Somewhere…sometime…in a world almost familiar

Steel Empire is a sci-fi shooter that takes place in an alternative, steam punk history.  The fantastical tale reminds me of Star Wars in a way, with a small rebel group trying to bring peace to a world in turmoil.  While there are main goals like capturing a base or detaining the evil dictator, Steel Empire is as much a battle of old vs. new technology as it is good vs. evil.  A group of scientists in a secret lab have perfected Imamio Thunder – a bomb able to cause lighting to shoot forth from the sky!  Can this advanced power beat the best of steam tech?

The game isn’t story driven however, even if it claims to be based on an 1800’s novel by the same name.  The story is only needed insofar as it allows the game to take place in fantastic settings.  Flying above Victorian era styled cities, along the seaside and railways, through poorly lit, gas filled mines, up steep fortress cliffs, and even into outer space, Steel Empire has some fun environments!  While your enemies are all steam powered machine variants and unmanned drones, there’s still a good amount of diversity shown with various types of automaton looking contraptions.  You’ll also have to deal with projectiles, and environmental hazards and obstacles like falling boulders or thick fog.

Steel Empire’s visuals are colorful and imaginative.  Layers of parallax scrolling impress, and look even better in 3D!  It’s well implemented and highly effective.  The audio fares just as favorably, if not better.  Having a sound player to let you listen to effects and awesome background tunes at your leisure is great!  Controls are top-notch, with the ability to fire from both the front and rear with either vehicle put to great use.  You can even configure them as needed.

As far as extras and options go, Steel Empire offers a few surprises. Training lets you play already cleared stages.  You can adjust the number of spare units and continues.  Coupled with four difficulty settings (one which’s unlocked) makes the challenge balanced for gamers of all types.  You can earn achievements, save replays, and unlock a gallery of cool b&w and color sketches.  There’s also local leaderboards, but no online ones.  I normally wouldn’t question such an absence except for the price …

Steel Empire costs $30, keeping the developers original Japanese pricing.  For a game whose theme is the old battling the new, the price seems to reflect this as well.  It’s very much stuck in the past, while the vast majority of eShop offerings have surpassed it with modern, reasonable pricing.   As fond as I am of the game, this disproportionate cost can’t be reasonably explained.  The game’s age, content, and eShop peers warrant a sizably lower msrp.  Unless this game’s headed for retail, with a case and manual treatment, waiting for the inevitable price drop is totally justified.

Steel Empire makes for a highly entertaining 3DS download!  It takes classic gameplay, puts its own unique stamp on it, and wraps everything around creative locales.  It deserves to succeed even more now due to the lack of shooters being made – when originally released the market was bloated with such games!  While the current pricing will make success difficult if not impossible, as soon as the price drops to a logical amount consider this a must buy for shooter fans!