Monday 29 January 2024

The Legend of Steel Empire Review (Switch)

The Megadrive was home to an awesome range of 16-bit shoot’em ups and it’s great to see some of them making their way over to the Switch. We’ve had less high-profile releases of games such as Gleylancer and Gynoug, as well as some of the Thunder Force series. Steel Empire is the first to get a proper reworking though. First released in 1992, we’ve seen the game pop up a couple of times. First on the Gameboy Advance and then later the Nintendo 3DS. Unbelievably, the last release was now ten years ago so we are more than happy to have its steam punk inspired madness appear again on the Switch.

The wonderfully stupid story revolves around two waring factions. The tyrannical Motorhead Empire are trying to take over the entire world with their huge steam powered mechanical monsters and all that is standing in their way is the small, rebellious Republic of Silverhead. Players take on the role of head of the Silverhead air force and are charged with single handedly blasting through seven stages to victory.

The first thing you notice is how amazing the game looks. The original sprites have been kept as pixels but everything in the backgrounds and in terms of explosions has been given much richer colours and had detail added. There’s a few new FX and bits of lighting as well which really helps to enhance the overall look of an already pretty game, without sacrificing the style of the original. The game still runs in the original aspect ratio with the side of the screen now used for much of the information and feedback which works well in this case.

The original control scheme remains and is now fully customisable. Here buttons are used to shoot to the left or right with the final one primed to deliver the games version of the smart bomb which not only causes massive damage but clears the screen of projectiles, allowing much needed escapes from the constant onslaught of enemy fire. There’s no noticeable input lag either which is excellent.

In terms of powers ups, there is a simple but effective system in place. There are the standard extra lives, increased speed, and points to collect but there’s also icons that level up your ships rank up to a maximum of 20. Each level provides extra fire power or assist vehicles to help you, and it can often be worth taking damage in order to collect them, so you’ll stand a fighting chance of being able to down the massive units you’ll come across. You can also pick between two ships at the start of each mission. There’s a plane which is quick and agile but takes less damage and the slow but heavily armoured blimp. Each craft is better suited to one of the levels, so you’ll have to think carefully about what you’ll need.

Overall, The Legend of Steel Empire is great re-working of the original game which was pretty great to begin with. It’s chaotic but isn’t the hardest of shooters to get through so It’s testament to how fun it is that you’ll likely be more than happy to go round for another loop. There’s a lot of these types of game on the Switch but the style of Steel Empire means it’s still well worth checking out and can hang in there with the best of them.

Overall 8/10

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