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Review: Fast Striker (PS4)

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POOR

POOR

Fast Striker for PS4 is dull, repetitive and looks pretty ropey overall. We’d recommend it only to the most cash-strapped Dreamcast shmup completionists who can’t get hold of an original GD-ROM.

User Rating: 3.45 ( 1 votes)

Around 18 months ago, posthumous Dreamcast shmup, Ghost Blade HD, made an appearance on the PlayStation Store. We were impressed with the port and how at home it felt on PlayStation 4, awarding it a well-deserved 4/5.

Now, with 2018 nearly put to bed, NG:DEV has seen fit to reissue another indie bullet hell classic in the shape of Fast Striker, which first hit the Dreamcast and Neo Geo way back in 2010.

Strikeout

While on the game’s original website both consoles are given equal billing, Fast Striker’s visual style is staple Neo Geo, with largely pre-rendered assets and dark, low contrast colors abound. Unfortunately, while the Neo Geo may have a reputation as something of a 2D powerhouse (and the Dreamcast can certainly hold its own), the results here aren’t all that impressive.

Fast Striker looks a bit better than this screen implies, but not much.

On this plus side, Fast Striker’s sprites are well animated, sporting a pseudo-3D look that’s quite convincing in motion. Backgrounds in particular benefit from this effect, but here’s the rub: they’re essentially a few seconds of pre-rendered footage looping over and over, with little to no variation at all.

As a result, they don’t really gel with what’s happening in the foreground and there’s no real sense of progression as you get closer to each end of level boss. Indeed, many of the enemies and effects look good enough in isolation, but don’t really complement each other effectively and everything appears somewhat cobbled together as a result.

Furthermore, the projectiles fired at you by enemies – particularly bosses – often seem to just reluctantly snap into existence with no visual spectacle at all and odd, unintended graphical glitches are not unheard of.

While it’s important to go in with appropriately tempered expectations when evaluating such an old game, there’s no denying that Fast Striker looks horribly dated, and no amount of CRT filtering or screen stretching can hide it. Still, at least performance seemed pretty solid, as we didn’t notice even a single dropped frame during our time with the game; proceedings blazed along at a constant 60fps.

The techno-style soundtrack, while not particularly memorable, is realized in surprisingly high fidelity. Its energetic thumps and warbles do a good job of getting you in the mood, even if there’s nothing particularly catchy or original on offer.

Slow Striker

High numbers are nice, but where’s the payoff?

In terms of gameplay, Fast Striker is average at best. Its biggest problem is a lack of variety: staple shmup bells and whistles such as weapon pickups, upgrades or screen clearing bombs are notable by their absence. While it’s true that you have a shield to deploy at will for a brief period of invincibility, and it’s possible to ram groups enemies with the shield engaged to devastating effect, aside from this there’s little to Fast Striker except painfully basic shooting, dodging and collecting points.

Blowing stuff up feels visceral enough, but your craft does feel somewhat sluggish moving around the play area. Each difficulty (including the Omake one exclusive to this edition) sports its own differently colored craft, and for what it’s worth, enemies and backgrounds are also retouched. Tapping the fire button produces a different bullet pattern to merely holding it down, but the problem with this approach is that rapidly tapping a single button quickly becomes uncomfortable. Neo Geo, Dreamcast and PS4 controllers’ are far from short of buttons, so we’re a loss as to why such a thing were ever deemed necessary, let alone fun.

Summary

Even taking its eight year handicap into account, Fast Striker looks pretty rough overall: like a bunch of disparate assets hastily stitched together and grafted onto a basic shooter template. Perhaps the relatively muddy image quality of the SD consoles for which it was originally conceived hid this somewhat, but when boosted up to full 1080p, the game feels like it’s coming apart at the seams.

Moreover, Fast Striker is simply too barebones to offer a compelling gameplay experience. There’s nothing really to do except chasing high scores through short, repetitive levels. The only way we could really recommend Fast Striker for PS4 is as a demo of sorts for the Dreamcast version, given its low asking price.

PROS

+ High fidelity soundtrack

+ Low price

+ Rock solid performance

CONS

– Poor pre-rendered graphics

– Repetitive stages

– Uncomfortable controls

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Dan

Hailing from grim, rain-lashed Northern England, Dan enjoys shmups, strategy games and classic Sonic almost as much as using short vowels and complaining about the weather.

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