Fans of top-down shoot ‘em ups will be pleased that yet another blast from the past has returned in the form of Psikyo’s excellent Strikers 1945 II. The game, ported by Zerodiv, adds to a growing library of quality arcade games which are quickly turning the Switch into a retro gamer’s dream. But does this do enough to stand out from the crowd?
If you were to take a walk around any arcade back in the day you’d notice a huge number of vertically scrolling shoot ‘em ups featuring aeroplanes. Usually based around modern fighters or WW2, in truth, few stood out, as cool kids vied for honours on the latest fighting or driving games. One series that did become hugely successful, however, was Capcom’s 194X series, spawning a number of home computer and console ports. Unless you know your stuff it’s easy to assume that Strikers 1945 II is part of that series – as well as sharing similar titles they both feature similar looking planes and gameplay. And let’s be honest, the Strikers games clearly borrow heavily from Capcom’s iconic shooters. Putting aside these concerns, Psikyo does have some serious pedigree as a developer of arcade shoot ’em ups and it’s really worth exploring their games if you have even the slightest interest in this genre.
Psikyo is a Japanese developer that formed in the early 1990s to produce arcade games at a time when arcades were in decline. Being late to the party, they are not as well known as some other developers (such as the aforementioned Capcom), and their games have been largely overlooked by mainstream gamers as a result. They came from the team that developed the highly regarded Aero Fighters (Sonic Wings in Japan) and focused on producing top-down arcade shoot ‘em ups of this ilk. Their games were mainly ported to Sega and Playstation consoles so flew under many Nintendo fans’ radars. Nintendo consoles have never been synonymous with this type of game so it’s great to see the Switch attracting classic shoot ‘em ups so early in its life. It’s the perfect console to experience them in their full arcade glory thanks to the glorious vertical TATE mode which this game takes advantage of.
Strikers 1945 II is the sequel to Strikers 1945. Both games are set in the year 1945 and World War 2 is still raging. A terrorist organisation, known as F.G.R in the sequel, is using alien technology and weaponry to take over the world. Pilots from different countries have banded together to take on the enemy. That’s about all there is to it but arcade shoot ‘em ups were never known for their great storylines.
At the start of the game, you get to choose from 6 planes which are all real WW2 aircraft from the period – great for people who have an interest in aviation. The Shinden and Lighting return from Strikers 1945 along with 4 more planes including the Mosquito, Focke-Wulf and Flying Pancake (seriously!). Some of these planes are experimental prototypes which works well with the whole alien technology theme. Each plane handles fairly similarly but offers a variety of different weaponry and special weapons. This results in different playing styles with some having more concentrated fire-power and others better spread.
As well as wave upon wave of enemy fighter planes, the game is packed with ground-based enemies such as tanks and trains. There are big bosses mid-level and end-of-level which really take advantage of the alien technology, morphing from standard WW2 vehicles such as a bomber or battleship into giant mechs.
Pick a weapon
Your plane has an auto-fire button (A on the Switch) which continuously sprays bullets. The Y button is a special charge-shot and when held down will release a type of bomb or missile – there’s a meter at the bottom of the screen which charges up from levels 1-3 for different powered shots. Press X or B buttons for a super bomb attack which is handy for unleashing fury on big bosses – you get a limited number of these but more can be collected in-game! You can re-configure the buttons in the options menu if you prefer a different layout.
During the game, you pick up several weapon power-ups which make your little plane O.P. with guns and missiles – when you die you lose these but it’s possible to pick them up again if you’re quick. There are also gold bars to collect to improve your high score.
The game is set out over 8 levels including a port, desert, sea, town and mountains – these go well with the overall WW2 theme even if they are a bit are a bit dull in colour. The meaty explosions, colourful bullets and missiles really pop though. What’s great about this game (as well as the original Strikers 1945) is that the first four levels are chosen randomly every time you start a new game. This really helps to prolong replayability.
Choose your difficulty
You can choose from several difficulty levels ranging from ‘monkey’ to ‘very hard’ and trust me – even ‘easy’ is incredibly challenging. Unlike a standard arcade port, you don’t get unlimited credits as standard – you can, however, change the number of lives and continues you will start with in the options menu. I actually prefer this as it feels more like a console game and adds more challenge. Once your credits are lost the game will end and you get to enter your high score in a table which is, unfortunately, not online. It’s still great to be able to compete against your own (and friends’) high scores. If you are good enough to finish the game it will loop back to the beginning at a higher level of difficulty.
Strikers 1945 II released in arcades in 1997 and as such is relatively a modern vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up – the game has great graphics and looks beautiful on the Nintendo Switch. The game has aged very well graphically and feels modern thanks to the alien mechs meets WW2 theme. The ‘rock synth’ soundtrack is excellent and suits the game perfectly. Performance is very smooth with no slow down apparent in docked or handheld mode.
There are 3 graphical filters to choose from, giving you the option of scan-lines, soft CRT and sharp pixels. I personally prefer option 3 with scan-lines. Video capture is also supported.
The game can be played in standard ‘landscape’ view which is fine on a large TV but the playfield is tiny in handheld mode. Switch to vertical ‘TATE’ view though and detach the Joy-Cons for a fantastic portable arcade experience for up to 2 players. The game looks and plays fantastically in this mode and it’s worth investing in a stand for games like this. I bought a cheap little portable stand from Amazon priced at £6.99 and it does the job perfectly:
Value for Money
The game costs a reasonable £6.99 (UK price) from the Nintendo e-store. The randomised early levels and variety of planes and weapons on offer give this game great replay value. If you are looking for a vertical arcade shoot ‘em up then this is an excellent choice and the only negative is the absence of an online scoreboard. Owners of the original Strikers 1945 may want to think twice as the games are very similar but shoot ‘em up fans will lap this up.
A lovely little arcade shoot ‘em up which is worth exploring if you’re a fan of the genre or just looking for a quick blast from the past. People unfamiliar with Psikyo’s games are likely to develop a whole new level of appreciation for this developer. This is an ideal game to take advantage of your Switch’s TATE mode and honestly looks lovely in all its vertical arcade glory.