The shoot ‘em up is a bit of a niche choice these days. Long gone are the days where Galaga and Space Invaders were the hottest games on the market. The genre now seems defined by small indie releases via the PlayStation Store. Fast Striker comes courtesy of a German developer, the confusingly named NG:DEV.TEAM. It’s a shmup with a focus on scoring points, trying to emulate the feeling of classic arcade titles. It’s bizarrely been around since 2010, released only for the now defunct Neo Geo and SEGA Dreamcast. The updated version released on the PlayStation Store adds a fourth difficultly level, but seemingly little else.
The four difficultly settings are novice, original, maniac and omake. What's slightly interesting about each is that they provide different scoring mechanics depending on which you choose. For example, maniac mode offers more points for players who get up close and personal with enemies instead of keeping their distance. If you care for point collection, then this is your kind of game. It’s really the only variable besides reaching the end of the level. There’s the odd secret to collect, but they amount to very little other than yet more points. The difficulty settings do however provide a substantial level of challenge when playing on anything but novice. The game relishes in the old ‘as hard as an 80s arcade' mantra, so expect to see your little ship explode frequently.
The level design uses classic Neo Geo graphics as you might expect, but does little to make them stand out. They’re all very similar and use a generally garish colour palette that doesn’t make the game hugely appealing to look at. The soundtrack is pretty tidy though, with some vintage early 2000s dance tracks accompanied by a strong techno beat, you’ll be tapping your feet while slaying endless hordes of generic alien baddies.
The gameplay harkens back to the days of old, but is unfortunately just a little too basic, even by the standards of the 90s. X shoots forward, circle creates a shield for brief invincibility, and square shoots behind. Each of the different difficulty settings starts you in a unique ship with its own weapons, but other than that, they all play identically. The one interesting element is that the pressure applied to the X button can affect how your weapon is used. A tap might create a small shot that allows you to move faster, while holding the button can create a more powerful spread at the cost of speed. The biggest sin committed here, however, is the lack of power ups to collect. A staple of the shmup genre, power ups provide incentive to continue playing and upgrade your arsenal, so the lack of anything like this is pretty jarring.
In review, Fast Striker is a difficult, but scrappy homage to the shoot ‘em ups of old. Its Neo Geo graphics, while nostalgic, don’t particularly stand out, and use an ugly palette of colours. The lack of additional gameplay features, especially powerups is its most egregious sin, but the experience is still an enjoyable one, if only for ten minutes at a time. On a PS Vita and for short bursts, this could provide entertainment for a bus journey or two. On PS4, however, it doesn’t cut the mustard, and fails to stand out from the many, many indie shoot ‘em ups available on the Store.