It’s been a while since a really good shmup has released. In fact, it’s almost as if the genre has died off. R-Type, Xenon, Gradius and all of its variations, the Raiden series, DonPachi, Ikaruga, Jets and Guns and a personal favourite of mine Sine Mora have all just been left behind and forgotten about. 2016 looks like the year that some of this may change.
A lot of the games I have listed above are notorious for their difficulty and were relatively short in comparison to some of the other Dreamcast and Playstation counterparts when they were released at the time. This may have been an integral contribution to the genre fading away for a little while; it just became too much of a niche genre.
R-Type, for example, was first released on the Master System and Turbografx before being ported over to other various systems at the time which was limited to size and space on the cartridges. To keep people playing the game was designed to be easy to learn but hard to master. I still have a copy of R-type all these years down the line, and I remember playing it when I had an Atari ST. It is a game and a genre that I have had a lot of love for but also in the last few years it is a genre that I have sorely missed.
Hello, Steredenn! It has been a long time since a game as simple as this has kept me playing over and over again. The premise is simple, your ship comes under attack from space pirates and you take the fight to them as the U.S Goliath slowly breaks apart from their ambush.
The game has separate stages and a boss at the end of each wave. The waves are random and so are the bosses. Taking damage in the wave and killing the boss refills your health to maximum, and you to continue the assault to the enemy base. If you die, however, then it’s game over and back to the beginning.
In addition to refilling your depleted health, after each boss, you also have a choice of 5 different pickups from various categories. They included but are not limited to a bullet, heavy, energy, contact, shield and your basic offence and defence. Each pick up is random each time and they can provide you with extra drop chances; from extra health to more damage for a weapon type and even a shield that charges when you are not firing.
With 35 weapons split into 6 categories of damage dealing punishment, each playthrough is unique. The weapons are also really well balanced. Having a heavy hitting weapon like the Laser clearing the screen in one blast also keeps your movement speed down. The Contact weapons like the Saw Blade has incredible damage but keeps you in close to the enemies to make using it a tough choice in certain situations. The Flamethrower (one of my favourites) hits hard and deals some DOT, but gives you a smaller chance of escape when things get a bit hairy.
The varying types of weaponry add some strategy to the game, picking up one weapon may have some advantages over another but with the ability to carry two weapons at any time it is also about having that balance for your play style. It’s important to remember that all the weapons are randomly dropped, so you may like using the Rockets, but you may not see them drop on a run through.
The game looks great with is pixel art, and a neat little touch with the bullet weapons, the shell casings fly out of your ship as you fire them. It is a nice added touch and I feel it shows how much the developers have spent on designing the game. The explosions sound meaty and there is a really good rocking soundtrack behind the game as well.
Steredenn is a game that does not take its self too seriously; it introduces each boss with a comic line and then hammers you with a very simple bullet hell like pattern. Each boss has a number of attacks it throws at you to cause damage, but as always come in patterns for you to learn and to eventually overcome. Though, when encountering a new boss for the first time it can be tricky to learnt heir patterns.
Fortunately, after you have killed the boss you can go back and practice on them in the Arena mode. With a full health bar, you can learn the patterns and tells and just pummelled away at the bosses until you feel you can’t do anymore, thus making progression in the single player that little bit easier.
It could be nostalgia catching up with me but I had a lot of fun with Steredeen and I still am. Not for a long time have I been chasing high scores on a leaderboard and literally just having a blast. Does Steredeen add anything new to the genre? No. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun.