Review: The Legend of Steel Empire is a decent addition to the Switch’s extensive arcade shooter library  

the legend of steel empire

Inin Games is yet again at it in bringing old retro shooters out for an entirely new audience. This time it’s The Legend of Steel Empire, which is a re-release of an overlooked Mega Drive/Genesis bullet hell shooter called Steel Empire, developed by little now and long defunct developer HOT-B. While I wouldn’t necessarily call it “legendary”, it was well liked enough to be revisited on two separate occasions, once on the GBA and later during the lifespan of the 3DS. This is a neat little game you’d be remiss to pass on.

The action takes place in a fictionalized world setting where two major powers fight for control. As a member of Silverhead, you battle it out with Motorhead, who has been discovered to be developing a secret weapon that could turn the course of the war. It’s your job to infiltrate and find out more about it, hopefully putting it out of commission over the course of seven levels over a handful of different locations over your rival country.

In terms of gameplay, The Legend of Steel Empire is as traditional as they come for a shooter of its ilk. You get to pilot one of two different aircraft, which vary in size, speed, and firepower, and you can shoot either forward or backward as you scroll sideways and sometimes diagonally. There are three difficulty levels, and I found normal to be quite manageable, especially for someone like me who is a pretty casual shoot ’em up player.

the legend of steel empire
Take it to the skies in either a small plane or a bigger zeppelin.

There’s not much else to go on about gameplay. If you’ve played one of these you’ll know what you’ll be getting yourself into when starting this out. Yet, it does it all incredibly well, with some fun boss battles that really put your two-directional shooting skills to the test. I for one ended up holding my Pro Controller differently to play this, using my index and middle finger to alternate between the two shots. As you fly around, you can collect power-ups and even unlock alternative shooting models, as usual. There’s also a screen-filling attack that you’re better off saving for whenever you are in a pinch.

While nothing out of this world in terms of how it plays, there’s much to say for how well presented The Legend of Steel Empire is. The steampunk aesthetics marry extremely well with the gameplay, and just about every single graphical element positively oozes with charm. Musically, it is also a joy, especially in how the opening theme gets its sheet displayed as the menu screen pops up. I like that a whole bunch!

the legend of steel empire
BIG BOSSES indeed!

The Switch is very well served when it comes to games in this genre. You could throw a rock in the eShop and you’d likely hit a decent shoot ’em up, so there’s plenty of competition for The Legend of Steel Empire from the very get-go. Then again, it’s always good to have historical rescues such as this, a game that would otherwise be relegated to older systems whose digital shops have long gone extinct, or that physical media is prohibitively expensive.

The Legend of Steel Empire isn’t a shooter that will blow you away or anything, nor is it going to be a terribly long game to finish, but for what it is, it’s serviceable, not to mention its approach in terms of theme which sets it somewhat apart from the rest. I’d maybe draw a comparison to something like Jamestown in regards to that, yet another great little gem that happens to be on Switch too. Either way, you’ll be well served if you do decide to pick this one up, but keep your expectations in check as it lacks any form of extra materials or game modes. It is what it is.

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