Sturmwind wouldnít look out of place if it was released on the XBOX 360 under Arcade Live. It really does look that good. The use of fully animated pre-rendered backgrounds along with many graphical effects often only seen in demo scene tech demos really do make this one if not the most beautiful 2D Dreamcast game ever made. The attention to detail not only in the background but also to the enemy craft is amazing and donít get me started on the boss characters. Man, they are massive and easily rival and sometimes surpass Caveís efforts in games such as Death Smiles.
So we know Sturmwind looks like a dream but that means nothing if it plays poorly. Thankfully it doesnít. The team behind Sturmwind certainly know their shooters and you can clearly see this with all the inspired ideas taken from games such as Axelay, R-Type, Gradius, Thunder Force and so on. So first letís talk about the weapon system. You start the game with a choice of 3 weapons being a Vulcan type thatís heavily inspired by Axelay in that you can spread the fire around your craft by holding or releasing the fire button. A wider spread / wave style shot and the good old green laser style shot. Each can be fired forwards or backwards thanks to a quick tap on the weapon direction button which soon becomes a necessary part of the game play mechanics. Thatís not to say the game is crazily hard but more that it has you on your toes at times.
Each weapon can be powered up by power-up icons dropped after destroying certain enemies. Every icon dropped is the same, however by shooting them they will change power property allowing you to charge up each individual weapon type. Make sure to have the correct weapon type equipped before collecting the power up icon though, otherwise it will be wasted. Youíre craft is also equipped with 1 smart bomb (more can be collected throughout the levels) that not only kills everything on screen but also looks amazing. If you thought the explosions in Psyvariar 2, Border Down or Under Defeat looked good then youíve seen nothing yet. Finally, your ship can be equipped with option drones a little like the ones found in R-Type. The drones can be set to fire forwards or backwards. This comes in very handy for when things start to get a bit busy.
So weíve talked about the arsenal used within Sturmwind but what about the game you use them in? Well, there are 2 modes of play being Normal mode and Arcade mode. The arcade mode consists of 6 levels for you to blast through with no continues. This may seem a bit tough but to be honest it isnít. Sturmwind was developed for all gamers, beginners to professionals. I reached the 4th level on my first try on normal level setting. The Arcade mode sure is fun but the real game comes in the shape of the Normal Mode. This mode consists of 16 levels!! Donít worry, theyíre not all long scrolling levels. Some levels may only contain a big boss type battle. Going through the whole normal game in one sitting is a bit too much and it seems Duranik knew this. So theyíve added the option to continue from the last level you played at or any previous completed level with full life count and smart bomb. This certainly makes the Normal mode a lot easier to get to grips with for the novice gamer.
At first, youíd be forgiven for thinking the backgrounds in Sturmwind are far too busy leading you to crash in to enemies and not know what ground objects can and canít be touched. However, once you start to take your eyes away from the beautiful eye candy and concentrate on the game do you realize that you are playing a highly addictive and challenging shooter. Fans of bullet hell Cave style games may not be too happy with what is on offer here as Sturmwind is geared more towards the more traditional style of shooters. Thatís not to say thereís no memorization to be had as with Cave shooters. Oh no, thereís plenty of that if you play on the more higher difficulty levels. Just donít expect a screen jam packed full of colourful tiny balls with hidden narrow paths through them all.
There are many homebrew shooters on the Dreamcast but none come anywhere near the level of professional finish that this game has. Donít put your nose up thinking this is just another cheaply made homebrew game; itís not.This game could easily feel perfectly at home on XBOX Live or PSN. Thatís how good it is. Duranik have even gone to the trouble of adding trophy achievements and unlockable bonus material to give the game a more modern appeal. Add in the VGA compatibility, Rumble / Buru Buru Pack compatibility, SD Card support for bonus and future contents, internet WEB code Hi-score tables, 3 level settings, fully configurable controls, adjustable screen position and full digital or analogue controls and you have yourself one extremely polished product.
Support Duranik by buying Sturmwind. Youíll not only be helping out a homebrew developer but also be buying a quality game that than can easily stand up next to shooters made by the big boys in the world of shumps.
Review republished with consent from Yakumo at SegaGaga Domain - thanks! Please check out his site.