Also available on PlayStation 4, Android, Linux, OSX, and Windows
If you've found yourself in need of a good, affordable fix for the mecha space combat shooter monkey on your back, I've got good news. Strike Suit Zero: Director Cut is available on pretty much every platform (except Nintendo's poor, eternally neglected platforms) and, at only $20, is a downright bargain for the amount of pew-pew laser space explosions the game provides. I had actually downloaded this game on my Xbox One who knows how long ago - presumably it was a free Games with Gold offer at some point - but had completely forgotten about it until my buddy Colin mentioned how kick ass it is. Hearing the praise from him, I knew I had to try it. After all, this was the guy who sent me the original Gundam movie trilogy on Bluray; if he says a pew pew laser robot game is good, it's gotta be good.
Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut is an updated and more polished re-release of the older Strike Suit Zero, and while I never played the original release, from what I've read, the director's cut improves the original in almost every area with the most praise being directed towards the difficulty. According to forum posts and Steam reviews I've read, the original release was crushingly difficult even on Easy whereas I found director's cut to be extremely fair. There are a couple of missions that were tough, but at no point did the difficulty feel like bullshit tier hard. If I had any gripe with the difficulty, it would be a few situations here and there with the checkpoint system; if you reach a checkpoint on a defend mission where the ship you're defending is low on health, you'll restart the checkpoint with it still like two shots from death, making it impossible to finish and completely defeating the purpose of a checkpoint. Other than that, however, every aspect of the game felt pretty fair and well balanced to me.
The story in Strike Suit Zero is that you're a pilot with the United Nations of Earth which finds itself embroiled in a war with a collection of colony worlds that have banded together to seek independence. You discover that the colonial forces have developed some sort of doomsday weapon capable of completely disabling an entire armada and destroying whole planets. Like, not the cities; it legit blows the planet apart. So, naturally, that's not really a good thing for your enemy to have, especially given that the colonial fleet set a course straight for Earth. No more Earth, no more war with United Nations of Earth. The bulk of the game is played in the context of the plucky band of guerillas turned bizarrely lucky war machine trope, but it works for it. The story isn't a breathtaking masterpiece or anything, but does keep the player engaged and interested.
The control for the game is fantastic. You can switch between a first and third person view, and you can set that perspective for your fighter cockpit, your mobile suit cockpit, or have it the same both. I stuck with third person, but the option of going first person is nice. You unlock a variety of ships each with different specialties. Some are faster and more agile whereas others have more plasma weapon energy and better armor. Each ship also has different weapon slots; some give you a little as one machine gun slot and two missile slots whereas others give you as much as two machine gun slots and four missile slots. Picking the right ship and weapon loadout to match your playstyle and the mission at hand is the key to victory.
Visually, the game looks great. It doesn't set a new high for graphical fidelity or anything, but definitely looks good. The laser effects are vibrant, the explosions have enough bloom to pop without looking like the inside of a nuclear reactor, and the ships look sleek and badass. I've really only got two complaints about the visuals. First, the ship wreckage that's left over when you destroy enemy capital ships looks pretty bad for the hardware it's running on. It's not that the texture work is bad, but the ship just kind of breaks into like three or four chunks, leaving the debris looking like what you might expect to find in game from ten or fifteen years ago. My other gripe is that there's some serious slowdown when you've got especially large ships exploding in close proximity to you. The framerate drops from the standard 30 fps to around 10 fps for a few seconds. Like the visuals, the game's audio isn't setting any new industry standards, but it's definitely very well done and pleasing to the ear. The music has a grand, dignified feel without being so in-your-face that it detracts from the action of the game. The voice acting, while nothing special, is competent enough and doesn't stand out like some of the cringe-worthy stuff we got in the 90s.
Strike Suit Zero is broken into 13 missions, and the director's cut includes an addition five missions. All in all, you're looking at probably five or six hours for a full playthrough, maybe a little plus or minus depending on the difficulty you choose. You're scored at the end of each mission based on your kills and time taken with bronze, silver, gold, and platinum medals, so for those who like a challenge for going full completionist, this game has you covered in that regard. The five expansion missions, titled Heroes of the Fleet, aren't particularly fascinating from a story perspective as it all takes place in a simulator, but the missions themselves are a lot of fun. Those five missions are arguably as fun if not more so than the 13 missions in the base game.
All in all, Strike Suit Zero: Director's Cut is a must-have for fans of space combat sims. The price is totally reasonable, coming in at just a hair over $1 per level, and the variety of ships from which you can choose gives it a decent amount of replay value. Whether you game on PlayStation, Xbox, or PC, this game is absolutely worth a purchase. This is the space fighter for which I've been waiting for years. I am so extremely glad that Colin reminded me that I have this game.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.