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PC|SW Steel Assault

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PC|SW Steel Assault

Unread postby SriK » 19 Jan 2015 21:07

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Hey guys! This is a 2D action platformer I've been working on for the past few months. Aesthetically it's inspired by late NES games like Shatterhand or Batman, and mechanically it focuses on close combat mixed with Rockman-style platforming (except with a double jump and no instakills). On the hardest difficulty, it's an arcade-style game with one life and seamlessly connected levels. We've just launched campaigns on Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight, where you can find a trailer and more info:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/43 ... n=a1c16dc4

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/f ... =362287297

You can also check out Steel Assault's official site at: http://steelassault.com

The game started as just a small project in my spare time, to hone my programming and music composition skills, but I got more serious and ambitious about it over time (hiring an artist, putting more work into it, etc.) That's why I'm posting it on here and gamengai for feedback and criticism on what we have so far.

Also, if anyone here has the time and would be interested in being a beta tester, that'd be awesome too; feel free to PM me or post in this thread if you want to. I completely understand if people here don't have the time or don't want to "spoil" the game for themselves though. (We're not currently at a point where we're fully comfortable sending a demo off to others, since the game is still in kinda early stages, but we'll get there soon and that point I'll let anyone who's interested know.)

Thanks for your time, everyone!
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Unread postby icycalm » 19 Jan 2015 21:19

blatant self-promotion what makes you think you can make a thread about a new videogame in a videogame forum banned

But seriously, it looks cool and I'll follow the thread on gamengai to see what those guys think about it.

http://www.gamengai.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3196
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Unread postby SriK » 30 Aug 2017 02:33

Six minutes of play footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1S77gMGzfs

And a few new GIFs, to balance out the old ones above:

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Unread postby icycalm » 30 Aug 2017 05:57

Why does he have no gun? The action could have been far more exciting and varied with a ranged weapon. In Shinobi and Makaimura you have one from the get-go... In your footage, the action isn't boring but it's not terribly exciting either, precisely because you have no ranged-weapon and the melee attacks are limited and repetitive.

Also, WAY too many hit points. And the "emergency teleport" thing... ugh.

Beyond that... it looks fantastic. It blows away anything I've seen by Locomalito, and he does retro best in the West. Also glad to see you've moved past 8-bit and are now solidly 16-bit. The foliage and trees in the first section look fantastic. The music is nothing special but gets the job done adequately. The boss fight is great! (If we ignore the protagonist's billion hit points at least, which allow him to tank a ton of hits.) I only worry if you'll be able to stick to that standard of boss fight for the entire game.

Also, I think the character walks into a ton of fire from the boss, and doesn't take any damage. Repeatedly. I hope it is a bug and not a feature.


P.S. Change the dialogue where he says "Give me a few." It's a horrible expression for a videogame. Use "Gimme a minute", or something like that. Get a decent writer to look over all the text, and don't allow ugly phrases or bad diction to get in there in the form of "programmer dialogue". I am not going to do that for you because I don't want to spoil the game for myself, so find someone else.
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Unread postby icycalm » 30 Aug 2017 06:02

He has a bomb thing that doesn't explode?

And the protagonist's sprite is detailed but not particularly attractive or distinctive. If there's one sprite in the entire game you HAVE to get right, it's the protagonist's.

Send your artist(s) back to the drawing board.

And any ETA yet?
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Unread postby SriK » 30 Aug 2017 08:38

Thanks for the quick reply and feedback!

icycalm wrote:Why does he have no gun? The action could have been far more exciting and varied with a ranged weapon. In Shinobi and Makaimura you have one from the get-go... In your footage, the action isn't boring but it's not terribly exciting either, precisely because you have no ranged-weapon and the melee attacks are limited and repetitive.


I've actually been thinking about adding a subweapon with a longer range to vary the action some more (more like an energy whip a la Castlevania than a gun, however). The fact that this is the very first thing you noted now convinces me we need it ASAP, haha.

I'm not sure if I want to depart too heavily from close-quarters action, though. It just feels too cool to dodge and slide under projectile fire, then punch the enemy that was firing at you to death before it can properly react (as opposed to shooting it from a safe distance). So a subweapon with a longer range would probably have some limits on ammo, although not nearly as limited as the grenades.

The possible issue is that this scheme still limits how intense the action can get, but on the other hand, the protagonist is agile enough that I'm hoping it won't be a problem.

icycalm wrote:Also, WAY too many hit points. And the "emergency teleport" thing... ugh.


It's worth noting that, at this point at least, I'm attempting to design the game around the player having one life. (This is probably something you already figured out, since it would be ridiculous to have that lifebar plus multiple lives, but just in case...) But yeah, the damage balance is something I still need to properly tune.

The "emergency teleport" is kind of an ass-pull (why wouldn't the suit designers just let its user teleport anytime, if it's capable of that?), but I couldn't think of a better way to handle that situation at the time. However, now that I'm thinking about it again, if I just change the way the hit stun works then it's fair to make falling offscreen an instant Game Over (since the player would have a decent window of opportunity to recover with the zipline or double jump, as opposed to the current implementation where he's stunned until he reaches ground).

icycalm wrote:Beyond that... it looks fantastic. It blows away anything I've seen by Locomalito, and he does retro best in the West. Also glad to see you've moved past 8-bit and are now solidly 16-bit. The foliage and trees in the first section look fantastic. The music is nothing special but gets the job done adequately. The boss fight is great! (If we ignore the protagonist's billion hit points at least, which allow him to tank a ton of hits.) I only worry if you'll be able to stick to that standard of boss fight for the entire game.


Thanks a lot!! And don't worry, I'm really aiming to keep up this standard throughout the entire game (in both the quality of the boss fights and the variety of locations within a given stage).

icycalm wrote:Also, I think the character walks into a ton of fire from the boss, and doesn't take any damage. Repeatedly. I hope it is a bug and not a feature.


If you mean at (for example) 5:12 when he dodges the machine gun fire, that's a slide similar to the one in Contra: Hard Corps, where you're invulnerable during the fixed slide period. On paper it feels like it could be game-breaking, but in practice you just end up sliding into bullets or enemies when you don't time the slides correctly (or in this case, if you don't time them correctly you end up in the middle of the machine gun fire rather than past it). The patterns are a bit harder to dodge than they look -- at least for me!

icycalm wrote:P.S. Change the dialogue where he says "Give me a few." It's a horrible expression for a videogame. Use "Gimme a minute", or something like that.


Thanks for this, will do!

icycalm wrote:He has a bomb thing that doesn't explode?


He has a grenade subweapon which explodes on contact with an enemy (it's used in the elevator around 2:15, for example). Are the effects not clear enough?

icycalm wrote:And the protagonist's sprite is detailed but not particularly attractive or distinctive. If there's one sprite in the entire game you HAVE to get right, it's the protagonist's.

Send your artist(s) back to the drawing board.


Shit, dude... At this point, I think it's way too late to make changes to the protagonist's sprite, beyond easier superficial things like changing the color scheme of his suit. These sprites cost a ton of money (he has something like 200 animation frames), enough for me to be very, very hesitant about completely redoing them unless it's absolutely necessary.

icycalm wrote:And any ETA yet?


Nope, not yet. I'll update this thread again when we have one.
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Unread postby icycalm » 30 Aug 2017 12:21

SriK wrote:The possible issue is that this scheme still limits how intense the action can get, but on the other hand, the protagonist is agile enough that I'm hoping it won't be a problem.


It will be a big problem no matter what you do. You don't make the action intense by barring your character from cool abilities like a proper long-range weapon. You make it intense by giving him ALL THE COOL ABILITIES YOU CAN THINK OF and then properly balancing them so that all are useful under certain circumstances. Shinobi has a long-range weapon for the entire game, as long as he has enough shurikens, so the close-range attack is still useful to conserve them.

As for the grenade, I noticed in one instance that it just hits the enemy's head and the enemy disappears as if he had been hit by a rock. Perhaps I am remembering wrong though.

SriK wrote:It's worth noting that, at this point at least, I'm attempting to design the game around the player having one life. (This is probably something you already figured out, since it would be ridiculous to have that lifebar plus multiple lives, but just in case...)


I think I saw a bunch of lives in the HUD. If so, I am not psychic man, I have no idea of what you are doing beyond what I am seeing, and tons of hit points + tons of lives + instant teleport on death seems like "indie" design to me.

About the sprite... How much money are we talking about? And do you have anything left over from the Kickstarter?

The bottom line is that you have a generic sprite that will do the job, as long as most of everything else is on a higher level than it, but which no one will remember after they've beat the game, which doesn't bode well for you if you ever decide to make a sequel.

Same with the music.

If you want to go for a 4/5+ game you need to fix these two issues. The Shinobis and Makaimuras and Sonics did not get where they are by accepting middling spritework and middling music in their works. If you are aiming for the top, stuff like that needs to be not merely good but epic.

Otherwise, you can release the game as is, and perhaps it will make you enough money so as to make a brand-new IP at a later time with more talent and more work going into the aesthetics. I don't know the financial angle at all, so it's up to you who have more data than me to make the choice.
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Unread postby SriK » 31 Aug 2017 07:39

I think we both agree now that long-range weapons would make the action more exciting. Our only point of disagreement seems to be what the exact balance between long-range action and melee action should be. The style I'm envisioning is closer to Rockman Zero or Castlevania, where melee is your primary mode of attack and long-range is secondary (since the longer-range subweapons in these games either have fairly limited ammo or are weaker than your main attack -- in Castlevania you can sometimes get a dagger like in Makaimura, but it's very weak compared to your whip). You seem to want something like the opposite balance (as in Shinobi, or Metal Slug for an even more extreme example, where you're throwing shurikens or shooting far more than you're slashing or stabbing -- or at least, that's how I played these games). All of these games I'm mentioning are great as far as I'm concerned, but there seem to be much fewer examples in the former style than in the latter, which is one of the reasons why I'm tentative about changing this aspect too much.

I had mentioned the one-life design in the original post (it was inspired by your scoring essay), but it's fair that you assumed this changed, since pretty much everything else has. I also guess you could have mistaken the "special attack" meter on the left of the HUD for lives (more on that in this Kickstarter update, which I think was linked in the Discord a while back). These "special attacks" are something I want to replace anyway, since they are kind of useless and don't feel very special, to the point where I didn't even remember to include them while recording. That's where a more interesting long-range weapon could come in, or even a proper subweapon system.

Looking at my invoices, the sprite cost almost $1,000. It seems like an insane amount until you consider all of the different animations required (the 8 different zipline angles, for example, and the animations for each of them). And it's worth noting that my sprite artist actually undercharges regularly, not only for this sprite but also for many others like the boss (god bless him). I have a little over $2,500 left from the Kickstarter, which I'm projecting is going to get me through about the halfway point of the game (probably a bit less, actually). Then, from that point onwards, it's all out of pocket. I have enough money saved up to fund the rest, but probably not enough to completely redo the protagonist.

But I don't disagree that the protagonist isn't very iconic. It's something I'll keep in mind, at any rate, and fix if I can. It should have been addressed earlier, but I was just too excited at how much prettier the game was getting, and I wasn't thinking very much of how the protagonist compared to those of long-running game series.

The music, on the other hand, is much easier to change since I'm composing it myself. I agree that the themes so far aren't very iconic either, which is something that's been frustrating me as well. I am going to keep trying to hit on something great, though, since this is an area I really want to become good at. And if all else fails and I just can't do it, I hear that musicians are much cheaper than pixel artists, so maybe there's room in the budget for that.

A sequel or new IP seems so far away right now that I've barely even thought about it, but for what it's worth, the protagonist's design wouldn't have to be a limiting factor. He's in a robotic suit, after all, and there's no reason he couldn't use a new fancier one in the sequel.
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Unread postby icycalm » 11 Sep 2017 01:59

http://postback.geedorah.com/foros/view ... 618#p23618

SriK wrote:Hey Recap! I'm the director and lead developer of Steel Assault. I've been a fan of your site for a while, ever since I was introduced to it through Insomnia about 5 years ago. There are some very cool games I would have never known about if not for your reviews (Magical Taluluto-kun or the GBA Steel Empire, to give two examples), and the scanline filter I am using in my game is even adapted from one of ronan's posts in the English section of the forum. (Unfortunately, my Spanish is very weak and I haven't practiced it since high school, so I haven't been able to properly read the majority of your reviews or articles... still, I remember using your SFC Akumajou Dracula review as translation practice before a test back in 12th grade, haha!)

I'd be incredibly interested in hearing any further thoughts you have on the game, whether positive or negative. You seem to really appreciate the nuances of classic Japanese 2D games and of "dot art", and are also eloquent enough to speak about them. That's the type of person whose feedback I could really use myself; as I told zinger recently, it's hard to take the enthusiasm of some of the game's fans seriously when you see they're enthusiastic about literally anything with blocky pixels!

Thanks for your time, and I hope this message finds you well.


lol the "blocky pixels" comment is gold.
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Re: PC|SW Steel Assault

Unread postby schadenfreude » 16 Sep 2021 15:39

Release date set!

Steel Assault will be available Sept. 28!
https://store.steampowered.com/news/app ... 9288791175

It looks like the banner and some of the screenshots were updated too:

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https://store.steampowered.com/app/1280 ... l_Assault/

Zenovia Interactive wrote:Punch, whip, and zipline your way through a post-apocalyptic America in this 16-bit retro-style action platformer! Play as Taro Takahashi, a resistance soldier on a revenge mission against the dictator who lords over the ashes.


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Release Date Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZBAqV4aX1k
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Re: PC|SW Steel Assault

Unread postby icycalm » 29 Sep 2021 00:22

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Steel Assault - schadenfreude impressions

Unread postby schadenfreude » 27 Oct 2021 09:39

I tried streaming this game on release day, but my 300 baud modem connection wouldn't cooperate. I picked it up again recently and have a bunch of things to say about it.

I've played Steel Assault for about four hours, almost all in Arcade Mode, with just a little playtime in Normal and Expert for comparison. There are four difficulties with infinite continues and progress saving (Very Easy, Easy, Normal, and Expert), and then there's Arcade Mode, which has no continues and must be beaten in one sitting. All modes utilize health bars but no lives, so reach zero hit points or fall into a bottomless pit and you'll see a Game Over screen.

The developer really fucked up the difficulties because there's a vast gulf between Normal and Expert, and Normal is basically God Mode, as I'll be explaining soon. According to posts in the game's Steam discussion board, players complained about the difficulty on Normal in the demo that came out last February, so the developer caved and nerfed it for release. That's why we're seeing everyone, including casuals and their grandmas, clearing the game in an hour on Normal.

Normal is incredibly forgiving, moreso than any other game of this ilk I've played. For the standard difficulty, this just might be the easiest 2D action game ever made. You get a health bar with 10 hit points, health pickups are plentiful, there are several checkpoints per stage, and bizarrely, you're even fully healed after you reach one of them. Plenty of games like the older Draculas will heal you after beating a stage, but I've never seen a game do it after a checkpoint, like after defeating a mid-stage boss. It doesn't matter much though because with infinite continues, you could kill yourself after the checkpoint and accomplish the same thing. And because there are no lives and thus no distinction between losing a spare life or losing your final life and getting a Game Over, checkpoints are never reset. In most 2D action games with checkpoints, if you continue after a Game Over, you restart from the beginning of the stage, but here, every death sends you back to the last checkpoint, and they're so frequent you're losing at most 30 seconds of progress. And with 10 hit points and health pickups throughout each stage, those frequent checkpoints (they should be called "healingpoints") mean you'll almost never die, except if you fall off the screen or get hammered by the stage boss or something. It even means you can race to the next checkpoint and absorb all damage from enemies and environmental obstacles because it's unlikely you'll get hit 10 times in that short span. It's mind-bogglingly retarded and totally unacceptable that Normal is designed this way.

Just watch the first few minutes of this guy playing like utter shit on Normal yet still managing to beat the game in 45 minutes: https://youtu.be/nRWxyyw08tw

Arcade Mode, on the other hand, is extremely difficult, the antithesis of screensaver mode Normal and in this case totally deserving of its name. It removes all checkpoints and thus all free healing from the stages, with no healing even after beating a stage, health pickups are rarer (according to a Steam commenter, they stop appearing after the second stage), and enemies do twice as much damage, effectively reducing your health bar to five hit points. And don't forget, there are no lives, so one death and you're sent back to the beginning of the game. I've probably played 30-40 credits so far and I've only reached the third stage once. Anyone who's cleared Arcade Mode in a relatively short period of time played through the game on Normal first and made several save files before the hardest bosses to practice against them, like some dude who uploaded a clear of Arcade Mode to YouTube the day after the game released. I don't spoil games for myself, so I'm not going to do that, hence why my progress is a lot slower.

Finally, you'd think Expert would be in the middle of these two difficulties, but it's actually much closer to Arcade Mode. It's identical except that there are more health pickups, and you can save your game plus you have infinite continues, though you'll start from the beginning of the stage you died on because there are no checkpoints. Expert could have been the Normal difficulty, but to make Normal a reasonable challenge, at minimum, it should just have a single checkpoint halfway through the stage, with no healing, and that change alone would keep random scrubs from clearing the game in an hour. Even better would be to decrease the player's hit points and limit the number of health pickups. It should have "Nintendo hard" difficulty, where even having infinite continues doesn't guarantee success, like in games such as the first Dracula or Ninja Ryūkenden on Famicom, where the final stages are so challenging that without decent skill, even infinite continues won't let you see the ending. I mean is this game supposed to be a nostalgic throwback to these old console games or what?

The above "Nintendo hard" suggestion is a compromise, by the way. If the developer had real testes, this game would contain Arcade Mode only, with no continues, no saves, no credit-feeding, no practicing—and from what I know about the developer, I bet this was the original intention. The difficulty could even be knocked down a bit because no one would be cheating the game for himself by practicing on an easier mode. But then scrubs would refund the game in frustration... which they might be doing now after finishing the game on Normal in under an hour. Hence why I suggest a "Nintendo hard" difficulty for the credit-feeders and Arcade Mode for the rest of us.

Note that I'm not complaining about the difficulty on Arcade Mode; it's refreshing for Steam to have a game like this, a 2D sidescroller with an arcade mode that might be the first to do away with lives and score altogether. It's a noteworthy release in the sewer of Metroidvanias and roguelites and whatever other dreck that sells well on Steam these days. Moreover, unlike almost all its 2D contemporaries, the pixel art is great, hearkening back to the top-notch art we got on consoles and especially in the arcades in the '90s. Every level features a cornucopia of colors across the screen, like the second stage that goes from a rain-drenched green and blue moody forest, with rain drops crashing into and rolling off of platforms, to a fiery (but mostly peaceful) orange and red burning cabin near a lake, with the distant forest in the background swallowed in flames. And the CRT filter that's satisfyingly on by default looks so damn good I wish all 2D games would include it. Best of all, the game can be run natively at 320x240, meaning you can display it on a 15 kHz CRT monitor using CRT Emudriver or Soft-15kHz. Also worthy of praise is the soundtrack, which can be played in arrange mode or FM, which mimics the FM synthesizer found in consoles like the Mega Drive. The tracks I've heard so far are much improved from what I heard in early previews, and they're memorable enough that they pop into my head at random as I go about my day.

But a challenging, arcade-influenced game has to be fantastic to convince me that the time needed to clear it on one credit is worthwhile, and while the graphics and sound deliver, Steel Assault is so mechanically simplistic that I can't bear to do it. Don't let the high-quality and colorful graphics fool you, because the mechanics in this game feel like they were ripped straight out of a Famicom game. And it makes sense if you're aware of the game's roots: it started as an 8-bit throwback when it was announced on Kickstarter, and though the graphics significantly improved to the standout pixel art we have today, the underlying mechanics failed to catch up.

First of all, several Steam reviewers have praised this game as a great "run 'n gun", like a Metal Slug or a Contra, and sure, I'm seeing a lot of running going on... but where's the gunning? The default—and depressingly, only!—weapon in the game is an electric whip, with a relatively short range, and the only powerups in the game are a shield barrier that's destroyed after two hits and an electric charge that shoots three sparks out of the end of the whip in a spread pattern—and you can only have one powerup equipped at a time until you pick up the other one or run out of energy, which the shield barrier slowly drains while it's active, and the electric charge drains on every crack of the whip. You recharge energy by defeating an enemy up-close with a punch, which releases an orb of energy. It's like the knife attack in Metal Slug, except here the bonus is a recharge of energy rather than extra points because there's no score in Steel Assault.

The game's setting is a futuristic United States, the land of the free and the home of the guns, with most enemies attacking with guns, yet our protagonist can't be bothered to use one. Is there some backstory explaining why, of all the weapons he could have dreamed up for himself, he settled for a whip? Is he descended from Simon Belmont? And with only one weapon and two powerups in the game, you've seen and used the game's entire weapon and item roster by the end of the first stage! Even in Shatterhand, the primary influence on Steel Assault from back in the Kickstarter days, you can assemble eight different robot companions to assist you, or combine two of the same one to merge with the robot and become more powerful for a limited time. So in the 30 years of development in 2D action games that separate these two similar games, we've gone from eight powerups to a paltry two. And for another comparison, check out Contra: Hard Corps on the Mega Drive, which has a similar 16-bit aesthetic, sci-fi setting, and slide move, and look at what it has that Steel Assault lacks:

  • Four selectable characters, each with unique weapons
  • Four weapon slots, and powerups for the base weapon
  • Bombs that clear all enemies on the screen
  • Two-player mode
  • Destructible inert objects (barrels, cars, etc.)
  • Branching stages, with multiple paths through the game, leading to multiple endings
  • ...Guns

And all of this back in 1994 on far inferior hardware! So Steel Assault eschews all these incredible features and gives us in their place... a zipline? This is progress?

Yeah, remember that grappling hook thing from Contra 4 on the DS? Now it's back, but this time you can also fire it upwards at 45 degree angles and parallel to the ground, rather than just vertically, and you can climb across it like a child on monkey bars. It allows for last-minute saves just like in Contra 4, which can be cool, but so far in three stages its use feels shoehorned in. Like in the first stage, you have to use it to ascend a vacant elevator shaft rather than climb up the walls like you'd do in other games. There is an almost mandatory use of it during the second stage's end boss, where you have to suspend yourself below a floating ship in the sky, but the game could have accomplished the same effect by having you hang onto the ship's railing, which happens countless times in any random Contra. You can't even use the zipline as a weapon in a pinch, which I find particularly annoying, and though it looks okay when deployed across short distances, it looks absolutely ridiculous when it spans the length of the screen. And despite the whip and zipline being the main items in his arsenal, neither of these are displayed in any of the promotional artwork I've seen, so you'd never guess he has them—nor could you guess why a guy named Taro Takahashi is defending Washington, D.C. instead of Tokyo or something. No, I just see a cool-looking dude, scowling, in this sci-fi suit, which is enticing by itself, but then I turn the game on and he's whipping things and setting up his high beam or pole vaulting for Olympic trials or something. And the game's name also doesn't reflect any of this. Is the whip made of steel? Why not call the game Whip Assault, or Zip Assault, or Whipline Assault or some other bad pun? I assume it refers to the suit, but he's not assaulting anything with it. So why give him an Iron Man suit if it doesn't do anything interesting?

Actually, it does have two functions, a double jump and a slide, and props that in this game, the double jump has some believability, because it's a propulsive thrust from the suit that causes the extra jump, not the character pushing off of air like in most other games. The slide can be used to dodge enemy fire, though it has a cooldown to prevent overuse. The slide distance is short, however, and it's a bitch to time it against some attacks. For example, there's a boss that looks like a rhinoceros but with a chainsaw on its nose, and occasionally it will pause then charge at you. You can actually stand your sprite overtop the chainsaw without taking damage, because the boss's hitbox is in its center, but how am I supposed to know that when I first encounter it? And thus to time the slide, you have to do it right when the chainsaw is touching you. It's very janky to use and even after hours of play, it still feels off to me. And in addition to using the slide to avoid projectiles, the whip can cancel any brightly colored bullets, which are the most common in the game. You'd think these two things would make avoiding damage easy, but consider that only once have I beaten the first stage without getting hit, whereas in a game like Metal Slug, I could do that pretty reliably after a dozen or so credits.

So overall this game is decent for what it is, and also quite pretty, but why would I prioritize Steel Assault when I haven't even finished all of its vastly superior predecessors? I've 1CCed some of the Contras, Shinobis, Draculas, and Makaimuras (just the first loop). I've almost cleared the first Metal Slug, but the last stage is a bitch. The challenge of Arcade Mode or even Expert isn't so thrilling when the game is so mechanically stunted, and I'm not going to bother with horribly broken Normal, where even attempting to one-life it would still be a walk in the park because of the "healingpoints" issue I mentioned before. For now, I'll hold my breath for the "Guns and Powerups" DLC to drop, then I'll have a great excuse to fire up this game again.
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Unread postby icycalm » 27 Oct 2021 11:50

schadenfreude wrote:Yeah, remember that grappling hook thing from Contra 4 on the DS? Now it's back, but this time you can also fire it upwards at 45 degree angles and parallel to the ground, rather than just vertically, and you can climb across it like a child on monkey bars. It allows for last-minute saves just like in Contra 4, which can be cool, but so far in three stages its use feels shoehorned in. Like in the first stage, you have to use it to ascend a vacant elevator shaft rather than climb up the walls like you'd do in other games. There is an almost mandatory use of it during the second stage's end boss, where you have to suspend yourself below a floating ship in the sky, but the game could have accomplished the same effect by having you hang onto the ship's railing, which happens countless times in any random Contra. You can't even use the zipline as a weapon in a pinch, which I find particularly annoying, and though it looks okay when deployed across short distances, it looks absolutely ridiculous when it spans the length of the screen. And despite the whip and zipline being the main items in his arsenal, neither of these are displayed in any of the promotional artwork I've seen, so you'd never guess he has them—nor could you guess why a guy named Taro Takahashi is defending Washington, D.C. instead of Tokyo or something. No, I just see a cool-looking dude, scowling, in this sci-fi suit, which is enticing by itself, but then I turn the game on and he's whipping things and setting up his high beam or pole vaulting for Olympic trials or something. And the game's name also doesn't reflect any of this. Is the whip made of steel? Why not call the game Whip Assault, or Zip Assault, or Whipline Assault or some other bad pun? I assume it refers to the suit, but he's not assaulting anything with it. So why give him an Iron Man suit if it doesn't do anything interesting?


lol, you should write more reviews.

This is pretty much the exact review I imagined writing after seeing the trailers, with a couple of points added that wouldn’t have occurred to me, and a couple of points I would add that didn’t seem to have occurred to you. I will be playing the game as soon as I set up my new laptop so I can play with no lag.
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Unread postby Q-veta » 27 Oct 2021 14:00

I played a bit of this on the Switch since it's very colorful and I wanted to test out the OLED screen on the new model. I agree with what schadenfreude wrote but I'll add a few things.

The backgrounds in this game are gorgeous and I'll probably buy it on sale on Steam just to see it run on my CRT monitor. It's the highlight of the game and the only reason I would even want to play more of it. From the first few seconds you have this beautifully realized city in a rainstorm with water dripping from the sides of the buildings. It's really well done overall, especially when paired with the slick scene transitions this game has.

I didn't say that the game is gorgeous though and here lies the first of my two big gripes. While the player sprite is alright, the enemies are lame and boring to the point where I can't remember the last time I played a 2D action game where I enjoyed fighting the opposition so little. The bosses are good but this isn't paced like Alien Soldier where the bosses are the point of the entire game and you have some short segments between them. I made it to the raft part of the second stage and and the enemies so far were: robot that runs towards you and tries to punch you, robot that shoots, robot that shoots but you can't cancel its bullets, robot that has a shield that shoots, some green robot that shoots in three directions. All the shooters stay in the same spot. Not the most exciting showing for your introductory stage. In the second stage you have some robot bugs that fly around and some that were swimming in the water and shooting from below. There's absolutely no joy in fighting any of them. Think about Metal Slug for a second. Excluding the tanks and helicopters, you have one enemy type for the entire game. Just the regular cartoony soldier. But you can catch him laughing with his buddies, he can parachute from above, you can see him working on a water pump to try to save a boat from sinking and much more. They also behave differently: some might run from you if you're close while others will slash you with their knife, they'll roll grenades on slopes to block your progress and so on. The enemies in Steel Assault just seem to be there to be a specific type of obstacle, their design feels like it's entirely an afterthought. If the soldiers from Metal Slug had the same lack of personality as the faceless and generic robots in this game then no one would remember it.

Of course not many games have such expressive characters as Metal Slug. But then you combine the above with my second big problem with the game. The action is too restrictive and the game feels too hard as a result on Arcade Mode. If I make a mistake it never feels like I have a chance to recover from it. There's just not much room to improvise with the mechanics here and the game demands precision. It really feels like an NES game and I guess it qualifies as "Nintendo Hard" but I was bored within an hour of all the NES games I've tried (and most within a few minutes) so for me this isn't a plus.

It feels like playing a game from 35 years ago with a very pretty coat of paint.
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Unread postby icycalm » 27 Oct 2021 14:54

It’s his first game, so of course the mechanics are basic. I am sure that in 35 years he’ll have caught up with Hard Corps: Uprising. Many of us might be dead by then though, so we might miss out on the pleasure.

It might actually take him 50-100 years, because this game took him six years whereas the typical 2D action game in the ‘80s and ‘90s took six months to make.
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