Strikers 1945 II
Release Date: 25 January 2018
Price: $7.99 / £6.99
Reviewed by Pat Lunn
Today I’ve learnt a new thing. Did you know that there’s a term for top-down shooters with enemies that fire in patterns instead of aiming directly down the screen? Well there is. They are called ‘Psikyo Shooters’ and they’re considered to be some of the most challenging arcade games.
Imagine a screen filled with glowing orbs of death flying every which-way and you’re not far off. Psikyo were a prolific game publisher in the nineties and they coined the term ‘Psikyo Shooters’ with their landmark arcade title, Strikers 1945.
It was with this knowledge that I, the reviewer who had to put his last arcade shooting title on the lowest difficulty, stepped in to play the re-release of Strikers 1945 II with a grim determination that I would not play on the easiest mode.
Hard, But So Rewarding
After ten minutes of banging my head against the wall on medium difficulty, I finished Strikers 1945 II on easy mode. In fact, as this game has a sliding numerical scale of difficulty like Zerodiv's previous Switch offering Zero Gunner 2, I played this game through on ‘difficulty 0’. That being said, what I would’ve hoped to be a pleasant jaunt over war-torn Europe took a turn for the worse when I was killed on the first level. On zero difficulty. I’m a good gamer, I promise. Maybe if I give you a little context it’ll help you to see why I’m not a complete failure, and why I kept playing this game for around 12 hours until I’d finally conquered one rotation of the levels.
Strikers 1945 II follows a group of pilots, called the Strikers, as peace breaks out across Europe. The Strikers are sent out to fight small terrorist cells who are taking advantage of the chaos to establish bases across the continent. The game starts with you picking from 6 different era-specific planes, each one with a unique starting stage followed by a random campaign made up of the other planes' own starting stages. So, I hopped in my dogfighter and prepared for a small skirmish against a terrorist cell setting up in a French village.
The first thing that surprised me were the number of advanced fighter planes that these terrorists seemed to have. Armed with some sort of energy weapons, they sprayed carnage across the screen, leaving me absolutely no hope of dodging.
Still, as an honest Tommy, I pressed on and fought them off, weaving between their erratic firing patterns until I reached their boss. At which point I promptly decided to jump ship at the sight of a horrific steampunk mech. I was a World War II pilot fighting a huge mechanical war machine. That’s not funny Zerodiv, that’s just plain cruel.
Bob And Weave
There I was, a tiny ‘David’ in a cockpit, facing off against a gigantic mechanised ‘Goliath’. It unleashed a volley of fire towards me and I dogged masterfully, banking right and calling for support from the rest of the Strikers. My allies arrived and rained bullets on my foe. Using them as cover I manoeuvred around the battle and struck the weak points of my quarry.
After a few minutes of ducking and firing at the most opportune moments, the mech began to steam and then buckled. The hulk of scrap metal fell into the village square of the town beneath me, where I hope the children began to use it as a make-shift jungle gym.
That was the time I made it through at least. Before that I had died half a dozen times in the skies over France, but I like to focus on the positives.
It’s been awhile since a game has been able to give me this sort of visceral thrill, as I created this story in my head of a World War II survivor encountering a colossal robot for the first time. The game's strengths lie in simple controls and optimised graphics. I could easily let my mind drift into the scenario because all the barriers between me and the fantasy had melted away. Once that happened, I was captivated.
I think it’s fair to say that I added something to this game in the way that I played it. However, it's only because the graphics, gameplay and control scheme were so good that I was able to roleplay. The ‘Psikyo Shooters’ patterns created intense, split-second decisions where I had to dodge in a way that I would never normally consider, and the boss battles felt fresh and interesting for the World War II genre. If you love arcade shooters then Strikers 1945 II is right up your alley.
Pros & Cons
+ Easy to learn control scheme
+ Innovative ‘Psikyo Shooters’ enemy design
+ A range of interesting planes to try
- Steep learning curve
- Some repetitive level design