Air Fortress is the perfect B-tier NES game: enjoyable with moderate challenge, but lacking the depth or style to propel it beyond cult classic.
You play as Hal Bailman, an adorable squatty spaceman who has to destroy eight Air Fortresses, all of which look pretty similar to each other. Each Air Fortress is accessed in the same way: fly in your Bailman-patented spacecraft, destroy enemies, collect Energy and Bombs, and finally, enter the Fortress.
Once you’re in, you control Bailman directly, guiding him through an air-less, personality-less catacomb. The physics are spectacular. Every time you fire your weapon, Bailman is jolted backwards. He doesn’t so much fly as he floats through the fortress, avoiding obstacles and shooting enemies.
The energy you collect during the shoot-em-up portions will deplete as Bailman moves around, but regenerate when he lands on the ground and pauses. Once you destroy the Main Core, the Fortress turns dark and the music more ominous. Escape via the HAL Craft, then prepare to do it all over again seven more times.
Air Fortress‘s initial thrills keep you invested, even after Bailman’s gravity-less antics have worn thin.
PUBLISHER/DEVELOPER: HAL Labs GENRE: Platformer/Shoot-em-up
RELEASE DATE: 08/17/87 – (JP), 08/1989 – (US), 1989 – (EU)