Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Hal Air Fortress -Nintendo NES
Retro Gaming Review

 Nintendo NES console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewHal Air Fortress for Nintendo NES Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Air fortress
Manufacturer: Hal
Platform: Nintendo NES
Release Date: 1989
Part #: NES-AI-USA
Rating: 3 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

Rating: Hal Air Fortress Classic Retro Video Game Review Rating
Hal Air Fortress Screenshot:
Hal Air Fortress for Nintendo NES screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

Air fortress is one of those games of which I have really fond memories. It wasn't the toughest game or the best, but I have vivid memories of the theme song combined with endless hours in front of the TV. It originated in Japan coming out in 1987 (1989 in North America) and is rumored to have been shipped to the US in very limited quantity in 87 - 385 copies. As this is hardly a rare game, I assume this limited shipment was a test run prior to wide release in 89.

I loved Air Fortress when it came out because it was a fairly simple space shooter platformer which satisfied nearly all of my gaming needs in the late 80s. I wan't into epic Bosses or random complexities - I loved space shooters!

The cavernous fortresses seemed pretty cool to explore and I liked the notion of docking with the airlock prior to entering each fortress. My only complaint was the character itself and his lightship. I know 8-bit games are notoriously blocky, but I actually considered having to use my imagination to be a big part of my passion for 8-bit gaming. However, Hal Bailman on his lightship looks more like a toddler straddling a pillow as he pretended it was some sort of vehicle. Some have likened the red & orange coloring to a "baby crawling". Either way, there was nothing galactic about it!

Hal Air Fortress for Nintendo NES screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

Air fortress' Story Arc

The inhabitants of the Planet Farmel have developed a new travel technology for a Lightship that allows them to travel greater distances than ever before. A lightship has been designed to achieve this and have sent Space Frontier Exploration Fleets to explore the Yubbert Galaxy. This mission has uncovered 8 large fortresses that are living entities, seeking out defenseless civilizations to feed off of and conquer. These fortresses are heading for Farmel where the Federation of Intergalactic Governments has immediately dispatched a defense armada.

Holy shit! Check this out...
HAL America offered Air Fortress by mail order through a national advertising campaign. Players who purchased the game through HAL received a free Air Fortress T-Shirt.
In the Japanese release, if Hal hits an enemy he restarts from the beginning. In the North American version, the player reappears at the same point he was destroyed ...as long as he has remaining lives.

Things don't look good. The fortresses are too powerful. As luck would have it (the story arc to most video games) there is a lone warrior, Hal Bailman who is sent in to defeat all the fortresses on his own. One wonders how Hal can succeed when the armada hasn't, but it's all about navigating the fleet of fortresses and having fun doing so.

Air fortress' Game Play

You begin with 3 lightships (lives). Each of the eight Air Fortress are composed of two parts. You begin at the Air Base where you collect Energy and Crash Beams. This determines how you'll fare in each level - more is better. If you defeat your adversaries, you will be taken through the Air Lock into the main body of the Air Fortress. Each level (fortress) has the same objective - destroy the Central Reactor of the Air Fortress.

Flying uses energy and shooting the Crash Beams - B Button - depletes your supply (regular beams - A button - are infinite). So you have to manage your resources as you head toward each reactor. The game ends when you wreck your third lightship or Hal's energy runs out. You will find power-ups along the way to assist in your campaign. A Function Item can wipe out all the attackers at once and a Barrier Item makes Hal briefly indestructible.

Hal Air Fortress for Nintendo NES ad Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

Plan your escape route! Hal has to get out of the fortress before it blows up. If he survives, he's onto the next fortress. the game ends when your 3rd Lightship is destroyed or Hal's energy goes down to 0.

Two nice features are the ability to continue after the game ends. If you're still stoked to explore more fortresses, you can press the START button 3 times when you see the Game Over screen. This lets you resume at the start of whichever level (fortress) you perished on. Similarly, the Game Over screen also presents a code you can use to resume at a later date. Jot down the code and enter is next time you want to play. After turning on the NES, press START - SELECT - START to bring up a screen on which you can use the code. Presto - you're starting at the Airbase you were previously battling.

 Nintendo NES console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Final Judgement:

Hal Air Fortress

is definitely a "childhood memory" game we're quite fond of. Spent hours playing it as a kid, so you may not be stunned or amazed by it's concept or challenge. However, it's certainly a fun game to play.

We particularly like the Airbase-to-Fortress idea and the varied layouts of the 8 fortresses.

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