Strikers 1945 Plus (Arcade) review
"Over the past few years there has been a void in my gamer soul where the shooters used to be. I felt destined to be counted among the lost; that vast pool of estranged old-schoolers, disenchanted by style-over-substance shooters, and forever reminiscing about Konami codes and R-Type machines at the mall. It seems my salvation has come, and it appeared as a simple airplane. No advanced spacecraft, heat-seeking lasers, or physics defying maneuvers. Just propellers and a machine gun. "
Over the past few years there has been a void in my gamer soul where the shooters used to be. I felt destined to be counted among the lost; that vast pool of estranged old-schoolers, disenchanted by style-over-substance shooters, and forever reminiscing about Konami codes and R-Type machines at the mall. It seems my salvation has come, and it appeared as a simple airplane. No advanced spacecraft, heat-seeking lasers, or physics defying maneuvers. Just propellers and a machine gun.
Strikers 1945 Plus is the cure for my neglected fingers.
What is the plot? Beats me. This is an arcade game after all. It seems to be set in an alternate WWII timeline in which the Germans are in the midst of developing some monstrous weapons, and you need to destroy them. For once it is a relief to not take the role of humanity’s last hope against an alien invasion. There are no helpless survivors looking to the skies for a hero, no distress signals from dying space stations, or genocidal motherships. It’s just you and your little plane against an entire army. It’s about preservation of your pride, life, and your precious quarters.
Strikers 1945 Plus resides in the roots of two-dimensional, 16-bit style simplicity. Somewhere along the line it seems most developers became too enthralled with their polygonal abilities and left the gameplay crying in the dust. I’ll take an action-packed shooter over a technologically inspiring one any day, and thankfully Psikyo opted for the traditional route. From a bird’s-eye view, you pilot your craft around the screen, shooting and dodging the approaching enemies. It is an old formula, but one which Psikyo has managed to keep relevant.
The controls consist of a joystick and two buttons: one for shooting/supershots and one for special attacks (a.k.a. bombs). The standard machine gun attack can be upgraded to multiple streams of fire via floating power-ups, and special attacks call in air support that acts as both a shield and additional firepower. As you shoot your machine guns, you build up a reserve of supershots, to be released at your discretion by holding down the shoot button. I would have preferred a third button for supershots though. You can hold down the fire button, but then supershots are used as soon as they charge, whether you need it or not. Better start training that forearm, because you will be tapping shoot the whole way through. For two hours afterwards, my right arm shook like it had a Ritalin injection.
In single-player mode, Strikers 1945 Plus is one of the most strategic shooters I have ever played; a feature that is sorely needed in the genre. Let’s face it. The majority of shooters require pattern memorization to be beaten. Learn the pattern, dodge, and shoot everything. This technique is not even an option. You will need to put in more thought than that. Strategy in Strikers 1945 Plus boils down to three things:
1) War is never predictable, and same fact applies here. Forget patterns. Enemy fire is dictated by your position on the screen. Even the bosses, who will shoot some patterned fire, release secondary shots in tandem that go directly towards you. Much of your success relies upon baiting enemy fire to create openings elsewhere. Try to find that coveted safe spot and you will quickly be devoured by bullets.
2) There are seven planes to choose from (one requiring a code to unlock), and each has unique attacks. The Zero Fighter’s supershot drops a bomb that targets enemies in a specific range, and its special attack calls in a large plane that protects you from most of the screen. The Ta152’s supershot looks like a small ball of electricity that hovers forward, and its special attack is a gigantic missile that deals some devastating damage, but offers very limited shielding. Your choice of plane has a concrete effect upon play style, so learn their abilities.
3) The screen is littered with planes, tanks, cannons, and eight times as many bullets. Some of the enemies can take damage that rivals the mini-bosses of other games. The kill-‘em-all approach just doesn’t work, so choosing enemies is of utmost importance. Do you take out the three tanks on the left, or the tougher and more heavily armed plane on the right? You won’t have time for both.
Strikers 1945 Plus is a constant battle of planned maneuvers, focused fire, and careful supershot/special discharges. Two-player mode is an entirely different story. With twice the firepower, it becomes a game of mass destruction. I actually prefer to play the underdog and fly solo, as the missions become a little too easy with a helping hand.
Though not groundbreaking, I have no complaints with the level design. Levels change from outdoor areas to claustrophobic, industrial centers as the missions go on. Instead of jumping to differently themed stages, you fly through a coherent progression of scenery. You can truly feel something ominous ahead. The boss battles are everything I wanted them to be. The bosses can be absolutely enormous, and range from a battleship to an alien-esque flyer. Each has multiple forms that must be whittled down to scraps, with one even getting rebuilt mid-battle. This is what you need to save your supershots and specials for, because even though the bosses aren’t cheap, there are plenty of “How the #$&@?!” moments.
With eight missions, Strikers 1945 Plus is technically longer than most shooters, but one playthrough only takes 12-15 minutes. In no way do I consider this a failing though, as Psikyo cut out the fluff. There is no downtime to appreciate the scenery, or any elaborate boss introductions. This is a shooter that begins hard, and ends even harder. Strikers 1945 Plus will not dazzle and impress you like other shooters, but it rewards with hard-core solid gameplay.
Community review by pup (September 03, 2005)
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