SKYBLAZER / Sony / Super NES
Skyblazer is a pretty decent little game, even if the spartan introduction and title screen don't exactly grab you by the balls.
It's in the lineage of vaguely mythical-themed action games such as Battle of Olympus, Rygar, Prince of Persia (the old 2D ones on the PC) and Actraiser. There's a particular amount of borrowing from Actraiser, likely due to it being a popular launch title for the SNES just a year or so before this one was released. The gameplay is a sort of mishmosh of that, Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden.
Your little Skyblazer dude punches, does whirling jump kicks and can cling to (and climb on walls) in Ninja Gaiden 2 style. He also has magic spells, of which you only start with one, but can gain more throughout the game. There's a crude little overworld (more like the Super Mario Bros. 3 overhead map but even less advanced) that functions to allow you to return to and replay certain stages, and also makes certain other stages and power upgrades wholly optional.
The gameplay and level design are definitely on the rough side, but they *usually* work, exception of a few certain parts (like most of the levels where you strap wings to your back) that seem very unpolished and poorly thought out. Sometimes you will feel like you are fighting with the controls - Skyblazer's little one-inch punch attack requires you to get so close to the enemies to land a hit that you have only about a pixel's leeway in taking a hit yourself.
The challenge level is a little jagged as well. The game is very easy for the first few levels, then once you get off the opening island the difficulty takes a pretty sharp jump. Overall, it's still not tremendously difficult, but there are a number of frustrating points (and sometimes bad control contributes to that). You'll have no shortage of lives with which to retry though, because this is about the most generous game this side of Super Mario 3 in giving you 1ups and having a low threshold for point bonuses that score you extra lives (points come in the form of gems that you collect).
The levels are pretty varied - aside from the usual jump-and-punch contests, you'll sometimes be flying, sometimes riding through underwater currents hitting switches to solve rudimentary puzzles, sometimes riding jets of air. Some of the bosses are straight ripoffs, like the eyeball that grows in size when you hit it (lifted from Castlevania 4), but some are also fairly creative like the wall-face monster pictured above that rotates and forces you to jump through gaps.
The visuals are colorful and pleasant, if on the simple side, but the real standout here is the soundtrack. It does a sort of high-energy Middle Eastern/Indian fusion thing, with a definite Yuzo Koshiro Actraiser bombastic influence to it. Most of the level tunes are quite diggable and go a long way in lifting the experience above the mediocre.
It may seem a bit of an odd choice for a Badass Platformer, but I feel it does enough well to merit entry into that pantheon. At the very least check it out for the music, if nothing else.