Friday, February 27, 2009

Strikers 1945 II (Saturn)

Vertical
Checkpoints OFF
7 Difficulty levels
8 Stages (loopable)
Ship speed fixed / selectable at start
- - - - - - -
Developed by Psikyo
Published by Psikyo in 1998


Since the two Strikers titles were among the first ones I bought for my Sega Saturn library, I decided a while ago that I would strive to beat both of them. While the first game did not take too long to be looped, I sort of hit a wall when I finally got to play Strikers 1945 II.

The second Strikers game was so much harder than the first one that I gave up after just a few plays! Some weeks later I thought it would be nice to give it another try as it was gathering dust in my top shelf, where the games to be beaten sometimes pile up. This time around I played in the mode known as Original 1 (fixed YOKO orientation). I found out this mode made the game a little bit easier in contrast with the wobbling nature of Original 2, the mode in which I beat Strikers 1945.

[ sorry, I'm not in the condition to play TATE yet ]


Every shmup fan who played a Psikyo vert game before knows the deal here. Extremely fast bullet patterns (especially during boss fights) and a fierce ranking system that forces you to rely heavily both on memorization and precise dodging. The gameplay in Strikers 1945 II remains almost the same as in its predecessor: one button for firing and charge attack and one button for bombing, with 6 planes to choose from. The difference is in the charge attack, which can de deployed in 3 different power levels according to the energy bar that fills up as you kill enemies. This allows for some intricate play strategies that can make your life easier, especially in later stages. Speaking of these, there are 8 of them, and the first 4 are always shuffled every time you play. If you don't die or bomb, the difficulty gets nasty pretty fast due to rank progression. For the 4 initial stages it's like having to learn 4 different ways to beat each one of them, and I can't help thinking this is a cheap yet somewhat smart move to account for the game's potential lack of replay value. I can't say anything special about the music, but the graphics are nice enough. The Saturn port does have a problem of slowdown in certain areas (something that wasn't an issue at all in the first game), but aside from that it delivers what it's supposed to as a cheap and frantic shmup.

You know... The harder the challenge, the sweeter the reward. It always feels good to beat a game like this, and it's even better when at first you think the task is not worth your time or is just beyond your current skills. The sad thing about Psikyo, however, is that I don't feel like playing these games again after the 1CC is scored (with the exception of the excellent Zero Gunner 2). You see, right after I 1CCed Strikers II and took a picture of my high score I shoved it back into its place inside the shelf. And I have no intention to dig it out any time soon.


Strikers 1945 II belongs to the category of shooters that are perfect for a 15 minute ride. Casual players will definitely shy from it, but difficulty driven shmuppers should try it at least once to see how it ranks in the myriad of games that are not so retro but still cannot be inserted into the bullet hell subgenre. Psikyo-wise it’s probably the hardest game I’ve beaten so far (ahead of Gunbird, Zero Gunner 2 and Strikers 1945).

Some words of advice if you decide to face this challenge: in my opinion the best plane is the Hayate Ki84, it's got the best charge attack by far; learn how to anticipate enemies and crush them with Hayate's charge attack as they enter the screen; if you have to stick with YOKO, avoid the Original 2 mode.

My high score, mode Original 1, difficulty 5 (NORMAL), playing with Hayate:

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