Power Strike II - Compile/Sega

Power Strike II

Compile/Sega - Sega Master System - 1993

Reviewed by Alex Vormbrock (a.k.a. Herr Schatten).

I have to admid that I usually prefer horizontally scrolling shooters to vertically scrolling ones. Yet, there were a few of those that really got me hooked (namely 'Wings Of Death', 'Xenon 2' (Amiga) and 'Dragon Spirit' (PC Engine)). Power Strike for the Sega Master System was one of them, too, so I was really excited to hear about the sequel.

Due to the limitations of the hardware (excellent colour palette, but slow CPU) few shooters have been developed for the Master System. Interestingly, the best of them were all done by Compile: the glorious R-Type conversion, Power Strike (aka Aleste) and, of course, Power Strike II. The latter one was released in 1993. At that time, the Master System was practically already dead and gone, at least commercially. So whatever drove the guys from Compile into creating Power Strike II I cannot guess. But I'm glad they did. Unfortunately, because of its late release date (and because of the fact that this is the only Compile game that has only been released outside (!) of Japan), the cart is very rare and almost impossible to obtain. If you're lucky, it shows up on eBay. If that happens: grab it! Otherwise you're missing the best shooter for your Master System and one of the best vert scrollers in shmups history. And believe me: playing it on an emulator is just half the fun.

There were a few things I had to criticise about Power Strike, so I am glad to announce that they got them all fixed in the sequel. Sequel? Not ...quite. Power Strike was a conversion of the MSX game Aleste, but Power Strike II is not a conversion of Aleste 2. Instead, it takes quite a step aside from the storyline of the Aleste series. No evil computer and no mutated plants to fight here. The story is set in a parallel universe in the early 1930s. The Great Depression drove many people into poverty, so a lot of them had to turn to crime to survive. Powerful sky pirates control the skies around the coast of Italy. This is were we come into play. Our hero is a bounty hunter whose task is to hunt down the sky pirates. Now that's a neat new idea. Instead of saving the earth once again, we just go for a quick cash-in. Before each stage of the game we see a wanted poster with the picture of the sky pirate we're after. Strangely enough, most of the pirates resemble famous actors or musicians.

The graphics are simply the best ever seen on the Master System. They're nothing short of stunning. There's always tons of sprites on the screen and there's never any flicker or slowdown. The style of the graphics is a weird mixture of 1930s machinery and science fiction with a couple of Jules Verne references occasionally thrown in. All the enemies look incredibly cool, especially the huge bosses. Background pieces are beautifully painted and very detailed. And the intro and ending sequences look better than some I have seen on the Mega Drive.

The sound effects are very crisp. I especially love the metallic sound you can hear when hitting certain foes. The bosses go down in a spectacular thunderstorm. It's all really impressive. The music, on the other hand, is just above average. The tunes are not bad, but I liked the music of the first Power Strike game better.

But the most important thing is the gameplay. And Power Srike II doesn't fall short in any aspect of that. The weapon system is similar to other games of the Aleste series: Power up your main gun by collecting 'P' symbols and choose and build up one of seven different secondary weapons by picking up numbers 0 to 6. You can choose your default secondary weapon before the game starts. The secondary wepons are:

0 - No secondary weapon at all. This can be the weakest or the most powerful weapon of all, depending on how advanced your main gun is, because number 0 gives you very fast rapid fire. So, if your main gun is weak, number 0 is almost useless, but with a fully powered up main gun you can roast even bosses in seconds.

1 - Spread shot. This one is reasonably powerful even if not powered up much. I usually pick it as my default weapon, but exchange it for better equipment quite soon.

2 - Homing missiles. This is like a mixture of numbers 4 and 5. The missiles home in on the enemy to a certain degree and are very powerful. But if the power level of this weapon is low, you've got only few missiles and they are too slow to be very helpful.

3 - Burner. Depending on the power level of this weapon, you get up to two drones that act like the options in Gradius. Both the players ship and the drones shoot a beam of concentrated fire whose range is way too short to be of any use. Avoid like the plague.

4 - Homing plasma balls. Most of the time, this should be the weapon of your choice. The plasma balls home in on enemies. They move very fast. Unfortunately, they do not do much damage, but they are incredibly useful in areas where many weak foes are on the screen.

5 - Destroyer. Actually, these are normal missiles. It's the most powerful secondary weapon. If powered up to level six (which is the highest possible), almost the whole screen is filled with your own projectiles causing major havoc. Very cool.

6 - Napalm. Weapon number six is very hard to take control of. Your ship spits out a couple of plasma balls that circle around the creen, then disappear. If the power level is low, it's not very useful and you won't use it often during the game, but if powered up to at least level three, it can be used to wipe the screen clean of enemy bullets. This is the best way to survive the battles against the mid bosses of stages five and seven.

Each secondary weapon can be powered up six times. Both , the main and the secondary weapon are fired by pushing the same fire button. Holding the button down doesn't only give you rapid fire, it also charges up some kind of super blast which can be released on strong opponents or in dangerous situations by releasing the button. The second button can be used to adjust your speed or it can be configured to act as a pause button. This is a wonderful idea more Master System games should have adopted.
Additionally, you can collect up to two multiples, which then circle around your ship, protecting it from enemy fire and adding special abilities to your main gun. You can get yellow, blue or red multiples or use a combination of two of them. Depending on which drones you use, your main weapon gets stronger, fires more rapidly or spreads wider.

There is very little on the downside of this game: The player's ship moves just a little bit too fast for my taste and some of the enemy bullets are a bit small and hard to see. But apart from that, everything is near perfect. They even fixed the few flaws of the first Power Strike game: The extra symbols now float towards the BOTTOM of the screen, there's real bosses and all secondary weapons last infinitely. Additionally, when losing a life, you don't lose all your power ups at once, you only lose half of them, so you are left with a decent chance to survive.

To make it short: Power Strike II is the best shmup for the Sega Master System, if not of the entire 8-bit era. It looks and plays better than many 16-bit games. It's technically perfect and quite unique in design. Personally, I even like it a tiny bit better than Aleste 2. So go and get it - you won't regret it.


Stage one. This is the baddie we're after. Doesn't look too terrifying.


Stage one is set in a coastal environment. Gun turrets pop out of the water quite frequently. I guess the sky pirates hiding in there do appreciate a gulp of fresh air. Until I blow them up, that is.


In the second half of the stage, there are some volcanos. We will see more of those in later stages of the game.

Here you can also see that I accidently picked up weapon number 3, which sucks.


The last part of the stage is high above the clouds. Lots of foes come flying through the holes.


'... crab, tiger and almonds, very unusual.'

'I really had my heart set on halibut.'

This boss looks like he has jumped straight out of a Darius game. Very fishy, indeed.


Seems like Mr. Meat Loaf is next on our list.


Stage two looks suspiciously like stage one continued. But this is only the first impression you get.


Flying yellow submarines attack. Must be a Beatles fan's fever dream.


If the Capcom guys had seen this stage, they'd have called the game '1932' or something.


Look! Someone pulled out the plug of this ocean. Actually, it seems to have had more than one - and they've all been pulled out at once.


D'oh! This boss looks exactly like the lobster shaped harmonica Otto (the bus driver from The Simpsons) tries to win. (It's the episode in which Homer puts together a bowling team.)


The baddie from stage three. Seems to be a long lost Baldwin brother.


Out in the green we meet wildly shooting statues. This game gets weirder and weirder.


These chasms in the ground crack up suddenly and reveal gun turrets or formations of flying enemies. Quite surprising the first time around.


This part is very cool. At the end of the stage the perspective shifts and it looks like we are flying straight up into the sky...


... where we meet this rather plump looking one-eyed UFO sort of thing.


Our next mission: Kill Billy Idol!


Stage four is my favourite. An absolute masterpiece. The complete colour scheme changes several times during the course of the stage. This is something I have never seen in any other Master System game.

The stage starts above iced hills.


Next up in stage four is this military base amidst a desert plain. Very good choice of colours here.


Out of the desert and into an ancient Maya city. This is where the going gets tough. Remember that we're still in stage four.


Still in stage four. Here you can see some of the aforementioned volcanos.


And then there's this refinery type of thing, which sort of announces the approach of the boss.


The boss is a huge metal spider sitting on top of two orbs. Looks extremely cool, I think.


Now we have to stop Susan Sarandon from doing evil deeds (like making more films in which strong, yet sensitive, women try to explore their inner selves).


Stage five. Quote Gimli: '...and they call it a mine. A MINE!'


This is the mid level boss of stage five. The Train of Doom. Weapon number six works best here, since it wipes the screen clean of these huge amounts of tiny bullets. Actually, apart from the last boss, this is the toughest battle in all the game.


Here you can see a well-equipped bounty hunter (with his weapon number five powered up to level six) flying over some strange installations which suspiciously look like there's something chemical going on inside.


Another very Darius-esque looking boss. Could be the twin sister of the boss from stage one.
Considering how hard it is to defeat the Train of Doom, this one is surprisingly easy to dispatch.


Is this Peter Jackson haunting stage six?


At first glance, stage six looks like a reprise of stage two, but without the battleships.


And here we see the mid boss of the stage. He looks harmless, but he's quite a beast. Not as bad as the Train of Doom, though. Weapon number 4 is very helpful here since you can hit the bugger without coming too close to him.


Near the end of the stage, we come to the outskirts of the town, where we find this steel mill.
I wonder why enemies come flying out of the chimneys. Never saw foes flying out of any chimneys near the house I live in.


Sitting on top of two orbs seems to be quite a common behaviour among Power Strike II bosses. Here we see a giant steel crab performing the same trick the spider from level four did. The colours look incredibly cool here. Very well done, indeed.


We will make Steven Seagal pay for ... whatever he might have done.


Stage seven is set in some sort of rural environment.


Suddenly, the game goes medieval. Those stupid blokes pull up the drawbridge as we approach. Great defensive strategy when your opponent can simply fly over the wall...


This is what we get for a mid boss. Wait - I've got a Power Strike 1 déja-vu.

The amount of bullets sent in our direction is really impressive. Again, weapon six works best here, but you can also use numbers two or five to take out the turrets very quickly.

In this picture you can see me battling this mid boss with great courage, but with poor equipment, so a second after this screenshot was taken, I got blown to pieces.


I wonder how this fat plane stays up in the air. I can't really imagine these ridiculous tiny wings do carry it.


The last baddie seems to be rather old. Shouldn't pose much of a problem.


Stage eight is no real stage at all. It's just a couple of power ups...


... and then the final fight.This monstrosity moves very fast and has several ways of shooting tons of bullets. Stay alert!


This is the second and (thank goodness!) the last form of the end game boss.

Obviously, it's even harder to beat than the first one. You need very good reflexes to kill it, but if you do, you are treated with a kick-ass ending sequence (which is not quite as asskickin' as the ending of Aleste 2, though).


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie