a Mega Man II clone, and it’s a blooming good one.

Power Blazer screenshots
The Mega Man vibes are strong with this one

For the Western release, the cutesy Mega Man II-like design was dropped and a more macho 80’s action movie style was chosen. Including a hero with bulging muscles, a blonde crew-cut hair style, grenades (as special weapons), and burgers (which act as healing items).

burgers as healing items is one of the most American things I can think of

Power Blade screenshots
Cue: a loud guitar solo

What set this game apart from the others that I was playing at the time

Super Mario Bros., TMNT, and Spy Hunter

was that as soon as you hit the Start button on your controller, you were in on the action and it was pretty high speed (for the time) action.

Super Mario Bros. is a pretty slow platformer, TMNT starts you out on the street in a top down view,

although that attract screen music kicked butt

and Spy Hunter was a driving game (which seemed really fast but actually wasn’t) where all you had to do was move a car left to right while holding down the A button.

or was it the B button?

But with Power Blade, from the first screen of the first stage, you’re kicking butt and taking names.

as any 80’s action move hero worth his salt would do

Plus, unlike Super Mario Bros. (or most of the other games at the time), the story was entirely non-linear. From the beginning of the game, you could choose which of the six zones to tackle.

much like how Mega Man works, except that the Mega Man games had more stages

also, you can see the stage select screen in the background for this post’s header image

Music

The music in this game follows the same standard of most games at the time: a few electronic instruments playing a set of extremely catchy songs, but which could be

and in most cases are

easily covered in a “Metal style”: kick drum going at about 4 million beats per minute, scratchy guitar (drop tuned to D, obviously) playing power chords and five note solos, by internet musicians in their late 20s and early 30s.

sorry, I just had to get that out

But still sound relatively fresh and compelling. Not to mention that most of them, with a little tweaking and re-arrangement to use non-electronic instruments, would work well in a 90’s instrumental album.


A quick side note.

Without even realising it, I started to whistle the music from sector one when I started work on this post. To prove how amazing the music is, I’ll put a YouTube video here of the sector one music:

see? I told you it was awesome


Thoughts

I could (and still do) play this game in a single sitting, on either difficulty and complete it in under an hour

how do you get your head through doorways?

simply because of the amount of time I gave to this game.

that’s right, I gave my childhood to this game

As soon as you get into one of the stages and start boomeranging your way through the enemies, you’ll start to realise that it’s very similar to Mega Man and Castlevania.

even down to the rip-offs of the floating Gorgon heads

There’s really only one pathway through each stage, with plenty of backtracking, but you can take on any of the six stages in which ever order you wish. Just like Mega Man, there’s an element of controlled non-linear progress through the game – and I really liked that about Power Blade back when I first played it.

As I mentioned in my TMNT article, this game was part of my first summer of video games. I remember being blown away by this game because of the combination of the action, platforming and utter ridiculousness of the setup

he kills the bad guys with his boomerang?!

Especially since it’s just accepted that NOVA has a boomerang and uses it.

There was a sequel made to this game and it also used a digitised image of Arnold Schwarzenegger on the start screen.

Power Blade 2 Start Screen
I’m getting strong “Commando” vibes from this one

Power Blade 2 dropped most of the elements that the development team had “borrowed” from Mega Man, and replaced them with most of the elements and design of Metroid.

The box art also took the testosterone manliness to the next level, too.

Power Blade 2 Boxart
Seriously, that almost “Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 5” levels of muscle

Would I recommend this game? Definitely.

Is my recommendation based on nostalgia? More than likely.

Power Blade can feel a little clunky compared to the likes of Mega Man and Metroid, but it’s definitely worth an hour of your time.

if only to get Stage 5’s music stuck in your head

I’d start with Stage 5 though. That one was always my favourite.


Had you played Power Blade before reading this article? How about Power Blazer? Did you recognise the digital photo of Arnie as The Terminator?

How does Power Blade stand up against Mega Man?

that’s a loaded question. But I’ll allow it

Let me know in the comments, and let’s keep the boomerang spinning

…er

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Jamie is one of the Waffling Taylors. He spends a lot of time blogging about things sometimes related to programming and sometimes not.