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Power Strike (Sega Master System) artwork

Power Strike (Sega Master System) review

"While going through its six levels, I grew tired of its repetitive nature, limited power-ups and slew of bosses that all were essentially bases with lots of guns. However, I was glued to my controller, my attention completely absorbed by its frenetic action while I constantly weaved and dodged between bullets while hoping my sub-weapons could hold out long enough to carry me just a little farther."

Power Strike is the sort of game that's perfect for a good old-fashioned "love/hate" review. While going through its six levels, I grew tired of its repetitive nature, limited power-ups and slew of bosses that all were essentially bases with lots of guns. However, I was glued to my controller, my attention completely absorbed by its frenetic action while I constantly weaved and dodged between bullets while hoping my sub-weapons could hold out long enough to carry me just a little farther. It was invigorating and annoying; exciting and mundane; awesome and dull — all at once.

Compile knows how to deliver fast-paced action. The (roughly) 80 gazillion games in their Aleste series are proof of that. Power Strike for the Sega Master System, as one of the earliest of those games, has the general formula down, but just hasn't tweaked it to perfection. To force a metaphor, you could compare it to an uninhabited house — the frame is there, but it's lacking in decorations and there's a feeling of emptiness when viewed from the inside. Part of the problem is simply that, as an eight-bit game, Power Strike was destined to be left in the dust by future Aleste games, as technology improved. That is unavoidable. However, the rest of the problem could have been avoided…

Play the first stage of this vertically-scrolling game. You'll fly over a countryside setting while TONS of small enemies enter the screen and assault you with intense bursts of firepower. Collect various power-ups, ranging from lasers to charged fireballs and other destructive weapons, to give yourself a better chance of survival. Confront the level's boss — a base with a handful of guns that need to be destroyed. Collect your bonus points for winning and move to the next stage.

And then repeat the process five more times. The background graphics change, the enemies get more fierce and by the end, you'll be fighting multiple bosses per stage; but, essentially, you'll be doing the exact same stuff over and over again. The enemies are the same from level to level — they're just more densely placed throughout longer stages. While the bosses might not all look like bases, they're still nothing more than collections of bullet-spewing objects that attack more aggressively as you shatter them piece by piece. Everything you see late in the game is little more than a more difficult variation of something found in an earlier stage…or two minutes ago in that late-game level.

And whatever that obstacle is, you'll be desperately trying to get past it in one piece unless you're lucky enough to be in possession of a good power-up at that moment. There are a lot of good sub-weapons to pick up in this game. The charged fireball (#2) is great for tearing through those boss bases, while the whirling laser (#8) cuts a wide swath of destruction in front of and around you. These things will erase both enemies and most of their bullets from existence, giving you the illusion that you're getting the upper hand on the opposition. And then time runs out and you'll be stuck with the default #1, which is a little ball that is emitted in whatever direction you were last moving.

Yes. The good power-ups all have a time limit. The straight laser known as #3 only lasts for about 50 seconds, while most others stick around for a little over a minute. During that time, if you pick up a second of the type you're using, you'll replenish your time AND make that weapon more powerful. Or, if desperate, you can grab something else. Or, if you're like me, you'll regularly find yourself getting stuck with #1 and, as a result, putting far more emphasis on dodging bullets than actually destroying the little flying things creating them. I think ships holding power-ups are supposed to come onto the screen frequently, but when shot, their payload quickly floats UP the screen and disappears. Since there are tons of small enemies here, I found myself constantly shooting, which led to me either not having a chance in hell of collecting the power-up or having to make a suicide run through bullet-ridden chaos to grab it. I wound up being far more familiar with the general incompetence of #1 than I'd have liked.

Despite all those annoyances, I found myself enjoying this game. While the (forced metaphor repeat alert) house might have been empty, it was well-built with a sturdy foundation. It's hard to get too upset with repetitive enemies and crude backgrounds when the action is so fierce that you often have to pause the game to notice that you're fighting the same stuff you were shooting down in the first stage. You get thrown into the fire right from the beginning, as the opening level is no walk in the park. I was expecting an easy go of things to get me used to the game and as a result, I watched an allotment (or two) of lives disappear quickly. While Power Strike never truly reaches "bullet hell" levels of frustration, things are fast-paced enough that I found myself in constant motion all over the screen trying to stay one step ahead of the enemy hordes. The only parts of the game I didn't find intense were, sadly, the majority of the boss fights…which almost seemed like breathers from the action.

Power Strike isn't a pretty game and has some quirks that tend make things frustrating. You'll fight the same enemies through all four stages and the bosses are on the dull side both aesthetically and as opponents. But if you strip all that away, you'll have an intense, fast-paced shooter that will test your reflexes and provide a good amount of pulse-pounding action. Look beyond its flaws and you'll find a worthy shooter to test your reflexes against.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 03, 2011)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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Masters posted August 03, 2011:

Nicely done!
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overdrive posted August 04, 2011:

Thanks! Been a while since I did a retro shooter (other than the remake of Wings of Wor).

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