Culture Brain USA's NES title, Flying Warriors, draws its inspiration from the previous North American release in the Hiryū no Ken series which debuted in 1988, Flying Dragon: The Secret Scroll. Starring a Shorinji Kempo warrior named Rick Stalker, the story basically mirrors the tale of the original NES entry, with the skilled fighter and his allies tasked with taking down the evil Tusk Soldier army.
Flying Warriors utilises the framework set in place by Flying Dragon to take the Hiryū no Ken series to a new level. Like the first NES entry, the core components of the game are broken up into "Journey" and "Battle" phases. There is also a command mode and tournament mode on offer. In Journey mode, the player must proceed through scrolling platform stages that illustrate Rick's travels, whilst taking on a seemingly endless army of enemies and bosses to level up and help build the K.O. Gauge to unleash a powerful attack.
The gameplay here is mostly button mashing for the punching, kicking and jumping moves, along with the assistance of items and equipment in your fight for survival, and while it does become rather tedious it's certainly an improvement on the original NES release. Sadly the controls aren't much better in these sections, either. On a more positive note, there are colourful backgrounds, more detailed character design, and catchy tunes.
In between Journey segments are battles. This part of the game is similar to a regular fighter, only with a much more serious emphasis on well-timed attacks and blocks. Visually, the movement of each fighter is a lot easier make out, and the animation in general has been sped up, making matches more fluent. Like earlier entries – including the original arcade title, Shanghai Kid – the target mark system makes a return, indicating an opponent's next attack and displaying their own area of vulnerability.
The ability to "rush" opponents with a series of swift hits makes for exciting fights, as does the chance to defeat an enemy with a single blow. These battles take place as training practice, rewarding Rick with new items to aid him in his quest, and also against the Tusk Soldier army. Additionally you can now also transform in battle into the titular "Flying Warrior" enabling the use of mystic spells. Switching with allies in battle is also an option.
The command mode is turn-based style enemy encounters and requires plenty of strategy with both offensive and defensive stages of battle. In this mode you have a select set of moves to choose from including attacks, friend support and even an option to escape from battle. The tournament mode featuring six fighting styles acts as somewhat of a bonus, with up to eight players being able to participate in a tournament together; else the CPU takes control of the remaining spots.
Flying Warriors comes as an ever-so-slight improvement to the original NES entry in the Hiryū no Ken series. The shortcomings of the first NES title have been addressed with more tolerable controls, enhanced visuals and animations – making battles less frustrating, and a smoother transition from mode to mode. Sadly though, the platform sections are once again likely to deter most players from delving any deeper with an overwhelming amount of enemies attacking the player from all directions for the entire game. That's not enough to discourage warrior Rick Stalker though, with the game over statement, "I won't stop at this" every time he loses a life. Whether or not you share his dogged enthusiasm is down to personal preference, however – this isn't a totally unlikable game, but it's certainly not a vintage classic that anyone should get all misty-eyed about.