Although I haven’t exactly played a whole lot of space combat shooters, Strike Suit Zero caught my eye the instant it was announced early last year. What interested me about it? The fact that you can control a spaceship which can transform into a mech. I’m a big fan of Macross so knowing that there was a game that would let me live out my fantasies of piloting a space mech got me excited. As far as fulfilling its promise of a fun, kick-ass space shooter, this game doesn’t disappoint.
Set in the distant future, Strike Suit Zero tells the story of a war between the United Nations of Earth and the colonies who want to become independent. The U.N.E and colonial forces are at a stalemate until the colonists discover an alien weapon that can be used to destroy Earth and ensure their victory. The only means to stop them is with an experimental fighter ship called the Strike Suit.
The set up for the story is admittedly reminiscent of Mobile Suit Gundam; from the rebellion to the prototype mech suit. It does have aliens (of a sort) in it but even that is still a bit cliched. As far as the overall story is concerned, it’s good but it’s not anything original. It really serves as a vehicle to get you into different space battles and THAT is where the game stands out.
I’ll just come out and say it, I LOVED transforming into a mech. The moment when I got into the Strike Suit, hit X and watched it go from spaceship to robot, filled me with an immeasurable amount of joy. I became giddy like a kid every time I turned into an awesome mech. The fact that I was able to decimate enemies with ease in the Suit was great as well. Every subsequent time that I transformed made me happy and it never got old.
Despite being able to pilot a transformable ship, about half of the time is spent in Pursuit mode (i.e. a regular spaceship). This is because being in Strike mode uses up energy. This energy replenishes over time and when you destroy enemy ships, but it doesn’t last long. Luckily there’s plenty of stuff to blow up so you won’t be missing out on the mech-y goodness for too long.
Space combat, whether in Pursuit or Strike modes, is good for the most part but it does have some hitches. The controls are kind of complicated to get used to, which made the first few hours with the game frustrating. Nearly every button has a different action assigned to it and I sometimes forgot what did what. When it all clicked however, space combat was smooth and a lot of fun.
Since the game takes place in space you can move around freely in three dimensions. Though disorientating at first, I adapted fast and loved the freedom of movement. Targeting was a bit inconsistent since locking on works differently in Strike and Pursuit modes.
In pursuit mode there is no real way to lock on (unless you’re using missiles) so trying to shoot a moving target in 3D space was difficult. The game has a reticle that shows you where to aim but sometimes this wasn’t good enough. In Strike mode you can lock on to anything. In both modes, though, there were instances where you had to manually fire, such as when having to shoot weak spots of giant enemy ships. The reticle sizes also change depending on what type of primary weapons you use (plasma beams are smaller, machine guns are bigger).
As far as mission objectives went they were pretty similar: find and eliminate enemy targets. Sometimes the game would mix it up by throwing you into a nebula which made it impossible to lock on to targets or you would find yourself in a random debris field but, for the most part, each mission was the same. There were also a few missions which had you protecting other ships. Failing to do so would either make you go back to the previous checkpoint or cause you to get a lower ranking.
Replaying missions is one thing that will add to your replay value. The only way to get upgrades for the Strike Suit is by doing mission specific objectives like destroying a certain type of enemy or ensuring the safety of an allied ship. The story slightly changes depending on how missions were completed so that is another incentive to replay them. There are also simulation missions of great U.N.E space battles to play. These can be played with the Strike Suit but it’s best to play them with the spaceships which were used in those battles in order to get a better ranking.
As far as graphics goes this game is a mixed bag. The actual spaceships and space stations were really dull. They seemed like replicas of ships from other sci-fi stories and didn’t really have much life to them. Even the Strike Suit, while cool looking, was kind of bland. The backgrounds which contained the planets, stars, asteroids and such were breathtaking however. Yes, it is just pretty wallpaper that you can’t interact with but it helped to give me the sense that I was fighting over strange, alien worlds.
Even after having finished it, I still want to go back and replay this game. That right there should tell you how much I enjoyed it. Although combat could have been a bit tighter and the story more compelling, I liked what I got. The game has a solid foundation though and I look forward to future iterations if this becomes a franchise. There’s not much more to say other than Strike Suit Zero is a fun game that fans of anime and space sim games should check out.