Burning Rangers Review

by

Date Released: February 8, 1998
Date Reviewed: August 20, 2010
Players: 1 Player Only
Length: 3-5 Hours
Replayability: High

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Introduction

Burning Rangers is an 1998 3D action/adventure platformer developed by Sonic Team and was one of the last games released on the SEGA Saturn. It is an overly ambitious title that attempts to expand on concepts seen with titles such as Tomb Raider while creating a unique style and setting all it’s own.

Concept

The main goal of the game is to put out fires and rescue survivors trapped. You play either Tillis or Shou (who control the same), the two newest members of the Burning Rangers, a team of firefighters from the future. Each of the four missions have two mildly different story arcs depending on who you play as, but otherwise the experience is the same regardless.

A screenshot from the game on an emulator. The game looks much better on a Saturn.

Story

Set in future where humanity has improved everything, only a few major disasters are left, each of which have their own special units to dispatch. The Burning Rangers are the ones who are in charge of getting rid of the fires and rescuing the people trapped inside. They are teleported to every mission with all jetpacks that help them get to any corner of every area and not much else. Along the way, the Burning Rangers will find that the existence of Earth is put into jeopardy and they are the only ones who can save it.

Gameplay

Similar to many other 90s 3D action/adventure platformers like Tomb Raider, instead with much more maneuverability and with a timer to worry about. Health is based on how many crystals you have on you and is similar to that of the rings in most Sonic the Hedgehog titles, where as long as you have at least one you cannot die (unless you fall in a bottomless pit). You lose all of your crystals if you are injured at all, but can collect the majority of them as they bounce around for awhile after. Unlike Sonic however, is that you need to use at least five of these crystals to teleport survivors you find, if you have ten when you find them, you will get bonus points.

The only weapon you are given is a laser gun that can dissolve fires. Depending on how strong the fire is you will need to use your blaster either one time or many. Getting rid of a fire will make crystals depending on how many times you shot it, but using a charged blast that gets rid of the fire instantly will not give you any. Because some of the fires later on grow much faster and need multiple hits to stop, you may need to sacrifice the potential crystals to save time.

At the end of every level is a boss you must fight and after that you are rated on how well you did overall, giving you different ranks for each category and added together to make your overall score. Best of all is when you beat the game, all of the levels will be randomly generated every time you play, making each level a completely different experience each time. Each person you rescue will also send you messages that you can read when you are out of a missions, and because there are so many people it can take a long time to get them all. All of this and more give Burning Rangers a life after you have beaten the surprisingly short story.

Controls originalreviews

Burning Rangers has a few issues when it comes to controls, most of which may look worse now based on how games have evolved since 1998. The player can jump and double jump fine enough, but if a direction is pressed while you press the jump button, you will dash in that direction even if you are already in the air, which can be especially annoying when you are near fires or holes that could send you to a previous section of the mission or kill you in the case of the last few mission. Your only weapon is a laser gun that will harm fires and enemies, but it only takes up one button, so aiming is done automatically, but not always perfectly or to where you want it to go.

Burning Rangers is only as fast as the player wants to go, but to get a high score you will need to explore all of the level as fast as possible. There is also a bar at the top of the screen that depletes when fires break out and expands when you put them out, if all of it vanishes then explosions burst out everywhere for a set amount of time depending on how long you have been on the level and the bar resets itself. This can sometimes be a problem as even though missions in general are fairly large, rooms can be very small and it can be hard to see just exactly where you can go. This is not helped by the camera controls which are either too fast or too slow. Thankfully it does not happen too often, but when it does it is usually the times you need to control it most.

Burning Rangers features some awkward underwater sections - Emulation shot again

Sound

Similar to some styles used in the later released Sonic Adventure, Burning Rangers features a good amount of jazz, hip hop and R&B styled music with different vocalists based on the region of release. Most of the game is played with no background music, instead the player is supposed to listen to their navigator to where to go, something that was very original for the time. You also must listen for the start of explosions so you will be able to dodge them, making the overall experience nearly impossible with the sound turned off. This all comes together perfectly to help gives the title a personality all it’s own. The same cannot be said about the English voice acting, which is downright terrible. Most of the lines are read with the wrong tone or accent and most of the actors just seem uninterested entirely.

Visuals

The art styled used in Burning Rangers is not spectacularly different than other Japanese media you have come to expect, and much of the title takes place inside of similar-themed buildings to the point it can be hard to differentiate levels between one another. Thankfully the graphics for the most part are really great with very large levels with well detailed models that have smooth animation. Sometimes there are moments where slowdown and draw distance can be an issue, but it is never enough to hurt the experience much. The game also features a respectable amount of fairly well animated cutscenes that could have competed with any other Japanese animation being shown on television at the time. The intro in particular is especially eye-catching.

Another screenshot from an emulator

Special Notes

While Burning Rangers has never gotten a true sequel, many Sonic Team games such as Samba De Amigo Ver. 2000 and Sonic Pinball Party have featured music from the title. Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe even had whole downloadable missions based on the game, including some of the characters and the theme song.

Conclusion

Burning Rangers is the last game by Sonic Team on the SEGA Saturn, and just like Ristar on the Genesis/Mega Drive it really does push the console to it’s limits, though in this case sometimes causing slowdown. The controls will most likely frustrate some players (especially young ones), but once you can wrap your head around the gameplay there is a lot of fun to be had. Burning Rangers is very short and one of Sonic Team’s weakest releases of the 1990’s, but the music and replay value will leave a lot of people satisfied.

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Format(s): SEGA Saturn only

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