For those few of you who don't know, J is producer of the most excellent "Corner Of Randomness", one of my very favourite sites which is a constantly hilarious and originally written site blog, covering gaming (Wii in particular) urban music, cosplay, J Pop, the funnier side of celebrity and witty commentaries and observations about his own life.
It was indeed, the inspiration for Father Krishna's Wiikly Sermons, although I never managed to equal it's brilliance.... *FK manages to seemlessly get in yet another plug for his under-visited blog...* LOL! ;)
Burning rangers is like something straight out of the 80's. It takes everything you loved about Japanese cartoons from that decade growing up such as Voltron and Ulysses. A funky sing-a-long theme song, a futuristic setting, a couple of mecha's and a team of heroes in tight spandex, short jackets, white gloves, headbands and dodgy haircuts. This is the world of the Burning rangers. It's almost as thought Sega saw you coming.
So let's get down to how this all plays. The Burning rangers are pretty much a team of firemen (and women). Players take control of one of two new recruits into the Burning rangers - Shou or Tillis. The game is made up of a handful of missions which have you navigating through labyrinths of fire filled buildings to put out fires, stop explosions and rescue any helpless civilians you happen to come across. As you play through the missions you will come across crystals. Crystals are a form of currency that is needed to teleport civilians out of buildings. If you do not have enough crystals, then a civilian will have to be left to burn. Crystals are acquired by putting out fires, but crystals can be shattered if hit with a charged shot from your water pistol. So whilst a charged shot is guaranteed to extinguish a large fire, it could potentially nip all chances of acquiring crystals in the bud. As you move around fires and explosions can go off at anytime. Players are warned of these hazards beforehand via a whistling sound. When you hear it, it doesn't mean it's time to snap yo' fangaz and do the harlem shake - it means you need to move fast! By tapping a button your Burning ranger will perform a dodge maneuver which will clear them out of harms way. In earlier missions the whistle will sound quite some time before an explosion, but in later missions the time between the whistle and the explosion become shorter and in some cases are instantaneous. Getting hit by an explosion not only means losing a chunk of your health, but also all of your crystals. No crystals means not being able to save civilians, which in some cases isn't such a bad thing. Some of them sit on the floor in the middle of large rooms moving their heads from side to side like Stevie Wonder, expecting to be saved. Unfortunately you're not always able to choose who you save, as wandering into an area with a civilian in clear view will immediately trigger a cut scene and have you teleport them. Some civilians aren't in such obvious locations however and the real challenge once you finish the game the first time round is going back and saving them all. They're at least kind enough to send you a letter for rescuing them which is quite thoughtful of them.
The audio in Burning rangers is fantastic. During missions there is no music and this works to the games' advantage as it creates a feeling of tension. All you can hear is the crackling of fires, explosions going off in the distance and the sound of debris and constructions falling around you. Having any music play throughout the duration of stages would take away from the atmosphere. You also have your navigator (the sexy, but cold and disinterested Chris) constantly speaking to you during missions which gives a real sense of being as part of a unit and also helps break up the silence. At the tap of a button your navigator will tell you exactly where to go. This is a pretty snazzy feature, as not once do you hear the CD spin in the Saturn like crazy trying to load the speech.
Burning rangers features bosses, all of which are crap. The Burning rangers are essentially glorified firemen with jetpacks, so why they have to fight bosses I have no clue. The bosses are unecessary and do not work well into the plot (another thing this game didn't need). The final boss is some space alien looking thing that you fight on what looks like a dancefloor from a Madonna video. It is not a rite of passage that every third person action adventure needs bosses. This game could've done without them or some decent ones at the very least. All of the bosses aside from the final one is some form of bland looking mecha. The only interesting thing about the bosses is that one of them resembles Pikachu and you can shoot him in the face.
The characters in this game are brilliantly designed. Bright, colourful, camped up, but downright cool. The finger pointing Shou, the cute as a button Tillis, the sexy Chris, the smooth ladykiller (but could also be gay) Leed and the big black Mr. T inspired Landman. Unfortunately, the supporting cast do not play much of a role. They're in the intro and in the ending, but they don't do much in between. You'll sometimes come across some of them during missions, but when you do they're just stood there doing nothing. Or they'll say a couple of words and then run off and leave you. It's a shame because the supporting cast are just as cool as the leads.
The graphics in this game are surprinsgly good for the Saturn. A console which was pretty capable, but ridiculously hard to get anything decent out of. Sega actually managed to pull some nifty graphics out of their big black box and as a result Burning rangers looks pretty spiffy. Especially in comparison to some the ghetto...and I mean GHETTO looking games that came before. (Only the Sega Saturn could fail to pull off an arcade perfect version of Virtua Fighter 1). The graphics in this game aren't perfect. There is some slow down and some clipping issues - but it's definitely one of the first (and unfortunately last) games on the Saturn that actually rivalled a PlayStation game in the graphics department. Burning rangers made the Saturn look incredibly capable and even now it still looks impressive.
Burning rangers was a game that had everything going for it. But unfortunately it was released at the wrong time. (Console swan songs never sell well). As much as I loved Burning rangers, I couldn't help but think it really did need a bit more to it and that it needed a more powerful console. When the Dreamcast came along and I saw what it was capable of, my first thought was that Sega should've released Burning rangers for it instead. They would've been able to do alot more with the Dreamcast's extra graphical power, controller and VMU unit. We could've had fully destructible environments, bigger explosions, analogue control, water blasting using the triggers and the VMU acting as a detector for finding nearby civilians. A missed oppurtunity for certain, but the Wii is a chance for Sega to fix all that.
If you own a Sega Saturn, then chances are you already own this game. But if you are one of the few who does own a Saturn and don't have a copy of this game in your collection, then you need to take it upon yourself to hunt this game down. It's a must own. Hopefully Sega will resurrect this series and introduce it to the masses who missed out on it the first time round. A re-elease on the Virtual console or an all new Wii sequel would be greatly welcomed.
A flawed game that is far from perfect, but one that was incredibly fun to play, original, full of promise, cool ideas and most importantly, still holds up to this very day. A Sega saturn classic and one of Sonic team's best efforts."
J's RATING: 7 / 10
This review, J and his beautiful Corner Of Randomness carries the Official, Father Krishna Seal Of Approval!