Shooters were still very popular in the early 90s for the Sega Genesis. In 1992, HOT B and Flying Edge teamed up and released “Steel Empire” for the Genesis. The side-scrolling shooter was unique in a variety of ways that made it fly above the generic shooters that flooded the market. It’s time to defend our homes in this Steel Empire review!
Steel Empire Plot:
When you picture a shooter in your head, I’m sure you imagine space with aliens or jet fighters with screaming missiles. Steel Empire took a much different but refreshing route with the setting. Set in the late 19th century (1800s) this world is an alternate reality of what Earth is.
Empires rule the planet, the largest one that has taken control of the world is called the “Steel Empire” run by its soldiers called “Motorheads”. These Motorheads have conquered most of the world except a small empire called the “Republic of Silverhead” that has engineered higher-performing energy to power their airplanes. The Motorheads still rely on steam-powered planes, making them less powerful. The Motorheads have tracked down the last of the Silverheads in a small base in Antarctica.
The player takes on the role of a Silverhead pilot who goes on seven missions to defend, attack and destroy the Steel Empire. The final fight takes place in space as the commander of the Motorheads has launched himself in orbit. After taking his ship down, the world is again free from the grip of the Steel Empire. Let’s fly into the gameplay portion of this Steel Empire review.
Steel Empire Gameplay:
As I mentioned in the preview, Steel Empire is a unique shooter that stands out in a wave of shooters from the early 90s. Most shooters, the ship can only shoot from the front but in Steel Empire, the pilot flies a plane with the ability to shoot in front and behind with a simple press of a different button. This action comes in handy because enemies will come from both in front and behind your plane, but the game does it fairly and it never feels overwhelming on the screen with enemies coming at you from both ends. I enjoy my fair share of shooters and this was one gimmick I thought needed to be discussed in my Steel Empire review.
All of Steel Empire’s levels take place in the sky, above the ocean or in caverns except for the final mission where you are in orbit. I think Steel Empire helped differentiate itself from all the space shooters by incorporating a different environment to go along with its alternate universe. During your missions, you’ll be able to level up per se by gaining experience. There will be certain planes that if you kill will drop little bubbles that give you bonus points, health, bombs, and experience. You’ll need the experience to fill your gauge up. When it gets filled up your bullets will become stronger and cause more damage against bosses. You can also get two twin ships that mimic your movements and shooting. I loved having them tag along during my Steel Empire review.
When worst comes to worst, you’ll have an option to deploy your secret weapon which is a giant bomb that will shoot lightning all over the screen. I didn’t use this option much except for when I came across two boss fights. The first time I used the bomb was when I was in a tight space and needed the boss ship to back up and the other was against the final boss when I blasted him with eight bombs that I had collected throughout the game.
After reviewing many different genres of games, I have discovered that I suck at one-on-one fighting games, but I’m not that bad with shooters. Steel Empire presented a moderate challenge, but I was able to overcome each level with just a few tries. I think the sprite of the plane I flew was very ugly and most of the enemy planes were ugly too, I’m just not a fan of the brown and red color match. What does work is the beautiful sprites of the bosses and large enemy blimps and ships. It was so much fun to fly near a gigantic ship or flying fortress and destroy it piece-by-piece. Vulnerable parts of the enemy will stick out and you’ll have to destroy that segment of the ship before moving on to the others.
During my Steel Empire review I had the option to pick either an airplane or a blimp to pilot. The airplane is quicker but has less health, the blimp is slower but can take more damage. I never tried out the blimp sticking to the airplane. I thought it steered well and didn’t have any issues with controls. There were a few moments of screen lag but that actually helped me out as I could maneuver the bullets better.
There aren’t any cutscenes besides a small intro to Steel Empire at the beginning. You are briefed before each mission on where you are and who you fighting and why, which I thought was a nice touch.
I never had a Sega Genesis growing up but I had a few friends who did. They didn’t have Steel Empire but as I got older and more into video games I heard that the Genesis was home to many great shooters. I looked into a few of them and settled on Steel Empire due to its unique setting. I had fun playing it and beat it within a day. Most shooters are extremely short, so it wasn’t a surprise to me that my Steel Empire review ended quickly.
Steel Empire Review Score:
Steel Empire brings a few unique elements to the shooter genre. I’m not a fan of steampunk, but the setting was nice to see instead of just stars and space. The ship I piloted was very ugly but some of the enemy sprites, particularly the boss ships were visually impressive. Being able to shoot both forward and backward was a fun touch and so was leveling up with experience. If you want a change of pace to the shooter genre pick up Steel Empire.
Steel Empire scores a 6.8 out of 10.
What would you write in your Steel Empire review? Have you heard of Steel Empire or played it before? How does it compare to other shooters you’ve played. Did you choose the airplane or the blimp to play as? Let me know your thoughts and memories, I’d love to read them!