Fast Striker Review

Fast Striker is a Shoot’em Up (Shmup!) that joins many other retro classics as they get a second life on current-gen consoles.   But while other titles have received complete remakes and HD remasters, Fast Striker is brought to the PS4 (and PlayStation Vita) with a few gameplay updates.

For better and for worse playing Fast Striker on current gen hardware as it was nearly 8 years ago is an experience less than short and just a bit off the mark of sweet.

The Passion of the Shmup

It’s clear that NG: Dev.Team, the makers behind Fast Striker has a ton of love for classic Shoot’em ups. Mechanics and level design all hearken back to games like GradiusR-Type and even some GalagaFast Striker works to emulate the quarter pumping gameplay experience and brings a few less oft utilized ideas into the mix. Dodging a ridiculous amount of bullets, bombs and enemy craft is par for the course in these games and Fast Striker doesn’t miss the mark here.  Each stage is crammed with tons of energy shots, bouncing pink orbs of destruction and lasers that move faster than your ship and require quick reflexes to stay in front.  Fast Striker does fall short in the realm of collision detection and an established hitbox.  Shoot’em ups are a genre favorite for me and I’ve spent countless hours honing the craft dodging screen filling bullets and blowing up impossibly large spacecraft and super mechs.  However, there were many times that I simply couldn’t justify that I had escaped a nasty trap of randomly shot explosives or a systematic blast of blue globs and escaped without taking damage.

After a few too many “man that was great luck” moments I recorded my gameplay and took a look to confirm that, yes indeed, I did NOT escape being hit.  This is a problem in a shoot’em up since the expectation is that laser-like focus and near perfect movement control of the player craft are the tools you need to dodge your way into the next stage.

The controls aren’t necessarily sluggish but aren’t as crisp as I would have liked or expected.  My ship seemed to be moving like the rebel fleet in The Last Jedi. Controls just weren’t as sharp as I needed them to be in order to get maximum enjoyment.  After being spoiled with more recent titles like Resogun, or even older titles like Raiden it’s difficult to accept controls that miss the mark like this.

Weapons? We Ain’t Got No Stinkin’ Weapons

Simply put, the weapon selection is rough and not up to snuff. Weapon options are limited to a front facing weapon, a rear shot and a shield that protects from all damage and allows for massive ramming damage. While each of the four difficulties provides a different type of ammunition that is fired, it does seem like a huge miss to not have more options.  It’s also a tad disappointing to not have weapon upgrades.  One of the joys of this genre is chaining kills and getting upgrades that allow more lasers to come from your tiny ship, or extra homing missiles to blast out of the side.  I saw no discernible changes in most modes during my 4 hours playing through the game.

The new PS4 version, Omake Mode, did have a weapon that increased in damage the more kills that were chained.  Definitely more fun, but this comes at the cost of the increased difficulty that can end a novice’s run fairly quickly.

Difficulty in each of the four settings was spot on.   Players can have a more relaxed time blasting through Novice mode and continue to progress to each following difficulty as they increase in skill. Going from Novice to Normal, felt just hard enough that players would be challenged without feeling like they’ve been dropped into a hopeless fight.  This is true for the progression to each following difficulty setting and speak volumes as to how tightly crafted the level design and combat is.

That’s No Moon…

The enemies in Fast Striker aren’t anything that hasn’t been seen before but the level design and particular enemies in Stage 3 (out of 6) is just amazing.  It has a great use of a laser grid that cuts on and off and forces players to maneuver much more aggressively.  Most games in the genre allow for the player to hover their craft nearly at the bottom/back of the level to have the most time to react to incoming fire.  This stage forces players out of that comfort zone and into the front and middle of the stage to continuously dodge fire and not be trapped by a laser expanding across the full stage.  It’s great design and had me tense in a genre that I normally never have to struggle with new ideas in. These are the moments when Fast Striker shines and I wish there were more of them.

“Huge Boss Battles” is one of the marketing taglines that is associated with Fast Striker and these enemies are large, but not more so than what you’d expect from any other shoot’em up. Their projectile trajectories and firing cadences are just off-putting enough to really give a challenge, even at the normal difficulty.  Fighting and dodging 90 on-screen projectiles is never better than in Fast Striker’s boss battles.  However, much like the entire game itself, these stage ending fights are just too short.  Most didn’t even have the enemy change tactics at certain intervals of damage or time.  While fun they lasted less than a minute in most of my runs.

The Verdict

Fast Striker is a game that was too late to be a part of the 80’s and 90’s shoot’em up arcade success and too early to be a part of the retro genre resurgence that has occurred this console cycle. While there are good experiences to be had in the boss battles and a few of the levels that have some excellent design, the extremely short playthrough time, collision detection issue and lack of additional weapons or upgrades don’t do the game any favors.  Fast Striker is a title that is fun to play once or twice but doesn’t have longevity or content to enjoy much longer than that.

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