Steel Empire – 3DS

Shooters are really not my genre. Not because I don’t like shooters, on the contrary I really love the idea of them, there’s nothing more awesome than watching people blast and dodge their way through a shooter like a pro. The problem is I’m terrible at them. They usually require a level of precision and level memorisation that I just can’t do.

Going into Steel Empire was slightly worrying but really there wasn’t anything to be afraid of. Out of all the shooters I’ve played, Steel Empire is the one I’d recommend for players new to the genre. Normally I would struggle to get through to the end of a game like this, but Steel Empire really is a great entry point. My first play through of the game in Normal mode (I was so tempted to choose easy) was actually nontraumatic. Sure, I died a few times at the beginning until I got my bearings but after that my play through was pretty much hitch-free.

So Steel Empire once upon a time was a Mega Drive/Genesis game that, while never really popular, had a cult following. It was a shooter with a brilliantly designed steampunk theme before that was even cool. It’s now been revived and remade for the 3DS. Updated graphics, updated music yet still the same great gameplay. It’s been out in North America a long time, but is finally making its way to European shores.

There is a story behind the game but to be honest I found it full of so many made-up proper nouns without much context it was instantly uninteresting. But that’s not really the main point of the game. You’re at war and you shoot some things.

You blast your way through 7 levels with either a small, agile yet vulnerable monoplane, or a large, clunky but durable airship. You’re not limited to staying with the same ship all the way through one run of the game, at the beginning of each stage you are welcome to change if you want. Personally I started with the monoplane, but I soon switched to the airship as I could keep track of it more easily and it could withstand more damage.

The A button allows you to shoot forward and the Y button allows you to shoot to your rear. This is useful and very necessary to get the hang of, as enemies will come at you from all different directions. Like most shooters there’s a weapon power-up system. Scattered across the level there will be drops with the letter P emblazoned over it. Every time you collect three of these your level will increase by one, up to a total of 20. You can visually see your crafts weapons powering up too as your shots get faster, wider and stronger. On the lower difficulties it’s very easy to get some real power behind you.

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed you can always use the genre standard “panic button”, basically a very powerful bomb that will wipeout all the enemies on the screen to give you some breathing space. You’re limited to three at the start but there are plenty more you can pick up along the way.

Another pickup gives you some “optionals” as the manual calls them, these are two small support planes that appear either side of you to give you a wider firing range, they’re very useful for shooting enemies while not being directly in the line of fire yourself.

I found the levels to be very fun. On normal mode there was just enough enemies and just enough missiles to dodge to make it a rather laid back relaxing shooter. There’re a nice amount of enemy types; big, small, fast slow and also a boss battles scattered around and always at the end of a stage. Boss battles aren’t particularly taxing but they are drawn out to make them epic enough. They have various stages of engagement every time you damage them enough. Only problem is, some of them are repeated which is a shame.

Laid back is definitely the description for Steel Empire, it’s enjoyable, it looks great but some of the more hardcore shooter fans will definitely want to hit the highest difficulty.

One of the issues that will arise is the playtime. My first time playing through the game clocked in less than an hour. If you’re going to get your money’s worth then you will need to be a fan of replaying the same 7 levels over and over again. In this release they have included some achievements to aim for and of course you can aim for the high scores.

Thankfully with the release in Europe, Teyon have worked out that the premium price tag just wasn’t really appropriate for a shooter this day in age, so it’s now at half the price of what it was before, which is much more reasonable but still at the high end of what people could be willing to pay.

This remake looks very nice and stylish. Some people may bemoan the lack of original sprites and background, but if you look back and compare the two, the remake really steps it up in terms of visuals and yet still holds that retro feel we all love. The music is especially fantastic too, while staying true to the twangy bass of the original Mega Drive game it revitalises the whole soundtrack to give it more presence. The 3D effect is subtle, but it works well.

Overall, Steel Empire for the 3DS is a fantastic remake of a cult classic, it looks and sounds better than ever. It’s undeniably a good game, especially great for newcomers to the genre. Unfortunately it’s a very short game with a high price (although admittedly now a lot more reasonable that before). If you think replayabilty is okay for you here then it should be a game for you to have, if you’re one of those who generally plays through things one time and then moves on, then it’s probably not for you.

Good points

– Looks great

– Sounds great

– Plays great

– Nice entry point in the shooter genre

Bad points

– Short

– Not a lot of content

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