Sunday, August 7, 2011

Strania Review

Strania – The Stella Machina is an arcade shooter title developed by the Japanese company G.Rev. This latest entry shows an attempt to capture the spirit and gameplay style of the famous jet-fighter style arcade shooters that were popular in the 80′s and 90′s games markets. These games are now generally reserved for the iOS App Store and old school arcades where people can go to relive the glory years of gaming. This bizarre Japanese title has to stack up to some very successful arcade shooters from the modern era. Nostalgia will be a large part of buying Strania for the simple fact that it has gone back to basics to try and get the fundementals of a Shoot 'Em Up game right instead of adding newschool flair and modes we expect in a 21st century game. Incorporating strategic decision-making with the exhilarating action that defines the genre, Strania offers a dynamic game system and features some stunning effects plus a catchy soundtrack.


The Japanese origins of the game is immediately clear from the get go. If the player is not tipped off by the anime inspired opening screen and accompanying Japanese text, then it would most certainly be the general make-up and design of the in game graphics themselves. The characters in the game are Mechanical robots which instantly gave me the sense that I was playing through a Transformers or Gundam inspired title. The designs of the characters are a bit bland and simplistic, but there is enough personality in each robot to distinguish between each one. One of the visual aspects I enjoyed the most in playing this is the background animation. The flow of the backgrounds in Shoot ‘Em Up games like Strania often make a large difference to how well the game flows. The background is the only thing that will help the player determine the context of the battle they are experiencing. The limited graphics capability that exist with the production of arcade games is obvious, but I found that the level of detail providing in a majority of the visuals were highly appealing for a game attempting to get back to it's oldschool roots.

The techno soundtrack really worked well for this game. In fact, the soundtrack was one of its best elements. During battle scenes in Strania the pacing and intensity of the audio changed to match the situation, which worked a treat. For example, the audio dropped off to a slow, eerie pace as you went into a boss battle to set the scene for what was about to take place. Fast beats in the game during intense moments where lots of action took place on the screen gave you a massive adrenalin rush to keep playing. The developers should be credited to choosing a great soundtrack that differentiated itself from the repetitive themes of old arcade shooter games.


Strania is a pretty simple game to pick up and play due to the simplistic controls. The game plays on a 2D screen of movement with the D-Pad used to move your robot for the majority of the game. Some stages of the game changed the style of play as Strania moved to a 3D view, but the player is still restricted to 2D movements. I felt like if they were going to throw in these 'newschool' sections then the gameplay should at least match the graphics provided.

Being a Japanese game I was automatically wary that they wouldn't be able to convey a strong story to the Western gamer. There is hardly any of a story in Strania and I basically went through the entire game not knowing why I was fighting and whether I was even the good or bad guy. The game missions are comprised of both attack and defence missions, being able to identify enemy from ally and good from evil would better help players accomplish their missions. This is made all the more complicated by the fact that friendly fire capability is always on, with very little to help distinguish what should and should not be shot at.

While there is no multiplayer in the game, there is a co-operative mode that can be played through with a friend either locally or over Xbox Live. Sadly this mode has been simply tacked on for the sake of it as you are just going through exactly the same stages on exactly the same difficulty. I suppose if you want to relive your arcade life of playing with friends then this is the perfect mode for you, but I expected more to come from any additional modes thrown in.


While Strania hasn't totally recreated the nostalgic experience from arcade shooters from the 80's, it has added evidence of a modern feel to the game. Some great visual experiences and a cool soundtrack are definitely highlights of the game. The main game won't take a considerable amount of time to finish, but there is always the oppurtunity to go through it all over again with a friend. Lack of any meaningful story stops this being a truly addictive experience, but the combat and simplicity of the game keeps it from being a fun arcade title.

Graphics - 6.5/10
Sound - 7/10
Gameplay - 6.5/10
Overall - 6.5/10