Games honoring the 8-Bit or 16-Bit gaming era are no longer new at this point. It’s a very competitive market and a game like Steel Assault, at first glance, doesn’t seem to have much new to offer. Was that the case?
Part of a campaign launched via Kickstarter in 2015, Steel Assault had a much longer development period than virtually any other project of similar scale. This is partly due to a change in art style: originally looking to emulate NES games, developer Zenovia Interactive has transitioned to art reminiscent of SNES-era games.
At first glance, it’s certainly very convincing. Every aspect is appropriate for the era it’s being imitated: the intro movie, the menus (and associated sound effects), and there’s even an image filter to make the image look like it’s coming from a CRT monitor.
So, we got into the game itself, which is nothing more than a side-progressing action game with inspirations ranging from Castlevania a Against, passing certainly through Ninja Gaiden (from the NES). So, for those familiar with these games, the pace of the action, the way enemies appear and their behavior… It’s all going to look very similar.
The player takes charge of Taro Takahashi in a post-apocalyptic version of the United States, which is led by a dictator who has an army of robots at his disposal and… Well, to be honest, it doesn’t matter much. Most of this story, in fact, isn’t even told in the game itself. In what is perhaps more of an attempt to emulate certain older games, most of the story is told in non-game materials, such as manuals — or, for that matter, on the official website. There is some dialogue in the middle of the game and an attempt to tell part of the story through the sets, but the narrative is essentially a background only.
Well, but what can Taro actually do?
Taro’s main action is a whip attack, which can be aimed in any of eight directions and can even be used to counter certain projectiles. When hitting an enemy with the whip, the camera (by default) shakes, which, combined with the fluid animations, results in a great form of feedback to the player. Throughout the game, it is possible to find some modifiers for this standard attack. For example, a power-up makes the whip shoot orbs of electricity. However, these modifiers are relatively rare and don’t actually affect how you approach enemies. What’s left, therefore, is the basic attack, which isn’t much of a problem, as it’s a versatile enough attack for the game’s needs.
The second action Taro can take is to throw hooks in two directions simultaneously and, if there are colliding objects on both sides, attach a rope to which he can hang on. Like the whip, these hooks can also be aimed in multiple directions. It’s a mechanic that reminds a little Bionic Commando, even though Taro can only navigate the rope and not swing on it. It is also important to emphasize that hooks are not an attack, so their functions are exclusively to access new platforms and avoid attacks. A beautiful example of this is given during the boss battle of the second chapter, when the player needs to jump off the platform where the action is taking place and hang down to avoid certain attacks.
Overall, the action is fast and fluid. There are some additional actions, such as a trip that makes Taro temporarily invulnerable, and a double jump, that contribute to the player feeling in full control of the character. It’s just a shame that there are few situations in the short duration of the game that take full advantage of the movement and attack mechanics.
At times, the game resembles the genre called “bullet hell”.Fonte: Tribute Games
Which brings us precisely to the time to finish the game. In the main mode, on Normal difficulty, the five chapters (levels) of Steel Assault they last between an hour and an hour and a half. There are, of course, other difficulties and even an Arcade mode (no checkpoints and no extra lives), but in any case, the game content is limited to a tutorial and five chapters. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Although there is a certain desire to see greater creativity around the mechanics of Steel Assault, opportunities for this were not lacking in the five chapters that are here. Therefore, extending the duration would not guarantee a greater display of creativity. Thus, it is possible to say that the development team considered the scope of the project very well — extending the duration could eventually make limitations appear.
When it comes to the design of the levels themselves, there is a good variety of enemies and situations, including sections with turrets and vehicles. The bosses are also interesting, each one presenting something unique from those who came before. Still, the impression one gets from the levels is that the variety of scenarios is what’s doing most of the work of giving variety to the game as a whole.
Thus, it is still necessary to mention the beautiful pixel art displayed in the title. The animations are very fluid and the level of detail in the scenarios and enemies is impressive. Bosses often even remember Metal Slug in terms of the quality of the art — and anyone familiar with the SNK series knows that this is quite an achievement. Certainly the limits of 16-bit consoles weren’t strictly adhered to, but who cares?
Even minor bosses display a high level of detail in art and animation.Fonte: Tribute Games
By the way: the filter that makes the screen look like a CRT monitor is even efficient at emulating such screens, and the game’s official Twitter account even made an appeal so developers don’t turn it off. Still, it’s possible that it doesn’t please everyone. Then there is the issue of the bilinear filter, which is also activated by default, but which can make the image look very blurry. It’s a matter of personal preference and many players will certainly turn off both effects, but either way, it’s commendable to see the developers’ concern to create an “authentic” experience from the time it’s being emulated.
Not, Steel Assault it’s not really different from the mountain of games inspired by the 16-bit era. Still, whatever Steel Assault does is done competently. In the end, we have a quick distraction, which probably won’t stay in memory for long, but which doesn’t make a bad impression either. It’s a good start for Zenovia Interactive.