Legend of Steel Empire (Switch) Review

Originally released on the Sega Master System in 1992 and then ported to several other consoles including PC, GBA, and 3DS, Steel Empire is a quality, cult favorite shooter. Officially redubbed The Legend of Steel Empire for this Switch release, this is essentially the same game right down to the lack of extras. A PS4 version is scheduled to release sometime in 2024 as well.

While nothing new or extra has been added, Steel Empire is still a fun shmup. Although it takes less than an hour to burn through all seven stages, it is a joyous romp from beginning to end. There are two playable crafts: a speedy and smaller bird-like plane, and a beefier zeppelin. Both feature similar firepower so there isn’t a massive difference between the two. However, there are several difficulty settings, making this a playable and beatable game for all skill levels.

In addition to the sepia toned steampunk visual style, the other gimmick comes from its intuitive control scheme that merges nicely with the gameplay. Steel Empire is a horizontal shooter, but the player is free to shoot right, assigned to the “A” button, and left, assigned to the “Y” button on the Switch Pro Controller. Then, the special attack is unleashed by tapping “B”.  So the direction in which you shoot is basically mapped to the positioning of the face buttons. Simple yet brilliant.

Shooting forwards and backwards is tied directly to the level design and enemy placement. At times, the camera will pan in the opposite direction, fully embracing the need to shoot in both directions. Power ups and health drops also keep the action pleasant throughout as enemies drop these items upon getting shot out of the sky. However, it took me a couple play throughs to realize that a couple bosses repeat throughout the campaign. Sure, you will smoke hundreds of the same ships throughout the campaign, but the there is one giant boss ship that gets reused, one that you must blast through in chunks. It is a good fight, one that is rather creative for a shooter, but have been cool if there was a different final boss. But, this is a nitpicky complain since the overall shooter gameplay is so solid.

Now that this cult shooter has been ported so many times, it is disappointing that this isn’t definitive version. The lack of online support, background information, development documents, and other historic context is a mega bummer because this is a quality shooter, from 1992, that still holds up today. I want more of this game. It deserves more. And I’m sure long-time fans want to fully appreciate this quality game for what it is. It is a special shooter, so it is a shame it isn’t treated as such.

SCORE: 8/10

More Appealing Than: tracking down an original physical copy  

Better Than: the high $30 price tag of the original 3DS eShop downloadable version

Wait For It: a sequel with multiplayer and online support

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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