A couple of weeks ago I found out about this game via the doujin thread in Recap's forum. Based on the screenshots it appeared to be a side-scrolling action game in the vein of Wonderboy or Ninja Ryuukenden. That immediately got my attention. As people here probably know, most doujin action games of note belong to the shooter and fighter genres, so I was excited by the possibility of a quality game belonging to a nowadays underutilized sub-genre that happens to be one of my favorites, and the sceenshots informed me that there was a really good chance that this was a quality game.
After fooling around with the demo a bit my intuition was confirmed and this was indeed a high-quality game, but not exactly as I figured. Instead of the weapon / sub-weapon setup used in games like Ninja Ryuukenden your characters attacks are entirely close-range, but he also has a number of acrobatic enhancements. The closest thing I can think of comparing it to would be like how Zero played in the later X games. Here's a rundown of the moves.
DASH: Double-tap the directional key in the direction you're going. You know the drill.
JUMP: Jump plus double-jump. Can combine with dashing for a huge leap.
SLIDE: Press attack while dashing. Makes your character invulnerable for the duration of the move so it has a number of strategic possibilities, such as plowing through a group of enemies. You can also do this in the air after a dashing jump.
UPPER & LOW FANG: Up or down plus attack makes this drilling motion thats more powerful than regular attacks and sliding. Use these when frontal attacks don't work. The Upper Fang seems to get you a little higher than the double jump but won't work for leaping far. With the Low Fang the character will spin until he touches the ground. Also have invulnerability properties.
TORNADO ATTACK: Jump against a wall after a dashing jump for a wall jump similar to the one in the NES Batman game, but it also doubles as an attack as the characters flips around like crazy ala Sonic.
WALL CLING: Attack against a wall you use your wrist blades to cling to it. You can drop down or keep climbing up by doing it continuously.
There's also a nifty score system with items to collect called mana. After killing an enemy it releases a small mana energy that flys around the screen. If you keep killing enemies while it's floating around eventually it'll grow into larger mana of a larger point value. You can summon the mana with the third button and it'll start homing towards your character. Sound familiar?
After playing this first level demo my interests were piqued enough to want to get ahold of the full game. This is where Gaijin Punch and his mystical magical tool (a Japanese credit card) graciously came through for me. So thanks for that.
Now that I've been playing the full game for a couple days I can safely tell you guys that Buster is more than a good game, it's a mini masterpiece that'll be especially appreciated by fans of traditional action games and arcade-styled games (this sites demographic basically.)
Not long after level one things get really intense, with levels that go through all of the mainstays (slippery ice, moving platforms, vertical and horizontal auto-scrolling segments) but are designed so fiendishly clever that they actually seem like fresh concepts again. You'll have to plan out your movements methodically and master all the intricacies of your actions if you plan on getting past even level 2 without seeing the Continue screen.
At one point in the Ice level I had thought the game was getting into Super Mario hack territory, but as I continued playing I eventually acquired the abstract solution and muscle memory so that I could pass the segment pretty regularly without losing a life. One of the last levels has an absolutely insane lava chase sequence where you have to plow through large dragons and barriers nearly as fast as possible or else you're toast. Some people might not like the rigidity of designs like this, but I can really admire an action game that gives you a bunch of options at your disposal and essentially compels to to take them to their limits. How many developers are brave or smart enough to do this?
Oh, and a note on the bosses: while they usually have only one or two patterns, those patterns do a good job of keeping you on your toes, and they do get faster and faster as they're damaged. Simple but effective.
Overall I found the experience to be both nostalgic and (more importantly) genuinely satisfying. After beating the next big challenge I was reminded of when I used to play through Adventure Island with a friend on his mom's NES. Since they died in the arcades and got infected with Collect-a-thon in the 90s you usually don't get that huge sense of accomplishment with these types of games. It also reminded me of exactly what I love about old-school action games. When the going gets tough, it doesn't switch out to an FMV or some lame, swoopy-camera, button-mashing, barely interactive, QTE. You're in control of the character and if you're not you're dead. Nothing to bail you out. That's real action and immersion, not an FMV of some bozo talking about his feelings and love on the battlefield.
The demo and links to purchase Buster can be found here. The price is a steal considering it's about as much as that Virtual Console game you already own, so get this instead.
I should also mention that Buster is actually a remake of an X68K game of the same name and designer (Eiji Hashimoto.) I had some trouble getting the emulation working properly so I can't compare the mechanics of the two games in-depth, but based on some screenshots I can say that the level structures appear to be completely different or at least re-mixed, and the original was done in a graphic style similar to Actraiser whereas the update looks more like a Gameboy Advance game with saturated, sparsely shaded graphics.
In any case you can learn more about the original here: