|Released April 24, 2013, Duranik's Sturmwind not only proves that old consoles don't have to die, but that shoot 'em up games don't have to be impossible.|
|This blue laser could double as a bitchin' bug light.|
Poor old Sega Dreamcast--cut down in its prime after just 18 months on American shelves. The first console to feature a built-in modem, able to seemingly crank out classic games like clockwork, the final console released in the 20th century, murdered on March 31, 2001.
Sega, terrified of Sony's big mean Playstation 2, and hampered by the mistakes it made in the mid-90's, decided to cut its losses before the Dreamcast actually incurred any. My Official Dreamcast Magazine suddenly stopped arriving in my mailbox, Sega announced the Dreamcast was being discontinued, and ever since then, I and other Dreamcast fans have only had the ability to play our old games and wonder what might have been...
Actually, games have been trickling out for the Dreamcast since the exaggerated reports of its demise. People who love the Dreamcast as much as I do, but also know and understand how to make video games, have been putting out scattered independent titles for years, but few have been stronger than German devoloper Duranik's Sturmwind.
|Just who is this snowman? And why does he need such a large dish?|
Shoot 'em ups, or shmups for short, have over the years been leaning toward a subgenre called "bullet hell." This is exactly what it sounds: bullet hell games throw the player into massive waves of enemy fire that they must dodge with insanely fast reflexes and picture perfect memory.
The insane level of difficulty involved in bullet hell games unfortunately neglects all but the most hardcore and battle-hardened gamer, cutting off the shmup genre from many who would otherwise enjoy it.
Thankfully, in the spirit of creating a game for a console the manufacturer ceased producing 12 years before, Duranik had the casual, as well as the hardcore gamer in mind when they created Sturmwind. The game's adjustable difficulty can be set to a mode that, while still challenging, will allow your average player the opportunity to enjoy all the game has to offer...and the horizontally scrolling Sturmwind offers a lot.
|Saw some pretty glass. Shot it with my laser.|
The sound effects are on point, explosions, laser fire, sirens, and panicked pilots shouting in German all creating an enveloping atmosphere, while the throbbing, expertly produced electronic soundtrack gets the blood pumping.
|I'm all out of bombs, I'm so lost without them.|
The player's fighter ship starts with three laser-powered weapons: one concentrated but powerful, one with a broader range but weaker firepower, and one that is a good balance of both. These can be switched through at any time, and all three can be powered up three times within a level by picking up various floating power-ups dropped by certain destroyed enemies. Get hit, and you lose the weapon you are currently using. Lose all three, and you lose a life (you start out with three lives). The floating power-ups can be toggled through each weapon-type by consistently firing upon them (before the screen scrolls past them), allowing the player to decide whether or not they want to power up their favorite weapon, or ensure that they can take more damage by choosing a weapon they've lost. In addition, the player can switch fire from front to rear with the touch of a button, and even shoot in both directions simultaneously when a weapon has been sufficiently powered up. Of course, there are also the requisite bombs, scarcely given, and wisely saved to use against Sturmwind's enormous, awesomely absurd bosses.
|What do you mean, absurd? I always fight giant cod with my spaceship!|
If you just want to see Sturmwind's incredible sights, jam to its music, and enjoy its clever weapons system and refined controls, you can set the difficulty to easy and cruise on through. There are still 20 levels to experience, which will take some time flying through, though thankfully this doesn't have to all be done in one sitting. The game has an excellent save system, and also allows the player to revisit any previous level any time they choose. Of course, if you are looking for bullet-riddled insanity, you can amp up the difficulty to experience that, as well.
Overall, Sturmwind is an old-school Dreamcast fan's...dream. It not only keeps the memory of the system alive...it keeps the very system itself alive. If modern developers can keep squeezing gems like this out of our orange(or blue if you're European)-studded box, the Dreamcast will have a life for years to come.