To most people, Air Fortress is a game they’ve never heard of. According to the Wikipedia page for the game (so the validity of this fact is questionable), only 385 copies of the game came out in the US. In any case, this is not a game anyone will mention, ever. This is a shame to me, because I think it’s a pretty awesome 8-bit action game. The game also has a strong sentimental value with me, but first, let me explain what the game was about if you’ve never heard of it. I’ve included a video below as well to further explain.
The game was half side-scrolling space shooter, and the other half of the game was action-adventure. Each level started with you flying towards the fortress entrance, shootings enemies and dodging environmental obstacles. Once you were inside the fortress, you would travel around the environment in your jet-pack, looking to blow up the core of the fortress and escape on your ship before the whole place blows up.
At the time, I thought the mash-up of gameplay styles made sense and was highly inventive. In particular, I thought the fortress gameplay was really good. With the exception of the first level, you couldn’t play a level straight through. In order to beat a level, you had to blow up the core of the fortress, then find your ship before it blows up. However, you don’t want to start looking for your ship after you blow up the core, which forced you to find your ship first, then blow up the core, then try and memorize how to get back to your ship before its too late. It was a unique gameplay mechanic that added a lot to the depth of Air Fortress.
I discovered this game through my cousin. It was a game that grabbed the entire family based on its premise and fun gameplay. Not everybody wanted to save the galaxy, but everyone from my cousins to the parents would crowd around the television and watch whoever was playing. The only other game I think to ever capture my entire family like that was Wii Sports. We would keep a master list of all the passwords and even act as navigators to whoever was playing. Keep in mind that this game had no in-game map whatsoever, which made navigating through the levels pretty difficult.
Besides being a great, under-appreciated game and a family favourite, Air Fortress holds a special spot in my heart as arguably my very first video game achievement. I vividly remember the moment I beat the first level in that game, which was the first time I beat any level in any game on my own. I was so excited by my accomplishment, that I ran around the room uncontrollably and actually broke my cousin’s Nintendo in the process. Oops. That moment might also actually be the reason my cousin isn’t into video games today. I’m sorry.