Fast Striker is a 2D vertical shoot’em up (shmup) composed of six stages, boss battles, four difficulty settings for replay value, and a ton of bullets. Contrary to its name, this bullethell isn’t exactly fast paced. While the screen is often filled with projectiles, especially in the later stages, the player’s ship actually moves with stiff controls. Also, the player doesn’t “strike” enemies as opposed to blast them with laser cannons. Strike is more of a melee combat term.
Despite the name not making much sense, this PS4/Vita digital download has a gimmick to help separate it from the other shumps out there. The “X” button shoots forward whereas the square button shoots backward. Unfortunately, the level design never really makes solid use of this forward/back gameplay mechanic. It isn’t until the last half of the game is shooting backward a necessity and ultimately seems like a missed opportunity. The “O” button, however, incorporates the shield system which can be used for offensive or defensive capabilities. Tapping this button will unleash one powerful burst attack but storing it can save the player from a single hit that would otherwise cause a loss of one life. This also is an interesting gameplay element but found myself always saving it for defensive purposes since the burst attack option is limited in range and scope – it is not a screen-clearing bomb.
From a technical stand point, Fast Striker runs at a smooth frame rate but lacks in the visual department. It is strange because the enemies and backgrounds are detailed but the bullets themselves are nothing more than brightly colored blobs. The difference between the two are rather jarring and looks awkward when compared to one another. It is also important to mention this is a vertical shooter and there are options to adjust the screen layout in the main menu. Unfortunately, there is no way to make the game fill the entire screen, leaving space on both sides for boarders. There are several boarder options to choose from, but most feature an image that the player will never see making it a wonder why there are even there in the first place. A game like this seems better suited to the vertical mode on Switch and would only be worse playing on the smaller Vita screen. Luckily, the soundtrack is much better as each track is a high-paced EDM tempo that fits the style of this space shooter.
Besides having bragging rights by seeing the game to the end, a shooter would be incomplete without a scoreboard to register the best players. Here again is a mixed bag as the game incorporates a combo system, in which the player earns additional score for collecting icons dropped by each defeated enemy, but doesn’t let the player demonstrate their skill against the rest of the world. Not only does Fast Striker feature a local-only leaderboard, the player can only view the top scores upon Game Over; there is no only to view scores from the menu or pause screen. It is also important to point out that this shump is single player only. With the front-and-back shooting mechanic and combo scoring system in place, not having a 2-player co-op options makes this final package feel incomplete and disappointing; one player could have handled front attacks where the second player concentrates fire from behind. Also, when the player dies on the last credit, you have wait 20 seconds for the countdown timer to expire before moving onto the high score screen. Why doesn’t the game just end when there is no way to continue?
For every one thing Fast Striker does right, it does two things wrong. It not only lacks polish and general housekeeping features, the complete absence of co-op and online leaderboards is nothing but a massive let down. Perhaps a sequel with more time in development could prove more entertaining as there is solid groundwork for something fun here.