Fire Mustang review –


Developer: NMK Co.   Publisher: Taito    Release: 05/31/91    Genre: Shooter

The Genesis has one of the most extensive shooter libraries around. But even with that in mind there are still quite a few that were not released overseas which is astounding as they require next to no localization. In some cases it is an absolute shame; games like Gleylancer and Eliminate Down are classics within the genre. Then you have titles like Fire Mustang which are so bland I can see why no one bothered. It is not outright bad but in such a crowded genre it does not stand out either.

Fire Mustang was released in the arcade as USAAF Mustang. Why the name change for the Genesis version is a mystery. The game takes place in a fictional World War II setting as you pilot a USAAF fighter plane against the Nazis and Japanese army. While it was not from Toaplan Fire Mustang resembles a side scrolling version of their various military shooters. Perhaps that is the reason why it was left in Japan; between Twin Cobra, Twin Hawk, and Fire Shark let’s just say this little niche within a niche was covered.

If cool weapons are a priority when you play shooters Fire Mustang will disappoint. There are only two weapons in the game, the Vulcan cannon and Forcer attack. The Vulcan cannon drops bombs with every shot to take out ground based enemies, sort of like Silk Worm. This can upgrade three times, with each improvement widening your shots and increasing the rate of fire. The Forcer is your bomb and unleashes a straightforward fireball that can hit multiple enemies. Unlike most shooters this is not a screen clearing attack and not even particularly powerful. The game is fairly generous with its power-ups so it is easy to reach full power. In any other game that would be cause for excitement. Here it is one big meh.

What largely makes Fire Mustang so boring is its boring level design, if you can even call it that. Every level is a wide open field with nothing but waves of enemies at set intervals. The enemy variety is seriously lacking and by stage three you will have seen every ship the game has to offer. Most horizontal shooters break up their level design with creative obstacles and such. Having a set theme such as the Speed Zone in the various Gradius games also goes a long way. But here you will stare at picturesque mountains and temples while the repetitive waves come at you. The boss battles are the only reprieve from the monotony. The game needs something more to spice it up, be it more ground targets, a fucking brick wall, anything!

Compared to most shooters Fire Mustang is easy. Enemy waves are predictable and rarely deviate from their patterns. If you have a fully powered Vulcan cannon you can sit in one spot for large periods and rarely miss an enemy. Extra lives are hidden in the environment but are easy to find and seem to appear at just the right moments. It is not uncommon to have four or five lives at any given moment due to this. Only the later boss battles pose any considerable threat but that is due to little room to maneuver rather than challenging AI. There is a ranking system that raises the difficulty depending on how many lives you have but you will barely notice. There is nothing wrong with a lacking challenge per se. But in a game dying for any kind of excitement a little difficulty goes a long way.

Fire Mustang 002 Fire Mustang 003

About the only thing I can complement the game on is its graphics. In still screenshots it does not look impressive. In motion however there are three or four layers of parallax scrolling. Despite taking place across Europe and Asia the setting for each level is varied and as I mentioned before picturesque. This is in spite of the game’s muted color palette. Slowdown is near non-existent and the game can throw around a ton of sprites. All the visual pizazz in the world means nothing if the gameplay is lacking however.

In Closing

Fire Mustang is about as average as it gets. The action is good but not great. The graphics are adequate but not overly impressive. It checks all the boxes but offers no compelling reason why you should pick it up over its far better competition. With the strong shooter library on the system Fire Mustang fails to stand out. This one stayed in Japan for a reason.

Post Author: lordmrw

I’m just a dude who has been playing video games for over 30 years and want to share my extensive knowledge with the masses.

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