Game: P-47: The Freedom Fighter
Developer: Nihon Aicom Kaihatsu
Release Date: March 20, 1989
System: PC Engine
In 1988 Jaleco released a horizontal shooter to compete against Capcom's '19XX' series in the arcades. Rather than using the infamous P-38 Lightning, this game's 'character' is the less-than-famous tank-of-an-airplane P-47 Thunderbolt. This review won't be very long because this is a very simple game to play, but difficult to master.
In P-47: The Freedom Fighter you are up against the Third Reich and everything they could hurl at you. They pesky Nazis have everything from gigantic tanks to zeppelins. While the developer took some liberties with the designs of the enemies, expect nothing but typical World War II war machines. There are some levels in the game which are very similar in design to stages in U.N. Squadron. Perhaps Capcom took a few ideas to pay Jaleco back for releasing a World War II-themed shooter. This is just pure speculation on my part. In any case it's great to play a shoot-em-up that is not set in space or a different planet.
There is a fairly simple power-up system. Power-up icons either come by way of helicopter or hidden in the sky. There are certain 'sweet spots' in specific areas of the sky which hide icons. The power-ups range from missiles, bombs, multi-directional turrets, and some strange exploding mechanism. Other than power-ups you can find icons for speed, 1-ups, and continues. You are only given 2 continues in this game so that "C" icon is very precious. After playing the game a couple times you'll learn which power-ups work best with each level. Some levels require you to change your strategy (power-up) and the game helps you along by giving you a hint (the same icon appearing numerous times in a specific area) of which power up would work best at your current location.
The difficulty level on later stages provide a great challenge. A fair variety of enemies for an 80's shooter. There are points in the game that are absolutely manic and those who have been trained in modern bullet hell shooters would appreciate them. Plenty of power ups and requiring a basic strategy of when to have what adds some depth to the game. Having only 2 continues only thickens the challenge.
Enemy bullets blend into the background on level 2 which can cause some frustrating deaths. Graphics could have been just a bit more colorful like the arcade version. The drab colors do make the game somewhat depressing to play.
A great lesser-known shooter which starts fairly easy but punishes you if you become complacent. If U.N. Squadron had a prequel, this game would probably be it. I don't want to spoil it, but if your skills are up to par and you clear the game you will treated to a preachy unintentionally funny Engrish cutscene for an ending. There was also a follow up to this game which was only released in arcades in 1995 called "P-47 Aces". This game is also available on Amiga, Amstrad, C64, Atari ST ZX Spectrum, and iPhone/iPod Touch.
No backups, pirates, or emulation. My copy: