This game got robbed, placing only sixth.
Personally I picked the shotgun and had no issue with the first few bases. (Using a controller, as well. Didn't know about mouse support until just now. Didn't know the NES had a mouse until just now.) Some of that's from playing Irritating Ship first. Some of that's from having seen Babylon Five dogfights.
Switched to the autocannon for the asteroid field. That fight proves the controls are not the issue. I mean. Side thrusters would be immensely useful - especially when enemy shots keep pushing you away, and you're pointed at the base, to fire (A gun that shoots out the side(s) would do about the same thing.) A no-brainer "slow down" button would make late corrections massively easier. (And could be discouraged by spinning the player randomly while doing it.) But I think complaints about the physics could be solved by a seemingly unrelated change:
Move the camera.
The draw distance is so short, even when travel and combat demand high speed. Some bases can barely be kept onscreen. Several times, I was fighting a pixel in the minimap, which itself is not especially wide. The player's not even centered in the playfield. They're centered onscreen. So anything "north" of you is hidden by four additional rows of HUD.
Displacing the camera by a fraction of the player's velocity vector would provide precious milliseconds of reaction time and improve spatial awareness. Even when stationary, it could be centered ahead of you, to better see what you're shooting at.
Displacing the player would be simpler. Same vector, opposite direction, looks about right. But it would undermine how good the starfield looks. Those dots do a fantastic job of conveying movement. "You didn't notice it... but your brain did." (I didn't even think about tilemap versus sprites until the fourth base.) Keeping the effect locked to the player makes any forward-looking camera feel like it's sampling from a larger screen. Turning around, looks around.
Leaning into that subtly excellent feature: the deepest layer could have constellations. Tighter clusters of stars, in distinct patterns, allows orientation more natural than glancing at two numbers.
And those arrow enemies... I have nothing clever. Please nerf.