The Neo Geo has been a popular staple amongst arcade aficionados since its introduction. It's a system heralded by gamers and arcade game collectors with its colorful array of fighting, shooting, sports and puzzle games. But it's also an expensive system to own, and a lot of gamers don't have the space to prop up a six-slot Neo Geo cab in their living room. Thankfully you can relive those Neo Geo glory days in the App Store, and Blazing Star is the newest release by SNK Playmore for fans of one of their most popular shoot 'em up (or schmup) games.

The goal of Blazing Star is a simple one -- kill everything in your way and take down the bosses. You accomplish this by choosing one of six available ships, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You can choose the ship that best suits your style of gameplay. If you're a player who loves firepower, then JB's ship is the one you'd want, while Caster's "Hellhound" ship is designed for the average gamer. You have six different ships to choose from.

There are two modes in Blazing Star: Arcade Mission and Mission Mode. Mission Mode allows you to select which stage you'd like to play, however, the stages are only available after you've beaten them in Arcade Mode. The game's menu system is confusing at first. You must tap each selection twice in order to advance the menu, which is a rather puzzling programming decision.

Graphics are bright and detailed. This is a fantastic looking port and SNK does a really nice job with this conversion. The game runs smooth with no frame-rate hiccups and all of the familiar sights and sounds from the arcade have been ported over beautifully. The prerendered sprites may not be as favorable as the 2D sprite look some old-school gamers like in their shooters, but the graphics hold up well and look great on both the iPhone and iPad.

One thing that didn't port over very well were the controls. There are two types of control schemes -- Touch Control or Pad Control. Touch Control is practically worthless. Use your thumb to move the ship on screen. There's a slight delay in the touch controls with this design and it's no fun having to float your thumb all over the crowded playfield. The Pad Control option isn't much better. The small control pad in the lower left corner is sluggish and sticky. Your ship doesn't move as smooth as other schmup games in the App Store. The argument can be made that because each ship has its own speed rating, 1:1 response time isn't practical, but a control update is needless regardless of the game logic. It's frustrating to play if your ship moves like it's inside a world of syrup because of the controls. The game is iCade compatible so that may help if you happen to own one.

There's also no autofire option, so be prepared to get a nice workout with your other thumb. There are plenty of power-ups available, and pressing down on the A button will fire your normal shot and you can hold the button down to charge your shot. Pressing the B button as you release the charge will spread the shot out further which really helps when the screen gets crowded with enemies. You have six credits to try and beat the game and four difficulty options to choose from. The options menu allows for aspect ratio switching, video filtering, control schemes and sound volume. A tutorial helps you at the beginning of gameplay.

Boss fights are a lot of fun, with each stage's boss a bigger and more dangerous challenge than the one before it. The screen does get crowded with enemy ships and fire, but you're never lost in the hailstorm of bullets the enemies throw at you. Using Mission Mode is great because it allows you to practice each stage. Blazing Star is compatible with Game Center with achievements available to earn.

Blazing Star is a nice looking port for schmup and Neo Geo fans. The game graphics and sounds are spot-on, but the touch controls really hinder what could be an excellent port. Old-school Neo Geo fans will still purchase it, but for those of you expecting a more responsive shoot 'em up experience, you may want to look elsewhere.


App Store Link: Blazing Star for iPhone & iPad | By SNK Playmore | Price: $2.99 | Version: 1.00 | 52.6 MB | Rating 9+

6.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating