A kaleidoscope of colour and bullets.

Title: Fast Striker
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita
Developer: NG:DEV.TEAM
Publisher: eastasiasoft
Release date: Out now digitally, with physical editions expected to ship in November 2018.
tl;dr: It’s like they took the feeling of a caffeine high and ported it to PS consoles.
Price: £6/$7 (available through PlayStation Cross-Buy) – digitally, across all platforms
Physical limited edition (only available through Play Asia’s website): £29/$35 – across all platforms
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

As time troops on, so do arcade games. Although they’re slowly fading out in favour of more modernised machines in actual arcades (my last visit to one, there was an inexplicable game about a chicken dodging traffic across a road), the pixel art, bullet hell shooter holds a certain amount of nostalgia for bright lights and begging your parents for stupid amounts of money so you can have a go. Fast Striker, originally making its debut on Neo Geo and the Dreamcast back in 2010, and then to iOS in 2011, has finally been ported to the PS4 and PS Vita this year. It’s fast, it’s frantic, and there’s a lot of button mashing involved.

Described as a 2D vertical shoot ’em up, you’ll zip through six stages, with only one goal – survive. You’ll be holding down X as you dodge, weave, and gun down enemies coming at you left and right, killing bosses in between, all the while listening to a catchy synth soundtrack. There’s not much more to it than that – you have four different modes (Novice, Original, Maniac, and Omake, which for some reason is the hardest of the lot), and while the weapons and enemies on each difficulty level vary, the actual levels themselves don’t, which means there isn’t a whole lot of reason for replayability.

The controls, too, are very simple, with pressing X to shoot or to hold it down in some of the higher difficulty levels to produce a laser that mows everything down in its path. Circle will generate a very short-lived shield, and square will allow you to shoot behind your ship. There are a handful of power-ups you can pick up when playing the actual levels, but what they do, or what you need to smash to pick them up, I couldn’t tell you. Some of them give you a shield for a second, and another seems to up the intensity of the laser in Maniac, but because the screen is so cluttered and crowded, in a riot of colour, it became very difficult to focus on what’s going on.

I have no idea who you all are, but I like your outfits.

And I know someone’s going to say “It’s faced paced and that’s the point,” but there’s fast-paced and Sonic the Hedgehog on a deserted motorway. Fast Striker has so much going on in every stage, with enemies filling the screen, all in different colours, throwing projectiles at you, it very quickly becomes “Survive,” rather than any sort of finesse. I kept ducking out of the way of everything thrown on the screen because I genuinely wasn’t sure what was going to damage me if it hit. I worked out that the red bullets hurt, but the pink, purple, and green ones didn’t, until something sent me spiralling out of the sky that I didn’t even see. I’d even go so far to say there’s too much going on at once, combined with the huge amount of colours and the moving backgrounds, the idea of “Focus,” quickly becomes a sweet lie you tell to yourself.

So you die, a lot, which is not unheard of in arcade games or bullet hell shooters, especially with ones that are dressed up to look and play like classics – I get it. But with a control “tutorial,” that’s one screen that shows a joystick wiggling around without actually indicating which button does what, no explanation of power-ups, and “credits,” that serve as lives, my will to carry on and “git gud,” wore thin quickly. A lot of the mechanics go flat out unexplained; in Maniac, for example, my laser randomly turns green, the game keeps chirping “Broken chain,” at me, which I can only presume is my killstreak, or that I’ve dropped ranks, and there’s a little meter pulsing in the corner of the screen, which I think corresponds to my shots. Would this add anything to the gameplay experience? Maybe, maybe not, but I would have certainly liked to know what was going on.

The credits system is honestly the most frustrating. You start the game with three, and you have three lives before you have to use another to carry on after those lives are lost. There doesn’t appear to be any way to gain more credits while playing (and thankfully, not a microtransaction deal either!) so once you’ve used those credits, it’s right back to the beginning of the game. Retro? Oh yes. Does it have a place in modern gaming? That’s debatable. While I’m not denying it’s fun to have a challenge, it gets tedious to have to replay stages and hoard credits, over and over and over, to gain a tiny bit of progress – if you could replay stage by stage, it would definitely give the incentive to more casual players to push through to the end, which is much the same problem we had when playing Rigid Force Alpha.

It also doesn’t do a lot to make it stand out in the genre – apart from the absolutely amazing soundtrack, it doesn’t feel any different to any other arcade shooter I’ve played. So while it’s great for the odd pick up and play, and it’s done nothing to make me not recommend it if you’re into this kind of thing, it feels like a game to pick up when you have nothing better to do. So, actually, if this was in an real arcade, it’d probably be a perfect fit.

The Good

  • Colourful and bright.
  • Soundtrack is dancey and I could listen to it all day.
  • Pretty character art.

The Bad

  • Too much going on at once makes it hard to focus properly.
  • Lack of being able to play individual stages and regain credits.
  • Poorly explained controls.

Family Focus

Fast Striker is rated PEGI 7 and E for Everyone by the ESRB, containing only mild fantasy violence. Absolutely fine for everyone, aside from any Dark Souls-esque ragequitting.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a review code provided by PR for the purposes of this review.