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Pulstar is a shoot 'em up developed by now defunct Aicom Co. Ltd and published by SNK for the Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD and arcade; it is the prequel of Blazing Star. Pulstar, as well as its sequel, are often regarded as among the best-looking shoot 'em up games for the Neo Geo.
In the year 2248, the first recorded signal of extraterrestrial life was discovered coming from Mars. The signal emanated from the planet and from it an object travelled through space at light speed into the solar system. Earth scientists read the signal as well, but not knowing the nature of the signal, warned the world's defenses in case the aliens came with the intent to destroy.
Eight years later, the aliens finally came to Solar System and started attacking human space craft along Neptune’s orbit. The battle between the humans and aliens spread throughout the Solar System; within two years of combat Neptune was disintegrated, Jupiter was immolated and more than half of Earth's continents sank from rising ocean levels and the planet's changing axis. Kaoru Yamazaki, lone fighter pilot of the Dino246, is one of the few survivors left of the Pulstar attack force founded to save the Solar System from the alien invaders.
The basic gameplay is simple: progress through the levels in your spacecraft, collecting powerups and protecting your spacecraft from destruction. The game has very obvious similarities in design and gameplay to R-Type. It is actually believed that some ex-Irem employees left the company to join Aicom, which used to be a subcontractor for various coin-op manufacturers like Jaleco or SNK.
Despite the familiarities, Pulstar is not without innovations. There is the option of using the weapon power bar, which consists of two halves. The right-hand side of the bar turns blue when you depress the fire button, when fully charged your ship delivers a devastating emission of energy. Meanwhile the left-hand side turns red when it is continually pressed, shooting out a barrage of smaller, rapid blasts.
The in-game visuals are mostly pre-rendered 3D graphics, which gives the interactive elements a far more realistic appearance. Great care was taken to really place the player into the world of the game, with cinematic style cut scenes and pre-rendered movies.
There is a hefty reliance on strategy and not just blasting everything in sight. Using the charged weapon is key, and requires careful precision. Also, once you obtain a power up, a small orb appears at the posterior end of your ship. This can be used to your advantage by deflecting/absorbing oncoming enemy fire and taking out small enemies that run into it.