Steel Assault Review: When Castlevania met Contra and Bionic Assault

2021-11-24 05:40:00 By : Ms. Jennifer King

When you instinctively want to press up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, you know that the game has a serious retro atmosphere. When Steel Assault was loaded on my Nintendo Switch, this was exactly what I thought of.

It boils down to an old habit that is hard to die.

As someone who honed the teeth of gamers in the 8-bit and 16-bit gaming era, I have always had a soft spot for the pixel-perfect aesthetics and crazy challenges provided by the games of that era. Even after the millennium, 3D games replaced 2D games, I still yearn for the classic gameplay that I have played since I was a child. This is a video game equivalent to comfort food.

This makes the renaissance of 2D action games — and their adoption by a new generation — warms the hearts of my players. In most cases, small or indie game developers lead the way, giving birth to new fanatical classics such as "Shovel Knight" and "Tea Cup Head". One of the latest games to join the growing pantheon of modern 2D games is Steel Assault, an action platform game with some remarkable retro features.

For experienced gamers, Steel Assault feels like an explosion in the past. From old-fashioned cutscenes and stories to pixel art, the visual effects of Steel Assaut are reminiscent of "explosive processing" is a buzzword, and the scan line of CRT TV is a normal part of life. In fact, the default setting of Steel Assault is to turn on the CRT cable, but if you prefer a clearer image, you can also turn it off. The game also uses a variety of techniques, which were once the epitome of technical achievements at the time, such as parallax scrolling in certain backgrounds.

The colorful palette of the game is pleasing to the eye, and it also contains a lot of detail in its background. For example, one stage is characterized by jungle leaves with rain effects and wildfires raging in the background. The attention to detail is commendable, but it can sometimes be a bit too busy. In some games, it is difficult to distinguish the projectiles and other hazards you need to avoid. This is the real killer in the game that requires precise manipulation to stay alive. It would be great if there was a way to achieve more visual separation between the fatal attack and the background while still retaining the rich details.

On the other hand, Steel Assault’s music is like a fusion of old-style soundtracks and modern styles. It is not purely retro, but due to the extensive use of keyboard and synthesizer effects and improvisation on vintage electric guitars, it still has a classic vibe. I found the soundtrack to be pleasant in general, it complements the visuals, and is reminiscent of the golden age of 16-bit games.

However, the true old-school advantages of Steel Assault are not limited to its appearance. The gameplay can also be described as a retro hardcore, and old-school game veterans will quickly recognize it.

Resistance fighter Takahashi Taro's moves essentially incorporate the classic skills of several well-known game protagonists. In addition to Taro being more agile, there is also a whip attack that is popular in games such as Castlevania. The ability to grab the platform from below, and the Theta Hydron battle that moves the perspective behind the character in the game, are all reminiscent of Contra. The game also has a line mechanism that may bring back games such as Bionic Commando, except that the line game is more like a zipline rather than a grappling hook.

To further improve Taro's action combination is a slide, which provides instant invincibility and double jump, increases height and increases mobility options. You need to use a combination of these actions to survive, because Steel Assault follows the same philosophy as the old-fashioned game that pays tribute to difficulties. The game is difficult and certainly involves a lot of trial and error to understand the enemy's location and patterns.

For example, when fighting a giant robot drill bug on a flying platform, the boss will ignite its surface at a key point. You need to jump off and double jump and connect the zipline to the locking point under the platform. At the same time, you need to attack the boss a few times while hanging, and then jump up after the fire goes out to avoid being hit. This is a busy, fast-paced action reminiscent of the 16-bit era. It may be frustrating, but once you master it, it will be equally rewarding.

At the same time, the gameplay is not perfect. For example, while the whip mechanism that allows you to attack from multiple angles works well, the zipline mechanism can be finicky. In my first battle with the aforementioned giant mechanical drill bug, there were several times when my zipline shot at the wrong angle, which caused me to miss the latch and fall into bad luck. This can be particularly annoying when you are doing an excellent run with barely touched, just missed your zipline latch and died from a seemingly cheap fall, but your health is full or almost full . This is especially problematic when using the Joycon of the Switch, which makes it more difficult to input the direction accurately, although I still occasionally encounter problems with the zipline when using the Switch controller.

Fortunately, the game uses a checkpoint system on basic difficulty, so you don't have to start from scratch after death to try to learn the Boss mode. Of course, sometimes the checkpoint will go too far and you will have to go back to your steps again. However, in general, I like how this game allows you to have only one life bar and unlimited lives instead of a few lives and limited lives. At least in normal mode, it can help you learn the game faster. Otherwise, masochists can increase the difficulty to hard mode or enter (gasp) arcade mode, if they really want to flashback how difficult the past game was, and everyone has to walk a mile to go to school, there is only one life and no continue.

The best thing is if the game time is longer. A large part of the length of the game will come from dying over and over again when you are familiar with its stages, middle bosses and bosses. However, once you figure it out, you can finish the game very quickly. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because many old-school classic games (such as Contra) may also be short. At the same time, game players nowadays have different expectations, so it would be nice to have more content. 

If the game has more replay value, then the short length is not even a bad thing. Even things like Easter eggs, collectibles, or a fulfilling new game plus mode will be great, because once you finish it there is not much motivation to replay the game again. Simply adding cooperative games can greatly increase the replay value of the game, although this requires a major redesign of the stage, which is understandable. 

It is true that Steel Assault has a low budget, so it is understandable that its content is not so extensive. On the bright side, the journey is fun, even if it ends a bit too quickly. This is a short and sweet perfect example.

Playing Steel Assault is like being sent back to Sega to do things that Nintendo does not do and explode the era in its heyday. From pixel-perfect visual effects to retro 2D action mechanisms, Steel Assault is similar to the comfort food of video games, suitable for anyone weaning during the golden age of 8-bit and 16-bit games. The game is short, lack of cooperation and unlocking after the game affects the value of replay. However, if you are eager to play some classic twitch games, Steel Assault is like an explosion of the past.

Jason Hidalgo reports on business and technology for Reno Gazette Journal and reviews the latest video games. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo. Do you like this content? Support local news through RGJ digital subscription.