There’s no doubt that we live in a world of remakes and sequels. It’s not a terrible world to live in because sometimes it’s nice to relive classic games and get more of the things that we liked. Steel Empire for the Nintendo 3DS is a remake of the classic Sega Genesis shoot ‘em up [or ‘shmup’] by the same name. It’s a genre that tends to hold up well over time. As a result, developer Mebius didn’t have to do a whole lot to successfully bring Steel Empire to a modern audience. However, unless you’re desperate to play an old (albeit well made) Genesis shooter, there’s not enough new here to justify this remake’s existence.
For those who have never heard of Steel Empire, here’s a quick history lesson: Steel Empire is a classic side-scrolling shmup that debuted for the Sega Genesis all the way back in 1992. That’s so long ago that President Bush Sr. was still in office. The plot and aesthetics are heavily steampunk inspired, and tells a story of an elite group of rebels attempting to overthrow an evil dictator that wants to keep the world reliant on outdated steam technology that he controls.
The shmup is a tried and true genre that has a much longer half-life than other types of games, and thankfully Steel Empire is just as enjoyable now as it was back in ‘92. What’s especially nice about Steel Empire is that it is very accessible to inexperienced players and newcomers compared to other games from its genre and era. You can choose from two different ships to fit your playing style (speedy and offensive, or slow and defensive). Both ships can shoot in either direction, which is a luxury that is not always provided in shmups. Also, collectable orbs allow you to level up your ship (up to 20), and provides you with more firepower to get through the campaign as the difficulty scales up through Steel Empire’s seven stages.
Those seven stages come and go pretty quickly however and the main campaign can easily be completed in one sitting. This was common for games that came out in the early 90s, but the year is now 2014. Perhaps if this most recent 3DS iteration added enough new features, its premium $29.99 asking price (seriously for a 12-year old Genesis e-Shop game, yikes), could be an easier pill to swallow.
Unfortunately, not much is different this time around. You’re essentially buying a Genesis game with some small added perks.The 3D effect is done well. It’s pretty at times (especially during explosions) but it doesn’t really add to the experience (ala Super Mario 3D Land or Kirby: Triple Deluxe). It doesn’t detract from it either though, so you can take it or leave it. There are achievements to shoot for, but offer little incentive other than bragging rights and some pictures. Keeping in line with its ‘92 style, Steel Empire is a totally offline experience.
There’s nothing wrong with Steel Empire, but there’s also a lot more that could have been added to transform it from a retro classic to a modern classic. Online leaderboards, new playable aircraft, an additional stage or two, any or all of these features would have helped justify bringing Steel Empire into 2014. That being said, Steel Empire is still a fun game and a classic. If you’re a dedicated fan or someone that appreciates great games from the Genesis era, go for it. Otherwise there are other more modern shoot ’em ups that have a lot more to offer and will deliver more bang for your buck.
[+Accessible and fun for all skill levels] [+3D effect is worth keeping on] [+Aged well] [-Not enough new features] [-High price relative to what is being offered]