When talking about Dreamcast gaming after the death of the console, many titles are name-dropped like ‘Last Hope’, ‘Rush Rush Rally Racing’ or even 2012’s ‘Gunlord’ but none of these titles will ever feature in such a turbulent history as much as ‘Sturmwind’.
Duranik’s labour of love for over seven years finally lands on Dreamcast in 2013 – even though this isn’t the console or name it originally went by it feels a natural fit on Sega’s last piece of hardware. Originally known as ‘Native’ and in development for the Atari Jaguar at a very slow pace, it wasn’t until the German independent publisher – Redspotgames picked up publishing rights for the Dreamcast that this game started to see a faster-paced and clearly road mapped development cycle worthy of turning the heads of ‘shump’ fans across the globe.
But, was all this too soon? Had Redspotgames taken on more than they could chew? By all accounts looking back in 2010 – yes they did, the trail of the game was notoriously hot and cold, on and off. Dreamcast fans were getting very wary considering they had pre-ordered the game as early as they could but the release seemed so far off. 2011 came and left with very little in the way of public spotlight on the game which didn’t make things any easier for the games public perception although, a small handful of individuals were given the chance to beta test the game at the end of the year – I was one of the lucky few who, not only got to test the beta but also the silver ‘master’ copy of the game before printing so the version I review below is the finished product that’s due to be released in a matter of days, was the journey worth it? Let’s find out.
Depending on which version of Sturmwind you plump for, the first thing you’ll notice is the flamboyant packaging of the Limited Edition release of the game. It’s certainly a first for the Dreamcast to have a game ship with extra goodies that you’d expect from a premium release on the Xbox 360 or PS3 – a refreshing change and fan service worthy of any collector.
The game begins with animated Duranik and Redspotgames logo screens, right away we can see that Dreamcast development has certainly hit what some may refer to as ‘phase two’ when it comes to front end design. There’s a short cinematic but considering the game voices are what seems to be German, we’ll overlook this.
There are two modes, Normal and Arcade. Arcade mode is as one would expect – the player is presented the game without continues as would be the case with a coin-opperated cabinet. The Arcade mode itself doesn’t pose as much of a challenge as other recent Dreamcast releases such as Fast Striker or Dux, this balancing of gaming suited towards beginners and experts alike is a real refreshing change for those that find frantic Euro-shooters just that trifle too hard. The Normal mode balances even more so in the favour of beginners/those not willing to raise their blood pressure, given that you are presented with the ability to pick at a level at your own pace and continue the proceeding level at another time with full health and smart bomb power-up should you desire, this approach is very thoughtful and really sets apart the game from others on the system giving you the feeling the developers want you to see everything they have worked so hard to create – evident also on the use of Xbox style ‘Achievements’ that reward the player for various tasks during gameplay; a stunning little touch.
The graphics used in Sturmwind are quite possibly the best we’ve seen from the Dreamcast since Ikaruga released on the system 11 years ago. Sturmwind shares a 3D/2D hybrid graphic engine concept that could easily go toe-to-toe with Treasure’s legendary game. You’ll witness spectacular explosions and massive boss battles that show much like the two-man team at Duranik, the Dreamcast really is more than the sum of it’s parts and this game is everything you’d hope from a Dreamcast release in 2013 without the aid of Sega’s official tools. There are plenty of power-ups along the way in Sturmwind keeping the experience as fresh as it can be some more useful than others, there’s also the ability to shoot backwards at enemies approaching from the rear of the player’s ship, this leads to mixed results depending on what weapon you have however. At one point I found myself with a spreadshot weapon that missed all threats from the rear and as a result, cost me a life, just a niggling flaw but one that would aggravate me had I been playing seriously.
The music and sound effects of Strurmwind are spot-on, both providing the player with an overwhelming sense of escapism the European club music really sets the pulse racing and the toe-tapping throughout your play through of the game and the mass explosion SFX’s coupled with the Dreamcast’s Rumble Pack accessory really bring home the feeling of bringing down one badass space baddie.
If there was anything that I had to fault Sturmwind for it would must certain be how busy the backgrounds can get, sometimes it’s extremely difficult to work out the difference between what’s safe aerospace and what’s heading in your general direction ready to take one of those important lives you’ve been saving for potentially harder stages. This isn’t to say that background detail is a downer on this release, because it sure isn’t – I was quite gob-smacked by how much detail is crammed out of the Dreamcast’s hardware and that’s a feeling that never goes away but at the same time prevents the game getting a perfect sweep from me.
- SD card support for bonus content
- Uploading scores online
- Fair and balanced gameplay
- Music and SFX pleasing on the ear
- Saving stage progress between play
- Background detail can confuse sometimes
- German voiceovers only during gameplay
- Sometimes unclear what killed you
Final score NINE OUT OF TEN.
‘A worthy addition to any Dreamcast library, a game that can proudly sit between classics like Ikaruga, Under Defeat and Borderdown – highly recommended.