Strikers 1945 II (Saturn) review
"A Psikyo shooter is a pretty recognizable thing. If you've had some history with the company's shmup fare, you could easily have won a ''Name That Developer'' challenge with, say, the Dreamcast's Gunbird II. Similarities amongst their games prevail in every nook and cranny, from their obviously similar 2D coding to their uncannily familiar menu screens. Most of all, though, up until the release of Cannon Spike, the mild redundancy that ran so deeply through Psikyo's games was mostly due to an ea..."
A Psikyo shooter is a pretty recognizable thing. If you've had some history with the company's shmup fare, you could easily have won a ''Name That Developer'' challenge with, say, the Dreamcast's Gunbird II. Similarities amongst their games prevail in every nook and cranny, from their obviously similar 2D coding to their uncannily familiar menu screens. Most of all, though, up until the release of Cannon Spike, the mild redundancy that ran so deeply through Psikyo's games was mostly due to an easily picked factor: Psikyo simply never changed their shooter formula much.
Keeping that in mind, witness the Saturn conversion of Strikers 1945 II. This chronologically challenged shooting romp stands as Psikyo's monolithic figurehead. It contains most of the elements of standard Psikyo shooters both before and after it, but it is the best representation of those concepts that would ever see the light of day for the gamer. This is Psikyo's best work before they grew out of their shell.
Noting the year in the title is important; Strikers is a World War II themed game, based in the year in question. The two correctly implies that it's the second in the series, and from there the core of the game is examined: Strikers 1945 II is a refined shooter, similar in basic principle to the old Capcom 194X games, but reworked and blown out of proportion with its timeline-bending heroics and treachery.
You see, while you might pilot one of a selection of WWII era-inspired planes, you won't be shooting simple machine gun fire at the enemy threat. You fire weapons that would look at home in a space-bound shooting game, and as you power up and begin firing large pulses in multiple directions, it becomes apparent that you're nowhere near being shackled to archaic weaponry. In fact, while the main fire you emit is a little boring, Strikers' best (Psikyo-wise) mechanic is its secondary fire.
As you gain levels in power for your main gun, you gain help in the form of ancillary fire for your ship. These are different for each of the ships, and vary from boring missiles to the very helpful mini-ships which gang up and destroy targets independently of you.
But as good as this is, it doesn't come without its caveat. The balance amongst the various secondary firings is way off; the aforementioned mini-ships are by far the best, rendering the other ships pretty pointless in comparison. While the others are actually fun to play for their own sake, as far as the game is concerned, the Hayate with its minute companions is the only functional choice. Since Psikyo didn't bother to make its primary fires too complex or imposing, they've essentially only given you one option for serious play.
In addition to the staple bomb element, in the form of planes that run interference and clear a path for you, you're given the opportunity to charge up a meter much like the ''Super'' bar in Street Fighter games. Charge it up enough (there are three levels), and you'll get yet another dosage of help, in varying forms. Whether it be a slow moving juggernaut of a projectile, or a stationary collection of ships emitting a constant stream of tumultuous fire, these third firing options are an interesting twist, but they're really just a glorified bomb system.
Be that as it may, Strikers is still a great game. Piloting a ship is as skill required as it gets; Psikyo knows how to design some bullet sprays. As much ground as they've lost innovation-wise, they've certainly always come through when it comes to designing the death you must dodge. Patterns of fire are thrown with enough variety to make many situations dire but rarely ever impossible. Reflexes are key and focus is essential.
Your own anachronistic elements are matched by those of your opponents. In 1945, I'm sure it was a rare sight to see a tank on railroad tracks that transformed to a hulking mech, with a leg each on two railroad tracks. But this is Strikers 1945, and a sense of time order isn't necessary! It certainly makes the bosses interesting, as futuristic gunships and aircraft carriers are both challenging and interesting, cementing Psikyo's theme choice as a solid one.
The Saturn handles well what Strikers throws at it. Graphics here, mainly because of the theme, are the best of this engine's offerings (including that same Gunbird II). Enemy bullets stand out markedly from the intentionally drab backgrounds. The screens you traverse are thick with World War II era industrial and steel-type feelings. You fly over armada encampments, military command camps, supply depots and refinery areas, and the art direction is excellent, although not pushing of the Saturn's limits. In fact, there's something pretty much absent from Strikers, and Psikyo should be ashamed they continually left this 2D staple on the cutting block-
Parallax. We love it, and it isn't here. With the questionable exception of a few appearances of clouds in the game, Strikers II is devoid of beautiful parallax, and you instead fly across a still picture. For shame. And they don't make up for it with the music, either.
The music sucks. I don't like generic Japanese shooter music, and this is as generic as it gets. Lame ''uptempo'' bits mixed in with lame, poppy synth work. Blech. Expected, but blech anyway.
But I got over it. It's still a great game, the best example of what Psikyo could do with their famous/infamous formulaic shooting method. Whether you like that or not, or even have experience with it is going to be just as personal to you as it is to me. Personally, while I don't hate their cookie-cutter ways, I don't love them either. I do, however, recognize Strikers 1945 II as a hell of a game regardless of their other sins, and it is a shooter above their other 2D works. Strikers II is straightforward, composed, and as good as Psikyo has shown they could have made it.
Community review by ethereal (March 14, 2004)
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