Is Nostalgia Alone Enough To Carry A Game?
Loading up Satazius I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had done a bit of Googling on the game, but I still knew very little about it. That all changed of course once I actually started playing the game, and in-turn realizing that, though it feels like a lot of other games, it still stands on its’ own two feet for the most part.
Anyone who has ever played any of the classic arcade side-scrollers such as Gradius and whatnot, will feel right at home with Satazius. The gameplay has a deceivingly simple design. You move with the arrow keys and fire your main weapons with Z, your special weapon with X, and can change which one of your secondary weapons you’re using with C — that’s really all there is to the control scheme.
How does the game actually play — that is the question when it comes to playing these indie titles. Since you’re not paying for hours upon hours of gameplay, or millions of dollars in production value, the game has to play extremely well, and in this regard, Satazius succeeds admirably. Though the ship speed feels extremely slow, (it does have several speed boosters throughout) she handles very well. With the amount of added control you have from moving slower, it makes it feel more like a game of skill rather than a game of luck. Anybody with fast enough reflexes can clear this game without losing a life, it’s all about timing your bob and weaves perfectly.
Speaking of timing your moves perfectly. This game may be easy enough on Easy or Normal difficulty, but by the time you reach Insane difficulty, it really does feel like a game of luck. The enemies show no mercy, they’re going to do everything in their power to end your life, even if that means driving you right into the ground, which of course leads to your’ ship blowing up…
When I first started the game, I was waiting for some kind of Prologue or Narration to give me some sort of indication on what it is I was suppose to be doing.. That never came, and I was then thrown into combat with a bunch of enemies I didn’t have any beef with, but were apparently out for my blood. Now there may be some kind of back story to all of this, but if there is, it wasn’t made readily apparent to me before playing the game.
This kind of design helps detach me from a game. I like to know WHY I’m doing something, I’m not a mindless drone that can just kill without remorse. (well, in a video game I can, but that’s besides the point) With no rhyme or reason as to why I was killing these enemies — I just flew around the pretty stages shooting lots of different baddies with several different weapons, and then fighting a boss at the end of each level…
After beating the game though, I came across the Plot-line for Satazius on the Publisher’s Website. I will include it below. This information should’ve been implemented into the game with a opening cut-scene or text screen of some sort.
The year is 2051. Location: SATAZIUS, a long-abandoned planet.
The cruiser Agano was on patrol when it was attacked and stricken by a confederacy of space pirates that had established a base on SATAZIUS. The pirates attacked the Agano intending to steal the assault ship ‘Trafalgar’ that was stowed aboard the Agano, but the Trafalgar made a successful emergency escape.
The crew of the Trafalgar calculated the probability of successfully escaping the pirate overrun planet at 0.02%; the probability of charging into and successfully destroying the pirate base was 1%. Taking the higher probability escape plan, the crew of the Trafalgar turned their ship toward the pirate horde and began their charge into the heart of SATAZIUS.
Bosses.. There are several key components to making a good boss fight:
- The design needs to be intimidating (Check)
- You need super awesome Boss Music (Nope)
- There should be a good reason as to why you’re killing this boss (Check, after reading the plot-line)
- The boss fight needs to be tough (Check)
So, 3/4 isn’t too bad. But they really could have gotten all four checks if they had brought in the composer from the eXceed Series. (Mmmmm) I have to hand it to them though, the boss design is extremely well done, with each boss being more intimidating than the last. Each boss fight is also tough, none of them are just a give-me, though I did feel that the Final Boss was a bit of a letdown. Not to say that it wasn’t a tough fight, because it was, but it just seemed like it needed a little more of something… I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Though the music in Satazius isn’t bad, it just doesn’t pull me into the experience like a certain ‘other’ Indie series of Japanese Shooters… The soundtrack still has a nice futuristic techno’y vibe going for it, and for the most part is solid. Each level has a different track, and they all feel unique enough so that they don’t begin to all sound the same.
When you speak of the weapons in Satazius you have to mention one of the biggest selling features of the game — unlockable weapons. The system is simple, as you beat each of the six levels, you unlock a new weapon. Each weapon feels extremely different from the next, and makes for an interesting system when in the heat of combat. Would it be easier to use the enemy seeking power balls or the rockets, the blast wave special move or the super crazy energy ball special move. These are all choices you have to weigh before each stage. ( I personally recommend the enemy seeking power balls as your secondary weapon, they be awesome) This is a nice effect and helps the game feel like you’re accomplishing something with each stage you beat.
The life system in Satazius is the same as seen in most of these Indie games. You have three lives, once all three have been used, you have to use a Continue. Luckily this game offers you nine continues, so there should be absolutely no reason that you don’t finish the game in one playthrough.
One playthrough isn’t a tall order when you can burn through Satazius in less than an hour. Sure you can go back and replay through it on harder difficulties, all while trying to get all the stars for a perfect score. But even with these added replays, you’ll still get less than four hours out of Satazius before you’ve done everything there is to do in the game.
Overall, the problem with Satazius isn’t Quality, it’s Quantity. Satazius steals a lot of its’ design choices from the classic shooters of yesteryear, and it turns the game into a fine side-scrolling shooter. The controls are tight, the gameplay is fun, using certain weapons in certain situations gives the game a bit of a tactical feel, the boss design is delicious, and the music isn’t overwhelmingly good, it’s still adequate. Though there is no option to change the graphics, they still look pretty good for being an indie title. (the artistic choices made, help of course)
But with the good comes the bad. The story is not made readily available to you from the get-go, and the game takes no time at all to beat. Really those are the only two problems with Satazius, fact is though, those are decent sized problems for a game costing $5.99. (at the time of this review)
So, I ask this question again; is nostalgia alone enough to carry a title? I don’t think so, and so did the developers of Satazius. That’s why they took what made classic shooters so fun, and then tweaked the style to make it more suitable for the audiences of today, and for that I commend them.Pros :
- Gameplay is Fun
- The Bosses Are Menacing, And Make For Tough Fights
- The Ability To Have Multiple Weapons And Have Unlockable Weapons Makes The Game Feel A Bit More Tactical
- Far Too Short
- Had To Use Google To Track Down A Plot-Line