Review: Strikers 1945 Plus Portable (Sony PSP)

Strikers 1945 Plus Portable
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: PM Studios
Genre: Traditional Shooter
Release Date: 06/30/09

Ahhh, the top down shooter. I have no idea how many thousands of my parent’s dollars I wasted on game like these back in the day. Galaga, 1942, Strikers 1945: Oh, how I loved you. Oh how, I loathed you. You could say I have a love-hate relationship with them, especially with the arcade versions. I love playing them and I hate feeding the quarters to keep playing because I’m not exactly fast or skilled with them. I also have a kind of love-hate relationship with this version as well, but for differing reasons.

Story/Modes
Story? Well there’s a story, but it’s not really told in this game. This game is about flying some obscure and not necessarily great aircraft against some kind of mega-freakish weapons of death that couldn’t possibly have existed in 1945 except in the mind of some aspiring anime or manga artist. So let’s talk modes.

Basic play mode let’s you pilot one of seven planes: the P-38 Lightning, which was actually used by the United States in WW II, the “Flying Pancake” of which only two were built because it was too weird and that bad an aircraft, the Spitfire Mk. VI which was heavily used by the Brits in WW II, the Zero Type 52 used by the Japanese, the Focke Wulf Ta 152 used by Germany towards the very end of the war, the Fiat G.55 used by Italy, and lastly the hidden XP-55 Ascender of which only three were built by the United States and didn’t have a very good flight record as two-thirds of them crashed and burned. Didn’t know I was going to sneak that history in on you, did you?

You fly through your stages as they scroll, taking out enemies as you go collecting power-ups and so on with no clear real reason why other than you either kill or be killed.

With the PSP version, you’ve got a multi-player option that I didn’t get to use, but having two players on screen through ad-hoc would be fantastic and would probably help with the absolutely insane difficulty of this game, but more on that in the balance area.

Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable

Graphics
This really doesn’t push the PSP to its limits. It’s a 2D top-down shooter. The graphics do look decent but feel dated, which is a shame, but they do their job and really kick up the nostalgia. One of the nice options is the ability to go in an putz around with the screen size and how it look on the PSP, kind of like how you can do with the standard PS One titles. Basically all that does is determine how much of the sides and top of the screen are taken up by HUD. Personally I favored the Full screen setting so I could see it all.

Graphics Rating: Good

Sound
This game doesn’t really have a ton of sounds or music that stand out, which is a shame. The constant firing and weapons drown out any soundtrack this game has with a cacophony of explosions that made my ears numb to most of it. In this area it has a very generic feel to it. I could play this with or without sound and wouldn’t be missing out. Honestly I’d rather pop on some Metallica or Rammstein and keep the volume down. At least then I’d be listening to something I could make out.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

Control and Gameplay
The game does give you some customization here which really surprised me. You actually have the option of using either the d-pad or the analog nub to pilot your plane around with. My one problem with this though is that using either feels spongy and never feels like the planes are responding fast enough to your directions which can be frustrating. You’ve also got the face buttons to pound away on to summon bombers, drop a powered up attack or just fire rapidly at your enemies.

Gameplay is pretty much the standard for most shooters, move your plane around blowing away everything on screen for high score bragging rights and try to avoid being wasted. Simple and effective. Some enemies leave behind gold bars you can pick up to pad your score, others drop more bomber support calls, and some give you upgrade goodies that turn you into a flying one man arsenal of doom that can taken out by a single hit from another vehicle. But that is the shooter set-up, however in this game the difficulty can be insanely frustrating. Luckily you can continue as many times as you want as long as you don’t mind giving up that score you’d just tallied up to knock yourself down a notch on the high score table.

Pulling up bomber support pulls in a single large plane or a group of small planes that bomb everything on screen and give you some fantastic cover and a small relief from getting blown away. Each of the powered up attacks differ slightly but each one can devastate a big chunk of enemies or one large target on screen in one hit.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good

Replayability
Pop in quarter. Play a few minutes. Die. Pop in quarter to continue. Play a few minutes more… rinse repeat. That’s what it was like in the arcade anyway. Here the game pretty much keeps cycling through after you’ve beaten it, but with some random stages thrown in a few key spots to keep you from getting too bored. Really though once you played this through one time, it’s not going to be that much different the second time you play it. Sure it’s fun for those of us addicted to these sort of games even if we do suck, but there’s nothing for that person with OCD to collect by playing the levels over and over again.

Unfortunately, the other planes don’t really fly that differently from one another, despite their real-life performance results. See the history lesson in the modes section. So even though you have seven planes to choose from it is mostly looks. Each one can summon a bomber to help that each look slightly differently but have the same effect. Same with the powered up attack. It all comes down to personal choice as it won’t really affect your play that much.

Replayability Rating: Mediocre

Balance
Here’s where this game tosses out easing a new user into things and laughs at them mockingly while beating them with the impossible stick. This game has NO balance. The first time you play, you’re lucky if you even make it through the first level without having to continue. I don’t think I even made it a minute’s play time before I had to “use a quarter.” It’s almost ridiculous how much they throw at you and expect you to dodge. Some of the boss battles it’s entirely impossible to play through without losing a life because there simply no place on the screen that doesn’t have some form of enemy flak or weapons fire on it. This game is not for the weak! We do not teach mercy here!

Price-wise this is going for $11.99. Personally I think there are better titles for cheaper prices that will play on your PSP and on your PS3. If you played this in the arcade, you’d spend more than $12 in quarters to beat it. I think part of that price is the cost to enable mutliplayer, but I think that may only be ad-hoc. I think this could go a bit lower before I could recommend it unless you’re into punishing shooters anyway.

Balance Rating: Awful

Originality
A port of a PSOne title that was released originally on another system and is itself a combination of the first two games in the series? I’d say the most original thing about this game is the over the top designs for the bosses, but again, if you’ve played the other games you’ve seen them before. Oh, and the prototype planes included in the game that never left the testing phase let alone saw combat was interesting.

Originality Rating: Pretty Poor

Addictiveness
If I was popping quarters in, I would have spent a week’s worth of unemployment checks into this game while I was playing it. Even as I cursed how completely unfair the levels were and my inability to really play the game, I couldn’t put it down. Even as I type this I’m staring at my PSP and know that if I turn it on the game will be there…waiting to own me. Must.. write… review…

Let’s just say, even with it’s flaws, the game is addictive as hell and leave it at that.

Addictiveness Rating: Amazing

Appeal Factor
The price and the fact that it is a port of an older game that WILL NOT play on the PS3 like the other PlayStation Classics titles will turn people off. On the other hand, it’s a classic shooter you can take with you anywhere and it’s one of those games where you can just quit if you feel like and have lost nothing. Seriously though, I’m not sure there’s a huge audience out there for it, which is a bit of a shame as it is a blast.

Appeal Factor Rating: Decent

Miscellaneous
I’ve said quite a bit of bad about the game, but I had a blast playing it. It’s not buggy, it loads fast, it doesn’t take up much space on the memory card, and it’s a decent if imperfect shooter. This game isn’t leaving my memory card or my play list for awhile.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable
Graphics Rating: Good
Sound Rating: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
Balance Rating: Awful
Originality Rating: Pretty Poor
Addictiveness Rating: Amazing
Appeal Factor Rating: Decent
Miscellaneous Rating: Great
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresize Strikers 1945 Plus is unforgiving, unbalanced shooter that will punish the slow and meek and continue to do the same to the skilled. As it is a port of another game, some might balk at the price. While I wasn’t thrilled with the way the planes controlled with the nub or the d-pad, I thoroughly enjoyed playing this on my PSP and it’s not going to be leaving my system anytime soon. Even now, it is waiting for me to turn my console back on right now to punish me some more.

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