Steel Vampire Review
Shmups typically have only a handful of difficulty settings, but Henketo Doujin allows players to choose their challenge on the fly with their new title Steel Vampire. Does its six levels offer enough variety for both neophytes and veterans, or are players better off sticking with the classics of the genre?
Steel Vampire Review
Amidst all of the bullets and larger-than-life ships of Steel Vampire lies an overly dramatic story. Found in one of the menus, it tells of a time of peace 500 years since the last war. However, people are dying at a rapid rate due to a blood loss epidemic known as “Steel Vampire.” As it turns out, only the pilot Yoshino Sakurajima can save the day. Though this plot does not match the gameplay as well as the developers hoped, it is still welcome nonetheless.
In true shmup fashion, players will take to the skies in this title with their weapon and subweapon of choice. Those who want to dish out the most damage must get up close and personal, however, as players can take down enemies faster by getting their ship almost on top of their foes. There is no penalty for bumping into rival ships, which encourages players to take an offensive approach to each of its six levels.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well as you would think. The idea of waging a DPS battle with enemies is intriguing, but the game is extremely challenging. Your large ship hitbox is just the start – multiple enemies take to the screen at any given time, and finding out which enemy to give your attention to can be tricky. The playfield scrolls a good ways horizontally as well, meaning that there is more real estate to cover. It is entirely possible to navigate to the far left or far right of the screen, thereby missing a good chunk of the action. It quickly proves to be too much to manage.
This is made that much more difficult with its difficulty settings. Players will start Steel Vampire on “Very Hard” – there’s nothing easier. However, through the collection of Green Combat Logs dropped from enemies, players can up the difficulty setting to something that borders on the impossible. Though there are Red Combat Logs that decrease your rank and make things a bit more manageable, it is far too easy to accidentally pick up ones you do not want, due to the limited safe zones available. This title is relentless, and even those who memorize all enemy placements and bullet patterns will be put at a disadvantage due to the large ship size. A “VoBurn” ability that blocks enemy bullets and deals damage is available, but players are penalized for using it. Same goes for those that hold down the fire button to use their secondary weapons – those who want to get the highest scores should ignore a number of mechanics that make this title unique.
Bosses prove to be fairly challenging as well. Featuring names like “Annihilation Fish,” “Serpent Gate,” and “Murder Tank,” these baddies take up a large amount of real estate. It can be tough taking them down, but those having trouble can cheese their way through by going back to the title screen and choosing the specific number on the level select screen that corresponds to the area.
Steel Vampire’s concept of on-the-fly difficulty settings has merit, but it proves to be far too challenging from the get-go. Its focus on offensive play ultimately puts players at a disadvantage, making it only worthwhile for the most hardened of shmup fans.