February 26th, 1998 (Japan), May 31st, 1998 (N.A.), June 31st, 1998 (Europe)
Cover art for Burning Rangers.
What Is This Game?
BURNING RANGERS, GO! From the funky soundtrack and theme music, to the bright anime-style visuals and crazy concept, Burning Rangers was a third-person 3D action/platformer that still speaks of how insanely creative, inspired and downright fun first-party Sega titles could be in the company’s heyday. Burning Rangers places the player in the roles of two new members of the Burning Rangers team. Just who are the Burning Rangers, exactly? You can think of them as a cross between firefighters and the Power Rangers, I suppose. The game takes place in a futuristic, nearly-utopian society, where one of the only prominent dangers remaining is the risk of fire. To deal with just such dangers, the Burning Rangers were formed, as an elite team of superhero-esque firefighters, trained and equipped to deal with even the most extreme fire emergencies. And this is where you, the player, comes in. Choosing from two of the Burning Rangers newest rookie members, Shou Amabane and Tillis, you’ll be sent into situations to deal with raging blazes, rescue trapped civilians, and navigate labyrinthine structures in an increasingly ludicrous (in a good sense) set of missions, while unraveling a mystery involving a distress signal that has set a giant cluster of space junk on a collision course with Earth. Armed with your blaster weapon for extinguishing fires (along with warding off a few belligerent enemies/other hazards), you’ll run, jump, fly (with your patented Burning Rangers jetpack!) and ultimately navigate your way around massive stages while putting out fires and searching every nook and cranny for crystals and civilians that will up your score. Burning Rangers is classic Sega and Sonic Team fare; and a wonderfully fun and original blending of 3D action/adventure, shooter and platforming mechanics, all wrapped up in a package with that classically outlandish Sega charm.
The whole Burning Rangers team, gathered for a mission debriefing in one of the game's anime cutscenes.
I came into the Sega Saturn game a little late, you see; and as a big fan of Sega’s work, that’s both a shame and an oddity. Heck, I’d had a Sega CD before it, and was in love with my Dreamcast after, so how’d I miss the Saturn boat? The sad fact of the matter was that I was a bit younger at the time, and just didn’t have the money for every console; and the Saturn had a bit of a bad rap as the “third place” console in North America at the time. I recall being very intrigued by the Saturn and many of its unique, seemingly overlooked, titles, but at the time I was younger, more impressionable, and with minimal funds, and the general consensus from the press and my peers was to just go with the Playstation and Nintendo 64, which were in much more prominent status during their respective generation in North America. I loved my Playstation and Nintendo 64, and we had a lot of great times together, but in the back of my mind, there was always the Saturn….Panzer Dragoon, Rayearth, Shining the Holy Ark, and, of course, Burning Rangers…..there was just something about these (and many more) Saturn exclusives, that kept the console in my mind throughout the generation, and far beyond it…..
Burning Rangers' style and concept are fun and upbeat.
The generation passed and the Saturn went out early (in North America, at least), albeit in a blaze of glory, with some incredible titles. The Dreamcast rose and fell (much to my dismay), just as it kicked off a new generation of consoles, and years later, the Xbox 360 released in late 2005. Oddly enough, it was only a month after acquiring an Xbox 360, effectively entering the newest generation of consoles, that I finally found myself fulfilling my belated Saturn destiny. After scoring a Japanese Saturn, with somewhere around 30 games, and a boot disc (to play North American games on my Japanese console as well….I know, it’s a bit backwards), I’d finally done what I always should have a long time ago; and funny enough, even with my shiny new Xbox 360, I found myself playing the Saturn every bit as much.
Burning Rangers had always been one of the Saturn’s most intriguing titles to me….it's bright, flashy visuals, attractive character designs, and outlandish premise had drawn me to it in old issues of Ultra Game Players and EGM. Reminding me each time I’d seen them that while Playstation and Nintendo 64 were dominating the market, there was still something very special about this console which had gone, in retrospect, criminally overlooked outside of Japan. Burning Rangers was a Saturn game which had haunted the top of my to-play list for far too long and, as such, it became one of my very first Saturn purchases after getting my hands on the system.
I wasn’t disappointed. Burning Rangers was, and still is, classic Sega fare; another forgotten testament to the creativity, crazy ideas, great music, bright, vibrant visuals and pure fun which were a staple of first party Sega titles. One of the Saturn’s greatest stumbling blocks had always been its 3D capabilities; while, if harnessed correctly, it could do some impressive 3D, it was simply built to be a 2D machine in its original conception, and as such, proved far more troublesome for developers, in an era dominated by 3D gaming, than its competition. However, Burning Rangers goes to show that, when harnessed properly, the Saturn could, in fact, pull off a visually brilliant, totally fun and highly playable, 3D title. But Burning Rangers isn’t just a wonderful game because it shows off what the Saturn could do. Burning Rangers is just a wonderfully fun and original concept on its own; a bright, flashy, funky game with spirit and soul, a great blending of genres, and a game bursting with personality. Anybody who loves or appreciates some of Sega’s or Sonic Team’s great, original efforts, owes it to themselves to check out this joyfully vibrant, sadly forgotten Saturn classic….
Burning Rangers is a fun, funky ride. Get ready....Burning Rangers, Go!
History, Release and Reception:
Burning Rangers was yet another forgotten Sega classic that was a sad victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, thus ensuring it’s unfortunate obscurity. Released in mid-1998, the Saturn was, at the time, still enjoying a comfortable level of success in its Japanese homeland, but elsewhere, was not faring so well, nor had it been for quite a time. Burning Rangers was part of the last batch of Sega Saturn games to reach North America and Europe in the Saturn’s waning years, and one of a number of brilliant first-party titles released in the systems final months, ensuring that the Saturn would at least go out in a blaze of glory.
And Burning Rangers was indeed a game worthy of any Sega Saturn owner’s attention. In addition to its fun and unique concept and impressive technical achievements for the system, it was also an all-too-rare appearance from Sonic Team on the console, backed by an array of talent and big names from the video game, anime and Japanese music realms.
Of course, the most immediately apparent and instantly attention-grabbing name for any Sega fan was that of the development team itself, Sonic Team, headed by Sega legend, Yuji Naka. Sonic Team’s presence on the Saturn had not been quite as prominent as many Sega fans would have hoped. Besides the classic Saturn launch title, NiGHTS (and subsequently, Christmas NiGHTS), the legendary Sonic the Hedgehog creators had only headed one other completed project for the system; Sonic Jam, which was not so much an original game, but a collection of 2D Sonic titles featuring a slew of extras and a 3D hub world. The most glaring issue was the lack of a true, original Sonic title for the Saturn. At the time, the team’s namesake series had seen three releases for the system, Sonic Jam and the non-Sonic Team developed Sonic R (a racing title) and Sonic 3D Blast, and of the three, none were really full-fledged entries in the Sonic franchise, and only one was a Sonic Team-developed title. Sonic Team had spent much of the generation wrapped up in the ill-fated, ultimately cancelled, Sonic Extreme, which was to be Sonic’s true Saturn successor, and as such, little had been seen of them. Because of this absence, Burning Rangers was an instant attention-grabber to any Sega fans pinning for the return of the beloved Sega development team to the console; it wasn’t a new Sonic title, but an original title from Sonic Team was long-awaited and much-needed regardless.
Mostly absent since their release of NiGHTS at the Saturn's launch, a new release from Yuji Naka (left) and Sonic Team was long-awaited by Saturn owners.
And Sonic Team spared no effort in recruiting a wide array of talent on all fronts. Burning Rangers owes much of its visual and aural excellence to a team of talented and well-known artists recruited by Sonic Team for the project. Burning Rangers has a very bright, distinct, and attractive “90’s anime” look and vibe, which resonates throughout the entirety of the game. To help achieve this stylistic element, Sega brought in anime character designer Hiroyuki Ochi for character designs, and artistic supervision and work including design of the game’s promotional and cover art. Ochi was an anime veteran, who’s work included the likes of Armitage the Third and Sol Bianca, among others, his career in the industry spanning work as an animator, character designer and director. Bringing in his talent lent much to the appealing visual style seen in Burning Rangers, and, along with the guidance of Sonic Team’s Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima, did much towards lending the game its distinct and appealing style, as well as its flashy and crisply animated anime cutscenes, which were subsequently outsourced to Kyokuichi Tokyo Movie for professional animation work.
Anime production veteran Hiroyuki Ochi had worked as an animator, character designer and director on numerous anime titles, and was recruited to work on Burning Ranger's character designs, lending a strong anime style to the game.
Just as important to Burning Ranger’s was the sound and music, and plenty of equally-notable talent was on board to see to it that Burning Ranger’s poppy, funky, upbeat “anime” appeal resonated beyond the visuals. Heading up the game’s musical department was Naofumi Hataya, a man who’s musical genius should be near-legend to any Sega aficionado; his prior work including music and sound on games such as Sonic CD, Golden Axe II, and the Saturn’s own NiGHTS. Working alongside Hataya was a formidable team of vocalists lending their talents to the game’s upbeat, catchy vocal tracks which would become a staple of Burning Ranger’s style. Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, a fellow Sega musical veteran, who’s voice appeared in the soundtrack of Daytona USA, lent his vocal talent to the game’s vocal themes, in addition to Tomoko Sasaki (aka “Talking Moon”), who’d provided vocals for NiGHTS. But the attention to detail didn’t stop there; each track was, in addition, re-recorded in English in New York, under Hataya’s supervision, for the English-language version of the game.
Naofumi Hataya had created the soundtracks for Sega classics such as Golden Axe II and Sonic CD, and teamed up with talented vocalists to create Burning Rangers' brilliant soundtrack.
In addition, the Japanese version of Burning Rangers saw the addition of some big-name voice-acting talent from the anime industry. Main characters Shou Amanabe and Tillis were voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa (Zelgadis Greywords of Slayers) and Yuko Miyamura (Asuka of Neon Genesis Evangelion), while the supporting cast included voice talent by Tomokazu Seiki (Van Fanel, Vision of Escaflowne), Ryuzaburo Ohtomo (Abigail, Bastard!!), Hiroko Kasahara (Naomi Armitage, Armitage III) and Aya Hisakawa (Iria, Iria: Zeiram the Animation).
With an all-star line-up of talent across the board, Burning Rangers had a lot going for it. Just as impressive as its cast and crew line-up, were the game’s technical accomplishments, though. As previously mentioned, one the Saturn’s greatest problems for developers of the 32-bit generation was that the Saturn had been originally conceived as a 2D monster; with its 3D capabilities added in later in the console’s development, upon the realization that the market was heading in a 3D-focused direction for the generation. While the Saturn was certainly capable of producing a good 3D title, it also presented a difficult development environment for 3D games, in particular making the inclusions of detailed effects including complex lighting and transparencies much harder to pull off than they were on Sony or Nintendo’s systems. With Burning Rangers, however, Sonic Team proved that, when harnessed properly, not only could the Saturn pull off these 3D feats, but also create a damn fine looking game that could stand tall right alongside the competition. Not only did Sonic Team manage to pull off excellent lighting and transparency effects that some had thought nigh-impossible with the Saturn, it also managed to create huge environments filled with vibrant colors and detailed character models, excellent fire effects, and fast-paced action, all running at an impressively smooth framerate. As one of the Saturn’s dying efforts, Burning Rangers was an excellent accomplishment as proof of what the system could really do; and it didn’t go unnoticed, with almost every major review and preview both at the time of its release and after pointing out its technical achievements for the system.
As what was seemingly one of the Saturn’s final big games, Burning Rangers gnarred a good amount of positive attention from the press prior to its release. Previews and press of Burning Rangers were in no short supply, with a number of big, multi-page features on the game from Sega Saturn Magazine, including a 4-page feature in December of 1997, and a massive 8-page feature in March of 1998, just prior to the title’s North American release.
When Burning Rangers was released, in February in Japan, and a few months later, come late spring/early summer, in North America and Europe, the Saturn was on its last leg outside Japan, and Sega itself was already looking past it towards hopes of success with its next console, as Dreamcast rumors started to buzz around the industry. The game fared well with the press, receiving mostly above average-to-very good reviews and scores. Gamepro magazine awarded the game a score of 4.0 out of 5, bemoaning the game’s controls a bit, but otherwise calling it a “roaring good time” and stating that “for Saturn fans, it’s one of the last good games for a system that’s pilot light has all but gone out.” Sega Saturn Magazine, meanwhile, gave the game a 90%, while Edge Magazine gave it an 8 out of 10. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 4 reviewers, meanwhile gave the game a variety of scores ranging from average to excellent; awarding it two 7.5’s, a 6.5 and an 8.5, while Gamespot.com gave the game one of its lower scores, a 62, stating that it wasn’t quite the “virtual fire-fighting experience we’d all hoped for,” but still went on to say it was a “really good game” regardless.
Burning Rangers saw a lot of positive press leading up to its release, and fared favorably with critics.
Burning Rangers saw a lot of positive press, but unfortunately, with the Saturn on the way out, it was released to a very limited audience outside of Japan, with the Saturn’s low install base and lack of success in North America and Europe. Because of the Saturn’s dying status outside Japan, Burning Rangers saw a rather limited number of copies printed and shipped, and was sadly overlooked by most.
Burning Rangers has seen some references and occasional press since, and has achieved a very positive level of cult status amongst hardcore Sega and Sega Saturn fans. To this day, the limited attention the game has gotten is almost always positive; IGN took a look back at the game with a retro-review in 2008, awarding it an 8.0 out of 10, and stating that “this game, and the Sega Saturn itself, deserved a better send-off.” Sega and Sonic Team, themselves have inserted references to Burning Rangers in some of their games since, including references in Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star Universe. Still, sadly, Burning Rangers remains a lost classic amongst Sega’s many great original titles of the past and, like far too many of their most creative and original works, was a sad victim of bad timing on a tragically unsuccessful and/or underappreciated console. But, like so many other underappreciated Sega classics, Burning Rangers begs a second look from curious gamers, and this lost child of Sega and Sonic Team is one with all the same charm, spirit, creativity and fun that the publisher and developer’s greatest classics are renowned for…..
Burning Rangers is not a game with a lot of legitimate flaws to complain about, nor with many glaring issues. It’s honestly a very well-made game that, at its core, works well, has great presentation and is just a lot of fun to play. That said, Burning Rangers does a few quips and issues to mention, in addition to what is probably its one big flaw, which is the short length of the main game and small amount of individual missions.
This relatively short length and small amount of content in the game’s core story mode is probably Burning Ranger’s one big issue, and one of the only big complaints commonly cited by critics and fans. With only 4 missions in the game, the game flies by very quickly on your first playthrough, even considering the large size of each mission, and even considering the game’s large focus on replayability (which I’ll get more in-depth on later), it still makes for a game that goes by too quickly and feels like it could have used a bit more core content. The game has a plethora of extra content and unlockables from completing the game that vastly increase its lasting appeal (including a stage randomization feature which does much to remedy the small selection of missions), and a focus of perfecting one’s scores and times which likewise encourages replays of the game. But the fact still remains that 4 main missions is a few less than would have been desirable, and even with the level randomization feature, more actual missions, with brand new environments and sights to see, would have increased replayability and lasting appeal even further, and made for a game that felt like it had a bit more meat on its bones.
Besides a need for a few more missions to beef up its content, other issues are mostly small or subjective in what is overall a polished and well-made game. One small quip some have mentioned involves the controls, which can at times feel a bit floaty. It never becomes a huge issue, and the control layout itself is intuitive and easy to learn, but the control over your character can feel a little loose at times, and a bit of tightening up would have made controlling your character a bit more comfortable, especially during flight or intricate platforming sequences. Likewise, boss battles feel a bit less tight and well-conceived than the rest of the game, too. These are really small and easily overcome issues, however.
Burning Rangers could use a few more main missions, but the replay value is high, and missions are all exciting and enjoyable.
Also, one far more subjective complaint, could be found in the choice to dub the vocals in the game’s iconic soundtrack into English in the North American version. This is a small issue, and a debatable one that is probably more a matter of taste. The music is still catchy and spirited in English, and nothing besides the vocals were altered in the songs, but the vocal tracks generally sound better suited to their original Japanese vocals, which have a more “professional” quality to them, and just sound smoother and more natural with the songs. A minor, ultimately subjective, issue, and really just one with the English-language version.
And that’s about it, really; besides these quips and the aforementioned need for a few more main missions to flesh the game out a bit more, Burning Rangers is a polished, well-made and extremely fun game, bursting with the slightly-crazy personality and originality that made old-school Sega first-party efforts some of the best game’s around in the company’s heyday. Burning Rangers is truly a forgotten classic that is worth a second look….
Why it’s Worth a Second Look:
Sega has many brilliant first-party titles that have gone underappreciated but achieved a strong cult following, but Burning Rangers is one of their most tragically forgotten and neglected classics. There are a multitude of good reasons for gamers to dig up, and love, Burning Rangers.
Burning Rangers is a game bursting with the style, originality and totally unique and creative individuality that have made Sega fans fall in love with so many of the company’s wonderful original titles and exclusives. Burning Rangers is a stylish and unique game in nearly every aspect. From the bright, vibrant 3D graphics, to the funky and totally catchy soundtrack, to the perfectly executed and attractive presentation and menus, and lovely, bright and stylish anime cutscenes, Burning Rangers is filled with its own brilliantly realized and downright fun look, sound and atmosphere, and is overflowing with style and entertainment value.
The first thing you’ll notice about Burning Rangers is its upbeat visual and aural style. Even before the menus, you’ll be greeted by the stylish anime opening sequence, with its funky opening theme song and beautiful 2D animation. And from there, Burning Rangers truly never lets up in its audio and visual presentation. Truth be told, just about every part of Burning Rangers is exploding with its signature style in the sound and visual departments, and I can’t recall even a moment that lets up.
Right from the opening cutscene, Burning Rangers presents itself graphically and musically as attractive, upbeat and stylish.
The title screen and then the menus are the next thing you’ll notice, and all are beautifully stylish and well thought-out. With the funky music beating in the background (Burning Rangers, Go!), you’ll navigate what are honestly some gorgeous menus that are both perfectly functional and informative, and bursting with tons of colorful style and life. The constantly animated menu backgrounds keep everything feeling fast-paced and upbeat before you even get to the action, and little touches draw you into the game’s style and world; like the ability to check your “mail” from within the game/game world on the main menu, and the big, bold and attractive 2D character art on the character select screen. Honestly, it may seem silly to emphasize a game’s menus so much as a positive aspect, but they are a prime example of the excellent presentation, and the consistency of the game’s visual and aural stylistic excellence. The thing is that Burning Rangers draws you into its fun, bright, exciting atmosphere from before the actual game even begins, and it never loses focus on it for even a moment; Sega has a track record of first-party titles that were stylish and strong in their presentation, and Burning Rangers more than lives up to that reputation. From the excellent anime opening and cutscenes, to the gorgeous and lively menus, to the in-game graphics and HUD themselves, and even the loading screens, featuring the game’s lovely 2D character art, Burning Rangers always looks and sounds great, filled with life and style.
Even the menus are lively and stylish.
The music of Burning Rangers deserves special mention, because it is so off-beat, so funky and so much a part of the game’s personality and style. All of Burning Rangers music is great, from the overly-passionate Burning Ranger’s theme music to the upbeat menu music. Most important are the fun, funky vocal tracks, which have a style lying somewhere between 70’s disco/funk and 80’s pop, which a generous helping of old-school anime theme music. It both perfectly complements and, at the same time, completes, the game’s style and atmosphere. Burning Rangers soundtrack is just plain awesome, bursting with personality and fun which suits the game perfectly. It’s anything but generic, and is genius in how well it suits the game and what a creative and individual style it works so well towards establishing for Burning Rangers.
During gameplay there are, actually, long stretches of time without any music, however. With what a strong soundtrack Burning Rangers has, this might sound disappointing, but it also works remarkably well in heightening the tension, especially considering how nicely done the game’s soundwork is. The absence of music at most times during gameplay actually helps to keep the tension up and the player’s thought-process focused. Little details do a great job, like subtle background noises, including the constant, low rumble of the burning structures as they burn and collapse, of serving as a constant reminder of the urgency of the situation, and keeping an atmosphere of danger heightened. Likewise, sudden explosions, bursts of flame and crashes of collapsing object had an effectively low, bassy and powerful sound to them, and little details like the sound of futuristic doors opening or the echo of character’s voices within the massive structures you must navigate complement and complete the sound environment and all fit in and suit the game naturally.
In the voicework department, of course, the quality ultimately depends on the version you are playing; the original Japanese voicework is professional and well-done, performed by a cast of veterans from the anime industry. In the dubbed version, voice acting is more along the lines of merely “acceptable;” never awful or painful (which, considering this is a game from the 32-bit generation, is a step up from many of its peers), but nothing particularly remarkable either; some characters and actors in the dub are slightly above average, while others are slightly below, and it often sounds a bit cheesy, but either way, the dub work is not awful, just not too great, either. Either way, the game is fully-voiced throughout, which was always a nice and welcome addition in the 32-bit generation, and the voice work is at best excellent (in the Japanese version), and never anything worse than acceptable in the dub.
On the visual stylistic side, the character designs and art deserve just as special a mention as the excellent soundtrack. Sleek, attractive and filled with personality and style, Burning Rangers anime-style visual design is highlighted by the excellent character designs and bold, attractive art presented in the anime cutscenes and 2D character art showcased throughout the game. Characters themselves have tons of personality, both distinct as individual characters and iconic to the game’s look and style, while maintaining a style both familiar and attractive to any fan of anime, especially of the 80’s and 90’s generation. The characters themselves are likeable and attractive as is, but their costume design is just as important to their individual personalities and the overall visual style of the game. I simply love the “look” of the Burning Rangers team, the individual characters, and their uniforms and outfits, which are simultaneously a semi-humorous homage to the “anime superhero” look and something totally its own, as well. Decked out in skin-tight, brightly colored spandex bodysuits, topped off with equally flashy uniforms, big-collared jackets and angelic-looking jetpacks on their backs, the Burning Rangers crew is looking downright stylish as they fight fires and save lives. Of course, the crew itself is a fun, varied and, of course, totally sexy bunch (in true classic anime hero fashion). From the beefed up muscleman, Big Landman, to the wise-but-beautiful team supervisor, Chris, to the aptly named, handsome and stoic team leader, Lead Phoenix, and your main characters Shou Amanabe (the classic cocky-but-dashing anime pretty boy) and Tillis (the classic cute and sweet, but confident, female rookie), the cast of Burning Rangers is in some ways almost the anime stereotype, but moreover a completely conscious homage to the classic team of 80’s/90’s anime superheroes, while at the same time achieving their own unique and totally likeable style and personality. The character designs, cast and whole look of the Burning Rangers team is great and, just like the soundtrack, achieves a style that is both a classic anime homage, and something completely its own.
The Burning Rangers team are sleek, stylish, attractive and likeable, and a perfect homage to the classic anime superhero team.
Of course, the setting and world these characters are in is just as important, and Burning Rangers world is just a bright, fun and stylish as its characters. Again drawing from classic anime inspiration, while adding its own flavor to the mix, Burning Rangers showcases a bright and exciting futuristic sci-fi setting, and while the story it tells is somewhat brief and a bit outlandish, it also suits the game nicely and is in tune with the game as a whole; spirited and just fun, while, more importantly, showcasing a setting that is unique and enjoyable to experience.
The game’s style and visual excellence doesn’t let up during gameplay itself, either. While it is always arguable how well 32-bit 3D graphics have “aged” by today’s standards, it is, on the other hand, a fact that, for the capabilities of the time and system from which Burning Rangers comes, it is a damn fine looking game. In-game graphics are impressive and attractive from both a technical and artistic standpoint, and look great and are technically impressive by both the standards of the Saturn, and really, of any console at the time. In-game graphics jive perfectly with the anime-style presented throughout the game, and the 3D environments and character models are bright, colorful and filled with life. Likewise, the character animations are mostly smooth and well-done, and the sheer size and complexity of the game’s massive, totally interconnected stages is both impressive just for the size itself, and for the intricacy and attention to detail in them throughout. Stages and characters themselves are lively, each character and environment both technically impressive, and filled with unique personality and style. What really drives the graphical prowess of Burning Rangers out of the park, though, and completes it as a technically impressive achievement, is the excellent lighting, fire and environmental effects. Lighting effects, big and small, are extremely well-done, and do wonders to enhance the visuals, and add to the gameplay experience. Meanwhile, fire effects, explosions, and environmental destruction looks great and adds to an exciting and unpredictable experience. One thing the Saturn always had trouble with was transparencies and similar visual effects; but judging from Burning Rangers, you’d never know that. Visual and lighting effects are not just something Burning Rangers displays it is capable of, it is an area the game consistently excels at. Combine attractive character models, massive, detailed, and intricate environments, smooth animations, and an excellent array of visual effects, and they add up to a game that is both a technical achievement for its system, and just a great-looking game in general. Add to that the fact that, through all of it, the game runs surprisingly smooth, with a consistent framerate, and Burning Rangers really is impressive. While 3D graphics of the 32-bit generation have, arguably, not aged well by today’s standards, Burning Rangers is still a great looking game for its time, and, honestly, a game that holds up pretty damn well, considering its age, today.
Burning Ranger's graphics were a technical achievement for the Saturn, packed full of 3D lighting and effects than many thought the Saturn incapable of.
Of course, as with all games, one of the most important questions is: is it fun to play? And for Burning Rangers, the answer is a resounding “yes.” True to Sonic Team’s classic work, Burning Rangers is an experience focused largely on style, and just as much on fun, addictive gameplay. At its core, Burning Rangers plays like a blending of a few genres. Specifically, Burning Ranger’s gameplay is a combination of 3D platforming, 3rd person shooting, and 3D action/adventure, with a bit of arcade flavor achieved via a large focus on replaying missions to achieve higher scores and better ranks, by racking up more points through speed and completion time, exploration, finding and rescuing civilians, extinguishing fires, defeating the occasional enemy and collecting different color “crystals” (which also function as your health in a way very similar to rings in Sonic games) throughout the stage.
Your handheld blaster will prove to be an essential tool, both for fighting enemies and bosses, as well as putting out fires.
The game will place you in the role of the character of your choice (Shou or Tillis at first, or later, the other Burning Rangers members, who become playable upon completion of the game), and once in the role of the character of your choosing, you’ll navigate and explore the game’s huge environments, solving the occasional door or environmental puzzle, with the ultimate goal of reaching the end of the stage, defeating the boss, and ultimately saving the day. Along the way, you’ll search the stage for civilians in need of rescue, teleporting them out of the area upon discovery of them, you’ll fight fires and avoid or subdue dangers like rampaging mechs or environmental dangers like explosions and collapsed environments, and perform platforming feats, largely with the help of your jetpack, which allows for extended jumps and brief flight. The most central and essential tools with which the player must work are their trademark Burning Rangers jetpack, and their chargeable blaster weapon, which doubles as a tool for extinguishing fires and as a type of pistol for fighting the occasional rampaging robot, blasting environmental obstacles and, of course, fighting the end-of-stage bosses. Of all the gameplay elements, platforming and 3rd-person shooting are probably the most constant and prominent throughout, and what I really like about Burning Rangers is the way in which it cleverly implements them as a part of the gameplay that feels natural within the game itself. Specifically, I love how Burning Rangers takes traditional platforming and shooting elements, and molds them cleverly to fit the game’s theme of a fire rescue team; using third-person shooting mechanics to fight fires, and intelligently implanting platforming in a way that feels natural through the implementation of the jetpack itself, and makes the platforming itself feel less tacked on, more like a natural, logical need when navigating a structure that is half-destroyed and quickly burning to the ground.
The jetpack enables longer, higher jumps and brief flight, and serves as an important part of platforming sections.
Burning Rangers manages to keep up a tense and urgent pace at all times, as well, thanks to another cleverly implemented gameplay feature; a constantly-increasing structural “limit” for each environment. Burning Rangers encourages players to explore its environments, pressing them to find hidden areas and rescue innocents trapped throughout them, but at the same time forces you to think on your feet and keep moving, as the steadily-increasing “limit” percentage rises in the top right corner of your HUD. Extinguishing flames throughout the environment will help to bring the percentage down again, but every time the limit reaches an increment of 20%, flames will begin to explode from the environment around the character, and if the player can’t avoid and quickly put out the raging blaze, the flames will make short work of them. This could possibly become frustrating if the game didn’t handle navigation of its huge environments so well; but thanks to the ability to radio in for navigation and directions, the game again creatively and naturally makes itself intuitive in a way that never feels obtrusive or out-of-place. In this, the game cleverly encourages exploration of its large, intricate environments to not just rescue people, but find flames to extinguish, bringing down the “limit” percentage, while at the same time forcing the player not to dawdle in any one place too long or retrace their steps too often. These smart game design choices are pulled off expertly, effectively encouraging exploration while simultaneously keeping the pace and tension of the game at a consistent high point.
Missions are tense and exciting throughout, and stages are massive and intricate.
Burning Rangers is a relatively short game, but it is also one of exceptional replay value for a number of reasons which, in many ways, actually get more fun after your first run through the story mode. One of the key factors to this is the game’s arcade-esque focus on scoring, time, and mission rankings. Replaying missions is a core part of the game’s lasting appeal, as repeat playthroughs of missions are exciting and addictive as you attempt to seek out hidden areas, finish stage quicker and with greater precision, collect more crystals, and rescue more survivors.
The replayability and lasting appeal of Burning Rangers would be relatively thin if replaying the same 4 missions for higher scores was the only reason to continue after the credits rolled. But Burning Rangers has many more features and extras that are sure to keep you coming back for more. First and foremost, it should be mentioned that playing through the main story is something to be done at least twice, since, although the missions remain the same, the two main characters, Shou and Tillis, each have their own unique cutscenes and arcs of the story. But there is far more to Burning Rangers replay value beyond that, because upon your first completion of the main story mode is when Burning Rangers really opens up, with a whole slew of excellent extras and unlockable content that bring the game and its replayability far beyond what is initially accessible.
Probably the biggest and most significant of these features is the stage randomizer which becomes available. The stage randomizer in Burning Rangers massively increases the game’s replay value and amount of content. The stage randomizer does pretty much exactly what it sounds like; randomizes the layout of each individual mission, essentially altering the paths through stages, locations of dangers and civilians, and allowing for further exploration into the massive stages, opening doors that were previously inaccessible, which give way to all new areas, while at the same time cutting off other routes. The stage randomizer feature even allows the player to save their favorite randomized layouts for future playthroughs, allowing for replays of individual randomized layouts to discover their own secrets and perfect your time, score and navigation of them. I can’t emphasize enough what a great feature this is; especially when considering the seemingly lean amount of missions first available. The stage randomizer is an excellent feature that ups the replayability and lasting appeal of Burning Rangers massively.
Burning Rangers may have only 4 main missions, but its replay value is huge, thanks to an array of unlockable features, including a level randomizer, and the ability to enter special passwords and play as extra characters.
This feature alone drastically increases the size of the game and extends its appeal well beyond the somewhat brief story mode. But there is a plethora of other fun and significant unlockables that will continue to keep any player hooked on Burning Rangers. Upon completion of Burning Rangers, in addition to the stage randomizer, you’ll also unlock a “password function,” allowing you to input a wide array of passwords which will unlock a ton of other extra features. Password-unlocked extras include sound and cutscene tests, but probably the best and most notable of them are the passwords which allow you to play as any of the game’s supporting cast (Lead Phoenix, Chris and Big Landman) as well as the mysterious Iria Klein (who’s origin would be a bit of a spoiler to reveal), in any of the stages except the final mission, in addition to the ability to play as Shou or Tillis with the Burning Rangers theme playing throughout, in substitute of the voice navigation feature. Playing as the rest of the cast is a great addition, and it’s fun to see all of these supporting characters in action, and to be able to replay the missions with the game’s funky theme music driving the action.
Scoring and improving one’s performance is, as mentioned, a huge part of Burning Rangers lasting appeal as well, and one of the most fun features tied to this comes in the form of the game’s “mail” system. Essentially, there are 118 survivors throughout the game to rescue, and while rescuing them is essential to upping your mission performance and rank, you’ll also collect mail from the survivors when you save them. Individual survivors all have their own names, and will actually send numerous emails upon repeat saves, which differ depending of the character and the amount of times you’ve saved them. It’s a fun feature which serves as a unique form of collectibles, and an incentive to go back and replay stages for better results. Just one more fun feature, adding to the fun and consistently addictive quality of Burning Ranger’s excellent gameplay.
Replaying missions to rescue survivors and perfect your time and score increases Burning Rangers lasting appeal greatly.
Burning Rangers had, and still has, everything it takes to stand tall alongside Sega’s library of first-party classics and cult hits. It has all the style, beauty and focus on innovation and pure fun of the company’s long list of original titles. Sadly, like so many of the company’s other would-be classics, Burning Rangers was a victim of its console’s unfortunate fate, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Burning Ranger’s was released to a console that had already seen little success outside its homeland, and by the time it was released, the Saturn was already being disregarded as a dead console by most. As such, Burning Rangers, even amidst positive press, went mostly unnoticed, fading into obscurity as yet another excellent and inspired, but ultimately lost, Sega original. Even today, amidst what has been somewhat of a resurgence of recognition for Sega’s forgotten classics, Burning Rangers still, as it long has, remains overlooked and forgotten. But Sega fans, and gamers in general, shouldn’t let this title slip by them any longer. Forgotten and overlooked too often, even by fans of Sega, Burning Rangers is another great original title, with all the staples of what made Sega and Sonic Team’s work so exciting in their heyday. And gamers owe it to Burning Rangers, and themselves, to discover, enjoy and appreciate this lost would-be classic. Burning Rangers is a bright, beautiful game, bursting with the quirky fun, originality, inspiration and creativity that made Sega’s original titles so exciting in their best years.
Burning Rangers is a wonderfully original and well-made Sega title, which has gone overlooked for far too long; gamers owe it to themselves to check out this fun, addictive and stylish game.
Who Should Play It?
Any fan of Sega or Sonic Team’s classic work, or Sega aficionados. Fans of anime/anime style visuals, especially fans of 80’s and 90’s anime. Those with a love for arcade-esque score-topping and skill-honing at a game. People who love classic 3D platforming or action/adventure, or those who appreciate some creative cross-genre gameplay. Any gamer with an appreciation for excellent style and presentation, or creativity and fun.