5 Difficulty levels
Ship speed fixed
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Developed by Taito
Published by Taito in 1993
This is mindless blasting in its purest form, but is it fun?
Taito tried and surely succeeded with the arcade incarnation of Night Striker. It was a homage in every single aspect to the now classic Sega arcade games that ruled the 80s, but its main influences are certainly Space Harrier and Thunder Blade. It borrows bullet and enemy styles from one and scrolling backgrounds from the other, while throwing an unique setting where you fly an "armored car" and face countless enemies in a stage branching system very similar to Out Run - or, to keep things in-company, Darius.
The Mega CD was the first home console to receive a port, and the game remained restricted to the Japanese market. While many may complain about this, now that I have played and beaten it I'm confident people here in the west didn't really need it. Honestly, from a graphical point of view this is probably one of the worst rail shooters I have ever played in my life.
Everything in this game is a pixelated mess! I feel lucky that at least the score is readable and escaped the pixel-blown fest that renders this port of Night Striker practically unplayable. Just try to identify something from the screenshots... Everybody knows the Sega CD was capable of pulling off some scaling effects, but they serve no purpose here when everything that comes your way is deformed almost beyond recognition. The result of that is something that plagued most crappy rail shooters of that era: since dodging is useless, during the hardest parts gameplay will resume to endless circular movements while you pray something will get hit by your line of fire.
OK, so much for bashing and a little bit of insight. You only have one kind of shot, no power-ups and no speed adjustments. Your default control is reversed, and the car will always get back to the center of the screen if you let go of the D-pad (these can be changed in the options though). All bosses throughout the 6 stages come with a timer, after which they'll self-destruct. Each timer unit left when you kill them is worth 100.000 points, the same as each shield/life left in the end of the stage. If you kill all enemies within a stage you'll get a "wipe out" bonus of 1.000.000 points at the end of it, and upon clearing all the game each shield/life will also convert to 1.000.000 points. Additionally, pretty soon you'll notice that when you "fly" with your armored car landed the score will increase at a higher rate.
The CD comes with 2 choices of soundtrack: original and arranged. The music in the game definitely has qualities, but the sound effects are so loud that you can hardly enjoy it. All stages have recognizable themes (city, sea, suburbs, streets, temple, tunnel), but I learned pretty fast that I should avoid the tunnel stages. They are so difficult! Every final level (6th) has a special treat. There was a time where my car was destroyed and I was stripped down to a flying robot suit. In another stage my car received a pod in its top left, giving me additional firepower. There was also another one where the armored car changed into some sort of flying pod. Each one of them resulted in different endings.
Truth be told, my friends, everybody is much better off with the ports released years later for the Playstation or the Saturn, since Sega CD Night Striker is a game for hardcore Sega CD owners or hardcore rail shmuppers only. Just pure mindless blasting severely damaged by graphical mutilation.
My final score on full defaults, route ABDGLR: