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  Navigation: Home » Sony » Review » Steel Dragon EX  
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PlayStation 2

Release Date:
Out Now

Midas Interactive




4 out of 10

Average Reader Score:
3.09 out of 10 (16 ratings)
What score would you give?

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Steel Dragon EX

Midas Interactive’s latest budget-priced title seemed to have a lot of promise. Right up until I loaded the game unfortunately; it went downhill from there. Right from the first menu – where you choose either the original Steel Dragon or the new, supposedly improved, Steel Dragon EX – it failed to impress. Maybe we had too high expectations of this game; with Ikaruga still floating around the offices you could expect such. We thought there might be a breathtaking change of gameplay round the corner. But no.

I started, as I felt I should, with the original Steel Dragon. As sprite-based, top-down shooter it was solid, but there was nothing you haven’t seen before perusing other titles in the genre. You shoot stuff, you collect power ups, you dodge bullets, missiles, and other projectiles that have been launched at you. You pretend that you care about the limited story, the usual fare. Some of the weapons that you can collect are interesting; the lightning gun – which is essentially a homing rocket - is entertaining for a while, but they never reach an engrossing level. In addition, the ability to add credits to the game at will removes the seat-of-your pants thrill so much associated with arcade games, the feeling of surviving on your last life past a large wave of enemies is immensely enjoyable and is gone when there is no such thing as your last life.

At this point, I discovered something that was mildly irritating – there was no way of getting back to the game selection menu from the original game. The remade game? No problem! Just hit this button combo. But no, you have to get up and reset the Playstation 2. I realise that this could be considered pedantic, but how hard would it have been to add this feature? It just contributes to the unpolished feeling that I got when I was playing through the games.

I then tried my hand at the remade game. I’m not entirely sure how they claim that it’s a remake, as I didn’t feel it had been anywhere close to the original game at any time, just about the only element that they share is the genre. Instead of being sprite based, it is depicted using polygons; unfortunately this makes it lose the (little) charm it had as they’re not particularly well done. This is a shame, as I think that with a little work, they’d be passable at least. The dull palette – other than the meek explosions - in both titles does little to help matters.

In EX you get a choice of pilot, of ship and of the ship’s colour. One might think that this would add much replay to the title but alas, it was not to be. The only effect the pilots have is the smart bomb changes from pilot to pilot, but with little net effect – a smart bomb is a smart bomb, after all. Thankfully, changing the ship’s colour has no effect at all. I could just see this being added as a mechanic to make the game unique. The three different ships are almost refreshingly different – they fire different types of weapons. However, after a brief experiment it became clear that one is more powerful than the other two, thus making the other two obsolete.

One distinctive feature about the updated game is the fact you have four primary fire buttons, and this is an element I actually enjoyed exploring as the buttons vary in strength. Light fire will do little damage to enemies over a spread-out area, up in increments to heavy fire which will do much more damage to enemies directly in front of you only. The lovely touch about this is that the more you fire, the slower you move. This makes you trade off damage for manoeuvrability, which is a valuable commodity if you are on a screen full of lethal enemy projectiles. This even makes sense to me, which partially redeemed the game. However, once you get to a boss – who takes damage anywhere you hit him – you can just fire for the entire time without a problem and constantly deal damage to him, disposing of him without a problem.

Overall, I don’t think that either game is really worth your hard-earned €25. Together they’re closer, but not close enough that you should bother, think of much better things that €25 could be spent on; three quarters of a set of bongos for Donkey Konga to name but one. Midas Interactive did itself a favour by not attempting to release this as a full priced game, where it would have been laughable. But even at this price point it is merely not worth bothering with if value for money is even a remote concern for you.

Alex Rea - (2 Nov 2004)
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