Zed Blade is a horizontally scrolling shooter arcade video game developed by NMK and originally published by SNK on September 13, 1994. It was the only game to be created by NMK for the Neo Geo platform.
Set in a futuristic sci-fi setting, players assume the role from either of the three playable characters in an attempt to overthrow an army of enemies led by the on-board supercomputer at the automated Yggdrasil space station and seize full control of it once again. Although it was initially only launched for the Neo Geo MVS (arcade), Zed Blade was later re-released by Hamster Corporation through the ACA Neo Geo series for various consoles in 2017, including the Nintendo Switch. Conversions for both Neo Geo AES (home) and Neo Geo CD were planned and even previewed but neither received an official release to the public.
Zed Blade has garnered mixed critical reception since its original release in arcades from reviewers who felt mixed towards several aspects of the game such as the colorful but generic visuals, unremarkable weapons system, short length and low difficulty, although most praise was given to the music and some critics noted it to be its main highlight.
Zed Blade is a horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up game similar to Gradius III and Last Resort, where players assume the role from either of the three playable characters (master sergeant Uncle Beard, sergeant Ms. Charlotte and corporal Swift Arnold) with their respective space fighter crafts through eight stages that take place on a futuristic sci-fi setting across the Solar System in a last-ditch effort to stop the invasion against humanity on Earth led by Yggdrasil’s on-board supercomputer with his army of enemies and regain full control of the unit once more as the main objective.In addition to the single-player mode, the game also features a two-player cooperative multiplayer mode. If a memory card is present, the player is allowed to save their progress and resume into the last stage the game saved at.
A noteworthy gameplay aspect of the title is that prior to starting, players can arrange the weapon system of their picked ship in the character selection screen, some of which have their speed setting already pre-determined, by choosing between three options for frontal shots, missiles and rear shots, all of which are fired by pressing the A button and controlling the ship is performed with the joystick. In addition to the three main weapons, players are also equipped with set number of bombs depending on the ship chosen at the beginning that are fired by pressing the B button, while its firepower can be increased by collecting a hyper bomb upgrade capable of dealing maximum damage against enemies and bosses, the latter of which are fought at the end of each stage in order to progress further through the game.
Some of the enemies carry power-up items, which appear as colored orbs and alters between the three main weapons after a certain time period passes that can be picked to increase the firepower of either frontal shots, missiles or rear shots. Enemies will also carry extra bomb stocks and hyper bomb upgrades as well. Items will bounce back after reaching the right edge of the screen, however if they are not picked up after this occurs, items will be gone permanently once they have reached the left edge of the screen including 1UP icons, which are spawned after reaching a determined score threshold. Another noteworthy aspect of the title is the scoring system, which allow players to obtain additional points for shooting solid objects from the stages, as well as indestructible parts of large enemies and bosses. Getting hit by enemy fire or colliding against solid stage obstacles will result in losing a live, as well as a penalty of decreasing the ship’s weapons to one level and once all lives are lost, the game is over unless the player insert more credits into the arcade machine to continue playing.