Sunday, 16 October 2011

SNES Shmups #3

Strike Gunner S.T.G. (1992)
By: Athena / Tecmo Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Mediumd
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: I don't know, it doesn't give you a chance to record it!
Also Available For: Arcade

Since I started writing this blog it has served two main purposes. The first has been to stir some of my many fond memories of the games and systems I played while I was growing up. The other is to introduce me to titles I missed for whatever reason the first time around. The time I've spent playing Strike Gunner over the last couple of weeks has done a little of both. I have a vague recollection of it receiving very little attention in magazines of the day, maybe the odd unenthusiastic review in the corner of a page, so it went under the radar of most SNES gamers, including me. I can't even remember what brought it back to my attention just recently but I went in expecting little. Shoot 'em ups were ten a penny on the 16-bit consoles after all, so if this one was much good, we'd have all heard about it long ago, surely?

The plot certainly does nothing to set the game apart. There's something about an evil dictator joining forces with some evil, conniving aliens to destroy mankind and take over the world. Our remaining scientists are of course able to use the last of our resources to hastily construct two 'advanced prototype' assault crafts with unmatched power and abilities. Taking control of these fighters are the rather ordinary-sounding 'Jane' and 'Mark', one or both of whom must pilot them through eight stages of vertically-scrolling, enemy-ridden danger. The craft are armed with bog-standard forward-firing cannons but that's not all. Immediately after the fairly striking title screen (no pun intended) comes the game's first attempt at innovation - you can choose from some fifteen different special weapons to supplement your default gun.

You can only choose one special weapon per stage but your choice can make a tremendous difference to your progress through the game. They include various different kinds of cannons and missiles which vary enormously in power and therefore how often you can use them. For example, using the Homing Missiles fires two small heat-seekers which can be pretty handy but don't do a huge amount of damage so they can be used quite a few times before the energy-meter is emptied. On the other hand, using the MegaBeam Cannon causes devastating carnage but it empties the energy-meter after only one use. Fortunately, power-ups are fairly frequently encountered. These are dropped by passing Stealth Bombers (or Space Shuttles on later stages) and will either boost the power of your standard cannon, give you a speed-up, or refill the special weapon energy-meter, which can be particularly helpful!

This also helps to make this one of the fairest shmups I've played. Although your basic gun can be powered-up several times, it never reaches amazing levels of destructive power which means that when you lose a life it's completely realistic to continue without too many problems, especially as play resumes immediately from the point of death. It's also a game that rarely overwhelms you with enemies. Most of them come in the form of helicopters, jets, tanks, etc, which can be taken out with a shot or two from the standard cannon. Waves of them are occasionally interrupted by barrages of fast missiles and there's increasingly frequent larger enemy vehicles which require more time to destroy, but there are also moments now and then, as long as ten seconds sometimes, with nothing on the screen besides the red fighter you control (and a blue one too, in two player mode).

It's not an especially impressive game from a technical point of view. The music is great but there's not too many different tunes, and it's the same with the sound effects really. Graphically, everything is neat and tidy but there's not much variety in the backgrounds which include the usual forest, desert, and ocean scenarios before moving into space, and it's here that the sprites change from various sizes of military-type vehicles into alien spacecraft, but there are few examples of each type. Even the bosses are mostly just giant versions of normal enemies. The scrolling through the stages is mostly very slow as well and sometimes the scenery doesn't even change between stages. Despite all this, I still really liked Strike Gunner. It looks and sounds pretty good at first but there doesn't seem to be anything special about it either. For some reason, however, it's superb!

The pace of the gameplay isn't like most shmups I've played for one thing. One minute there's a few helicopters drifting onto the screen, one at a time, and you can just take them out with a solitary shot each, a bit like a shooting gallery. Then suddenly, a load of tanks will drive onto the screen and fill the air with heat-seeking rockets! If you manage to get past them, there may be nothing for a few seconds. Then a barrage of missiles fired by unseen launchers career down the screen at you! It's definitely a game that keeps you on your toes! The stages are pretty long too and there's some nice attention to detail. The airborne craft cast shadows on the ground below, for example. Special mention must also go to the outstanding two-player mode which, as well as the usual, also allows the players to combine they ships into a super-ship - one player controls flight with the other unleashing the new special combo weapons! It's remains hard to adequately explain the appeal this game has though. A couple of the special weapons are quite flashy, but apart from that it looks like a totally generic shmup. All I can say is - give it a try - I think you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

RKS Score: 8/10


  1. Thank you! I like your blog too :) Maybe we should get married...

  2. That does look like a good one, I love generic shmups like that! I have to find out what it is called on the Super Famicom.

    And yes, you two should get married:)

  3. This is one I've never put my hands on.
    Neat writing, maybe in a few weeks I will try it!

  4. Thanks Sean! :P I believe the SFC version has the same name. Not sure how common it is though, the UK version is quite rare as I understand it.

    Cheers Edward! As I said in the review, it doesn't really have anything to make it stand out, I just really enjoyed it! :)