#65: Power Strike (1988 Sega)

065powerstrike

We come to another Master System contribution from Compile, but we finally get to see what they do best in the video game realm, making cool shoot-em-ups with awesome special weapons to boot. Nintendo gamers have long enjoyed some of Compile’s work like Zanac or The Guardian Legend, but thankfully Sega diehards were blessed with their own Compile shmup. In this case the SMS received a port of a MSX title known as Aleste in Japan which spawned a long-running series of shooter across the different consoles. However for whatever reason Sega decided against putting this cart out in retail stores in the U.S. and instead made it a ‘special edition’ that you could only get by mail order through the Team Sega newsletter. As a result Power Strike is one of the rarer SMS carts in North America, but whether it’s worth the effort to track down a copy is the question this review hopes to answer. (Incidentally the U.S. cartridge was shipped with plain black-and-white cover art, which is why I used the European box art for the header image.)

powerstrike1a

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ above the river.

The game’s story is a little on the weird side as you’re apparently fighting a race of evil mutant plant life that gained sentience through a botched genetic experiment and is enslaving the Earth through mind control or something. At least that’s what the manual lays out, the intro scenes from the MSX version are missing in this cart. In any case this game follows the standard shooter formula as you must slog your way through six vertically-scrolling stages, blasting the baddies and bosses that cross your path. Your fighter is equipped with a standard single-shot cannon to clear out your foes, but collecting ‘P’ chips from certain enemies will double and triple your firepower. Eight types of secondary weapons are also at your disposal and you choose which one to arm your ship with by capturing the numbered icons along the way. The special weapons each have a limited number of uses but can be changed on the fly to reset the counter, and grabbing the same number repeatedly will power it up. Each stage concludes by fighting either a large ship or a fortress, both of which have lots of turrets shooting at you, and naturally you need to blast it to continue on your way.

powerstrike1b

A fierce battle rages over the Smurf forest.

While this game may not seem that different from other vertical shooters, it certainly shows off Compile’s handiwork as the action is fast and exciting and the special weapons are pretty cool, though only a couple of them are truly useful in a pinch. The graphics aren’t the greatest but the different terrains are serviceable with some appealing color schemes and the sprites are pretty detailed, even with a slight lack of variety among them. However, also in Compile fashion, the difficulty can get downright brutal in a short time, even more so than some of the company’s other titles. The enemies come at your relentlessly while flooding the screen with projectiles which will severely test your firing and dodging skills, especially since slowdown pops up frequently. Thankfully the controls are pretty responsive and even offer rapid fire when you hold down the buttons. One hit dusts your ship and you immediately respawn without any of your weapons upgrades which can leave you in a horrible fix, especially during boss battles. Fortunately power-ups are plentiful throughout the level so you can quickly snag a new weapon, and it’s not too difficult to get extra lives either. You do have unlimited continues and a secret code is also provided to start your mission with 10 lives, though you still may not get very far even with these helps.

powerstrike1c

Time to do some pruning on this fortress.

The bottom line is Power Strike is a well-made title and fans of Compile’s other shooters will find plenty to like here but your overall enjoyment will really depend on how much punishment you’re willing to endure. If your frustration level is low, you might be better off with some of the Master System’s other shooters like R-Type or Bomber Raid. If you are able to tolerate the frequent deaths, then Power Strike is a good choice to satisfy your shooter cravings.

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