With so many shmups on the market, it takes a lot to make one that's worth playing. Thankfully, Steredenn offers solid gameplay and a killer soundtrack that makes exploding your enemies all the more satisfying.
At its core, Steredenn doesn't stray far from the classic shoot 'em up formula. You fly around space while dodging enemy fire and shooting a stream of projectiles that'll hopefully come in contact with your foes. However, it accomplishes these basics perfectly with its tough-as-nails challenge, interesting enemy types, and diverse array of weaponry. On top of this, it's all contained within a randomly generated rouguelike campaign. Therefore, every time you play feels like a fresh experience. Only shmup professionals will be able to finish the campaign so make sure you're ready for a high degree of difficulty before you strap into your ship. If not, be prepared to give up on your aspirations for completing it after dozens of failed attempts. Either way you look at it, you're in for one exhilarating thumb exercise that'll keep your palms sweating and your eyes glued to the television.
Steredenn looks like your average pixel-filled retro-style indie game. That being said, it's easy to distinguish the different enemy types, projectiles, and points of interest. Also, the backgrounds do a good job of displaying space scenes with various splashes of colour and planets floating by. Where Steredenn's presentation goes above and beyond almost every other game in the genre is its sound design. The soundtrack by Zander Noriega is exceptionally adrenaline-pumping with a perfect blend of metal and atmospheric electronica. The effects of ships blowing up, projectiles being shot out everywhere, and helpful cues help make the audio nothing short of awe-inspiring. Overall, Steredenn simply looks and sounds fantastic which makes playing it all the more gratifying.
As you play through the campaign, you'll come across carrier ships that contain weapons. Upon destroying one, you can choose to equip whatever it drops to one of your two weapon slots. After playing for hours, I was still discovering new weapons and becoming familiar with many favourites. This dynamic helps to keep things fresh as you never know what you'll come across next. Another similar system that's put into play is upgrades that drop after every defeated boss. Again, there are many to experiment with and they'll grant you bonuses such as giving you more health, firepower, defenses, and score increases. These items result in some formidable configurations that pack quite the punch. By the way, points may seem useless but you'll need them to climb the highly competitive leaderboard.
Steredenn doesn't have many shortcomings but I'll discuss a few that make it a less enjoyable experience than it could be. There are no permanent upgrades and very few extras to unlock which means that the replay value mostly relies on your desire to get high scores. The only content that you're awarded is discovering new bosses and weapons for Arena mode and unlocking Superplay mode after completing the campaign. One issue that I found to be downright unfair is that bosses and even some regular enemies unleash unavoidable attacks such as massive laser cannons without any discernible warning. It happened enough that I had to memorize certain bosses in order to emerge unscathed. Speaking of bosses, most of them look the same with only slight variations. They get bigger as you progress, but you won't come across any that are as unique as the ones in such classics as Gradius V, S.C.A.T., and Axelay.
Even though it can be brutally difficult and is a little short on content, Steredenn remains a top-of-the-line shoot 'em up. Any genre veteran will be blown away for hours with its incredible gameplay, awesome music, and varied ship configurations.
- + Tight shoot 'em up gameplay within a randomly generated roguelike campaign
- + Phenomenal music and effects
- + Many ship configurations to experiment with
- - Could use additional modes and permanent unlockables to extend replay value
- - Some unfair attacks can be devastating
- - Bosses mostly look the same