Blazing Rangers, the new NES and Famicom game from Gotta Protectors creator Karu_gamo, is here! We previewed the game in 2021, but we’ve now been able to spend some time with the final version.
In Blazing Rangers, you control one of two firefighters. Popo, the boy, can carry a little more. Mimi, the girl, is a bit faster. Both fight fires and rescue people, using a hose for better water access.
The game’s intentionally reminiscent of early NES releases. It’s made with the most restrictive size and capability, a challenge Karu_gamo thought would be interesting. Stages are single screens with black backgrounds. There’s a small number of sprites. This focus defines the game! Unlike a lot of new “retro” games, this feels like it could have been made with both the tech and the gameplay ideas of the time. It fits right in with Lolo, Dig Dug and Bubble Bobble.
Also like a lot of early NES games? Blazing Rangers is hard! It’s simple to get through the early levels, but as the game progresses, the difficulty increases quickly. And that’s just the “A” game. Picking the “B” option ramps things up considerably! It tunes the timer to be much shorter and require rescues to extend. The key is to abandon the idea that you’re actually going to put out the fire, only carving out enough space to dart in and out and save everyone.
If there’s something in the game that does feel a bit modern, it’s the impressive granularity of aim. You can point the hose in more than just cardinal directions, and a lot of the challenge of the game is built around this. Shooting slightly around corners or following the movement of a faraway foe can really help. Adding to the strategy is the hose management. It’s only so long, and if you go beyond its reach, you can only shoot a limited amount of water. Planning your path to be the most efficient is key! But so is making sure it’s a smart escape route, because you really do need to follow the path of your fire hose back to make sure you can fight your way out.
While Blazing Rangers is largely a solo project, Karu_gamo did get some help from chiptune composer Hydden. While Karu_gamo’s previous projects with Ancient had the benefit of a top-tier soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro and pals, Hydden valiantly takes the baton here and delivers some rockin’ tunes. And one charm of a physical release like this? Being able to hear them natively and faithfully rendered by original hardware.
The physical versions of Blazing Rangers offer a lot of trimmings that add to the cozy nostalgia. Our review is based on the Famicom version, with full Japanese manual and old-style box. The manual contains hand-drawn monster and items, with little descriptions. Which is nice! Because for those of us of a certain age, this is how we learned the lore of our games. There’s even a short manga and an interview with Karu_gamo in there. (Though if you’re looking for an interview, may we recommend ours?) In many ways, it’s just as enjoyable as a piece on the shelf as it is in the cartridge slot.
Like most NES games these days, Blazing Rangers isn’t for everyone. As it builds on the nostalgia and conventions of the era, it takes an affinity for the time to truly land. But if you’re someone like that? Having such a tough-as-nails challenge with all the classic hardware restrictions is an intriguing proposition. (And hey, you can also just enjoy the great chiptunes.)
Blazing Rangers is available now for NES and Famicom through First Press Games’ site.