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Arrow Flash

The 16-bit era was such a good time for shoot ‘em ups. These things were everywhere and fans of the genre were really not lacking for choice as to what to play next. A lot of these games would first show up in arcades, then get a console port somewhere down the road. However, every now and then something would be an original creation for a specific system. A fairly unknown developer named ITL made a shmup like this for the Mega Drive with Arrow Flash. Despite facing quite a bit of competition it managed to work its way into the hearts and minds of those who played it, particularly in North America after Renovation picked up the rights.

As was normally the case in shoot ‘em ups of the time, Arrow Flash was light on plot. It went with the standard premise that humans are faced with a threat from a spacefaring alien species, and the only way to negotiate with them is through the barrel of a gun, or several, preferably on a space ship that can transform into a giant robot. While the game does try to give people some options with this transformation ability, the problem is that the robot is way better. It’s a very tough sell to use the ship form because the robot is a lot more maneuverable. There are a couple of small sections where it might be worth switching to the ship because they’re a tight squeeze, but that’s about it. For the most part, players will likely stay in robot form because it’s more useful, and it also just looks way cooler.

Going through the stages, players will have a few power ups that they can grab such as lasers, a spread shot, homing missiles, and options, but that’s about it. Arrow Flash does not have a lot in the way of fancy weapons to use. Also, it has a ridiculously overpowered special attack. Instead of using bombs, players can briefly surround themselves in an energy field, then plow straight into enemies, causing massive damage to them. It’s a neat attack, but trivializes some sections of the game, not to mention it’s pretty common to have quite a few of these attacks at one’s disposal.

As a result, Arrow Flash isn’t all that hard. There will be some sections that might cause a little bit of trouble, but once a player has seen it, they shouldn’t have much difficulty getting past on a continue. Generally, once one’s ship is fully powered up, they practically become an unstoppable killing machine with a good number of blasters, missiles, and that super attack. With that, hardly anything can stand up against the player, not even bosses. That isn’t to say that it isn’t fun though, because sometimes decimating everything in one’s path can be extremely enjoyable.

While all of this blasting is going on, the game has quite a good soundtrack. Many of the stages have very catchy, up tempo themes that add a lot to the action on-screen. Arrow Flash hits players with some excellent tracks right from the first stage, and just keeps going from there.

Meanwhile, the game looks decent as well. It isn’t exactly a graphical tour de force, but there are some memorable moments throughout. Most of the bosses are quite big with a lot of detail to them, and stages will have the occasional set piece that draws the eye, such as when a huge space vessel crashes into the ocean behind the player, or while battling it out near Jupiter. Conversely, there is the occasional time where it really feels like the developers phoned it in, like one stage where the background was nothing but multi-colored wavy lines.

On the whole, Arrow Flash is good fun. It’s not the cream of the crop when it comes to shoot ‘em ups of the early 90s, but it does a respectable job of providing a good time and its soundtrack will get stuck in players’ heads with ease. Games don’t have to re-invent the wheel, they just need to give folks a good time, and Arrow Flash does this well. It’s a great way to pass an evening.

- IroIro
November 25, 2019

More Shoot 'Em Ups We've Discussed:

- Super Aleste Review (SNES)

- Bangai-O Review (Dreamcast)

Platform: Mega Drive
Genre: Shoot 'Em Up
Developer: ITL
Publisher: Renovation
Released: 1990

Arrow Flash Image 1
Arrow Flash Box Art

Arrow Flash Image 2
Fighting some baddies

Arrow Flash Image 3
A crashed starship set piece

Arrow Flash Image 4
Boss fight