Sept.12-22.2009 - This will be my Air Fortress page once I get some research/text/art done. Right now it's primarily online for my own reference.
The people of the Planet Farmel, located in the center of the Cromat Galaxy, are just now developing their own high technology. They have developed a new type of spaceship called a Lightship, enabling them to travel to other galaxies. Now they have dispatched Space Frontier Exploration Fleets, to boldly go where no Farmellian has gone before.
But now their mission of peace has taken a grave turn. While scouting the Yubbert Galaxy, the Farmellian fleet has come across a group of eight huge space fortresses, living entities that survive by destroying and feeding on defenseless civilizations. The invading fortresses are now on a direct collision course with the orbit of Farmel. Receiving an urgent appeal from the Farmellian government, the Federation of lntergalactic Governments immediately dispatched a defense armada, but it was no match for the tremendous firepower of the newly discovered fortresses. ln desperation, the government of Farmel has sent our hero, Hal Bailman, on a last-ditch mission to defeat the Air Fortresses and save the planet Farmel from certain destruction. The fate of Farmel hangs in the balance.
The fleet of Air Fortresses will launch a series of attacks on Hal Bailman's squadron. The first Air Fortress is comparatively simple in structure, but the ones to follow will be increasingly more difficult. They will have more complex Iabyrinths and unexpected traps. Learn from your previous encounters, and you will acquire the techniques needed to survive the more difficult Air Fortresses.
An Air Fortress is composed of two parts. The battle for each Air Fortress will begin on the Air Base. If you successfully defeat your adversaries on the Air Base. you will be taken through the Air Lock into the main body of the Air Fortress. The final objective is to destroy the Central Reactor of each Air Fortress.
The Air Fortress is a huge, formidable, living entity. But if Hal is successful in his mission and destroys the nucleus of the Air Fortress, it will start a chain reaction that will destroy it. If Hal is to survive the destruction of the Air Fortress he must find the hidden escape hatch leading from the Air Fortress, through the Riding Zone, and out onto the next Air Base.
ON THE PLANET 'FARMEL', THEY HAD THE GLORIEST DAYS FOR TWO CENTURIES, SINCE THE STARDATE HAD ESTABLISHED. THEY SAILED ALL AROUND THE GALAXY WITH NEW TYPE SPACESHIP CALLED 'LIGHTSHIP'.
BUT ONE DAY THE PEACE WAS DISTURBED BY A MISTERIOUS BIG FORTRESS. IT WAS LIVING AND WAS DESTROYING ALL OTHER CIVILIZATIONS.
THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF GALACTIC GOVERNMENT ORGANIZED THE DEFENCE FORCE IMMEDEATELY. BUT AS THE 'AIR FORTRESS' HAD VERY HIGH POTENTIAL, THE DEFENCE FORCE WAS WIPED OUT IN VAIN.
SO THE FEDERAL BUREAU HAS DECIDED TO SELECT A SPECIALLY TRAINED MAN, ID 82592, NAMED 'HAL BAILMAN', AND HAS DEVELOPPED NEW TYPE 'LIGHTBRASNER' AND 'ARMORED SUIT'.
NOW HE DEPARTS FOR THE 'AIR FORTRESS' WITH THE DESTINY OF 'FARMEL'.
Air Fortress has a story similar to the one which I deviced for my version of The Guardian Legend. What's interesting about Air Fortress is that there are gameplay elements which correspond to the story.
Title screen. Shouldn't it be Space Fortress..es?
The intro shows a twin engine ship from the rear approaching a group of fortresses.
Linear progression. It would've been cool if the space fortresses had a different look (like in Alien Syndrome). Still, it's nice that they put an an intermission screen in there. It works a bit like an environment panel in comics.
Hal has to make it through a rather meat-less shmup section before he can enter a fortress. There are only a few enemies, with the Enterprise-Eyes being the most interesting visually.
Powerup bubbles. A rhomb will make the player briefly invincible. A + will destroy all enemies. The B and E are collected for use inside the fortress.
It's nice to see the Hal unmount the light ship and walk into an elevator which taked him down into the depth of the fortress.
The elevator doors animate like shutters. Once Hal has stepped in the shutters close. The player has to push up or down to go anywhere. Inside the elevator Hal is safe from harm (note that he can be seen through the little windows). When to exit the elevator is sometimes a tactical choice, because it has to be timed with enemy fire.
The first fortress has a vertical shaft with turrets along the walls. This gives the player a nice feeling of descending into something omnious. The weapon carried by Hal has a heavy recoil, pushing him against the wall. In a few places the walls are spiky, so the player needs to be careful.
Gravity devices will pull Hal down. There are also destructible blue blocks.
Hal can ride these screw cylinders going up and down, but he can also be crushed by them.
The tank like robots are a common enemy, but there are also enemies which looks like the player. Maybe they are something the fortress guys built/captured after owning the Farmel fleet earlier in the story.
It seems like any enemy can drop power-ups, but there are a few special ones which always drop stuff. The backgrounds often have more detail than the walls. The story states that a fortress is like a living organism which pray on civilizations, but this is not really reflected in the architecture or enemy behaviour. It would be interesting to add a bunch of infrastructure to support the concept of a giant harvester fortress.
The Mini Reactors shoot regular yellow bullets at Hal (and red homing ones if they take damage). They are best taken care of with a few explosive shots. There are large square turrets (sometimes seen from the side) which shoot nasty homing bullets. Energy is temporarily drained by jetpacking, walking and shooting. It recovers while Hal stands still. Taking damage permanently drains it, making it more difficult to navigate. Should it reach zero Hal will die of course, but moving around normally will not bring it down to zero. Each level Hal's power-ups are stripped. I'd rather see a different mechanic where the player's investments are more permanent.
The helpless Central Reactor.
Once the Central Reactor has been destroyed, the lights go out and the music becomes dark and moody. Hal now has to find a light ship before the fortress blows up. This suggests that the Central Reactor is regulating some important instable reactor or something. Instead of a timer counting down to the destruction of the fortress, there are visual and audible cues of increasing intensity, like the screen shaking, rumbling and the screen going dark intermittently.
It's possible to reach the escape hangar bay before blowing up the Central Reactor. It's a little strange to see a ship there, since Hal left his on the surface. Maybe it was moved (captured) to the internal hangar by the evil guys, or the evil guys just keep general lightships around.
To wrap things up there's sequence with the player flying out through a tunnel. There are 8 fortresses, but the game also has an unlockable second mode with 8 more fortresses.
The story states that the Farmellians have really been around, even traveling to other galaxies. Despite this fact, they still seem to be vulnerable on their home world. A galaxy is a very large place, so it should be easy to migrate, establish colonies and mines. Also, there are other (apparently weak) civilizations threatened by the fortresses. The fortresses seem to trample through all opposition, even though a whole galaxy could stand against them. I will attempt to explain this.
There seems to be two kinds of ships in the Air Fortress universe. The smaller bike-like ships (used by our hero), small enemy fighters, then the huge fortresses. Perhaps it is difficult for medium sized ships to warp (go FTL, whatever). If the Farmellians only have the smaller type of ship (which could be quite expensive), it would be tedious to shuttle things back and forth. They would have to build things in pieces which can later be combined. Assembling a large battleship in time for battle at a certain place might be impractical. Still, planet-based and orbital defenses could be pretty massive. It's possible that the fortresses are shielded (that dome thing) and only smaller ships can pass sneak through the shields.
Perhaps there is a network of weaknesses in the fabric of space (aka warp nodes). So while a galaxy is huge with billions of stars, a light ship could only visit a few places. The Farmellians are placed in the middle of a highway, whilst other civilizations are more isolated (or they use a separate network). The fortresses just gobble up whatever gets in their way. This explains how the fortresses could be a threat even though they were first spotted in a different galaxy. This network solution essentially just shrinks the galaxy down to a few accessible places.
The fortress fleet was damaged in their previous engagement, and chose an easier target, the Farmellians. The fortress fleet defeated the Farmellian strike fleet (and perhaps an outpost) and used parts of it to replenish their strength. This explains the Farmellian'esque troops found aboard the Fortresses.
One way to explain why a one man army (the player/Hal) is attacking the fortresses on his own goes as follows. Hal was a part of a strike force sent to destroy the fortresses, but he was captured. Inside of the fortresses the captured soldiers are being converted to evil guys. Hal escapes, kills the Central Reactor and steals a spaceship-bike thing. He also discovers that the spaceship-bike can pass through the fortress shield. This setup solves a bunch of other problems too. It illustrates where the evil Farmellian comes from (there could be a processing center inside of a fortress). It also explains why Hal's ship always looks the same even though he gets it at a different place every time (he's using the ones built or captured by the evil guys).