Whenever game developers experiment with combining game genres, the results are always interesting. Steel Rain X strikes a balance between shoot 'em up gameplay and simulation components so let's see if it's a cocktail worth ordering.
Steel Rain X's campaign is played by slowly progressing through stages while colonizing planets and configuring your setup between the action. Thankfully, the shoot 'em up gameplay presented within the stages stays true to the genre. You soar through the air while avoiding projectiles, collecting power-ups, and blasting your enemies to smithereens. However, some complications make it a more elaborate shooting experience than you may expect. Your ship can alternate between six sets of abilities by collecting different-coloured power-ups and each configuration has three distinct formations. One formation may shower the screen with weak bullets while another can clear clouds of mines away. This forces you to constantly switch up your strategy in order to survive and strive to get the highest score possible. Overall, as a huge shmup fan; I'm impressed with this fresh spin on the genre.
On a visual level, Steel Rain X isn't that impressive yet its unambiguous design doesn't get in the way of gameplay. Stages are composed of layered scrolling backgrounds that are subtle enough to not cause visual confusion while enemies, hazards, and projectiles pop off the screen perfectly. Along the same lines, the sound effects are subdued which makes them not become annoying yet they manage to add satisfaction to blowing up enemy forces. The soundtrack is comprised of trippy beats and unorthodox vibes yet I found it to fit the overall atmosphere quite well. In the end, Steel Rain X offers a unique presentation that sets it apart from similar games in the genre.
Steel Rain X is bursting with content. As you play through the campaign, you'll unlock loads of upgrades, research new enhancements, craft items, allocate skill points, and trade unneeded materials. All of these factors have the potential to turn your ship into an alien-slaughtering machine but that will also require a lot of time to achieve. In addition to the campaign, you can play through an arcade mode which is basically the exact same stages except there are no simulation elements and a survival mode where you see how far you can make it before biting the dust. All three of these modes feature various leaderboards so if you're a competitive shoot 'em up fan then there's definitely incentive to do your best. On top of all that, there's a level editor so creative types can craft their own stages.
Although there are plenty of modes to enjoy, a couple of issues get in the way of it being a long-lasting experience. First of all, the simulation elements in the campaign are extremely in-depth and time consuming. Of course, many gamers will love learning all of the complexities involved but this is essentially a shoot 'em up which is known for its immediately gratifying gameplay. Therefore, these components can be very daunting for gamers like me who just want to shoot at things. Speaking of shooting, the shmup portion is very fun with the ability to switch up your ship's abilities but it's still rather generic at its core. As a result, I found it to become quite stale after playing for a few hours. There are no stand-out moments so it all ends up feeling the same. I wish there was more to it.
Steel Rain X is definitely an ambitious title and it provides a satisfying blend of gameplay styles for the most part. That being said, you need a lot of patience to fully understand the simulation component and the shooting doesn't quite do enough to stay fresh.
- + An enjoyable spin on shoot 'em up gameplay
- + Loads of content including tons of various weapons, upgrades, and power-ups
- + A few modes to master (plus a level editor)
- - Simulation elements are daunting to learn
- - The shmup gameplay is mostly generic and quickly gets repetitive as a result