RE-GEN: The Strike series – 16-bit smart shooter, next-gen firepower (PSP)

RE-GEN: The Strike series - Image 1


We've played that game before, right?
Re-imagining the classics for the new generation. This is RE-GEN.


Desert Strike (Genesis/MD, SNES), Electronic Arts (pre-bloaty-head era) - Image 1With power comes evolution: shooters have gone from scrolling to full 3-D environments, from turkey galleries to smart, reactive enemies. Yet even the classics, with their scrolling and their shooting galleries, have virtues all to their own.

The Strike series from Electronic Arts is one of the most notable examples of the genre. A multi-directional, military-themed shooter, it became a hallmark franchise, particularly on the Sega Genesis. Even in that age of solid-state cartridges, Strike was known for its surprisingly challenging gameplay, and became known as the 16-bit "smart shooter."

After three successful 16-bit titles, and two CD follow-ons in the PSOne (as well as the Saturn and PC), Strike vanished; no more was heard. Perhaps it was a victim of its own success, having stuck too close to its core formula. Or perhaps EA lost interest (happened before, happened since). Pity: the series had quite the potential, even after five games. And especially today.

RE-GEN is all about second chances for the classic titles we loved. Can the power and capabilities offered by today's platforms, from the high-end PS3 and Xbox 360, to the innovative Wii, to the handheld wonders of the PSP and NDS, offer something new to resurrect the Strike series? This is the question we set out to answer today. Some things, after all, don't deserve to gather dust in the back of a shelf, when it has more to offer.

(a) Buy EA Replay, get Desert and Jungle Strike. (b) POPS Soviet and Nuclear Strike into 3.xx OE. (c) Actually see a Future Strike on the PSP be everything it can be on the PSP. Learn all about the Strike series, and speculate on what can come from a PSP Strike, after the jump!Or discover what the PS3/Xbox 360, the Wii, or the DS has to offer a Strike title.

RE-GEN: The Strike series - Image 1


We've played that game before, right?
Re-imagining the classics for the new generation. This is RE-GEN.


Desert Strike (Genesis/MD, SNES), Electronic Arts (pre-bloaty-head era) - Image 1With power comes evolution: shooters have gone from scrolling to full 3-D environments, from turkey galleries to smart, reactive enemies. Yet even the classics, with their scrolling and their shooting galleries, have virtues all to their own.

The Strike series from Electronic Arts is one of the most notable examples of the genre. A multi-directional, military-themed shooter, it became a hallmark franchise, particularly on the Sega Genesis. Even in that age of solid-state cartridges, Strike was known for its surprisingly challenging gameplay, and became known as the 16-bit "smart shooter."

After three successful 16-bit titles, and two CD follow-ons in the PSOne (as well as the Saturn and PC), Strike vanished; no more was heard. Perhaps it was a victim of its own success, having stuck too close to its core formula. Or perhaps EA lost interest (happened before, happened since). Pity: the series had quite the potential, even after five games. And especially today.

RE-GEN is all about second chances for the classic titles we loved. Can the power and capabilities offered by today's platforms, from the high-end PS3 and Xbox 360, to the innovative Wii, to the handheld wonders of the PSP and NDS, offer something new to resurrect the Strike series? This is the question we set out to answer today. Some things, after all, don't deserve to gather dust in the back of a shelf, when it has more to offer.

Strike: when smart shooters existed within 16 bits

Popular especially with the military and Tom Clancy-types, Strike had a distinctive flavor that helped marked it as the "thinking man's shooter" of its day. These elements helped create that Strike legacy:
  • You controlled a special forces attack chopper (and other vehicles) in a multi-directional shooter (MDS) perspective, against the whole army of a madman dictator or a rogue high-tech terrorist with an appetite for nukes;
  • The game involved "smart resource management" because of limited ammo loads, requiring you to resupply on the field through fuel and ammo dumps (and armor repairs); and
  • The game was always accompanied by a tactical database showing you mission objectives, friendly and enemy assets, their threat level to you, and even tips on how to dispatch enemy units. All these combined to give Strike its gameplay depth and "smart shooter" label.
From 1992's Desert Strike, each game progressed the series both plot-wise and with few changes per installment. The Jungle Strike sequel (1993) introduced the option to change your mount in-game. The series moved to the PSOne with Soviet Strike in 1996, and introduced better graphics, improved controls, and stylistic live-action cutscenes, as well as allies who would help you (little) in the field. (Interestingly, the 1994 Urban Strike featured a terrorist attack on the New York World Trade Center... in 2001. Eerie.)


Jungle Strike, Urban Strike gameplay (uploaded by ShiryuGL)


There was supposed to be a Future Strike - Nuclear's ending strongly hinted at a sequel - but it never came to pass. However, EA would later release Future Cop LAPD, which would feature Strike gameplay elements. EA never got around to confirming if Future Cop was supposed to be Future Strike or not, so the mystery remains.

EGM's Quartermann hints that EA might be planning a next-gen revival. Rumors being rumors, we've so far heard nothing on this since. Still doesn't stop us from speculating how an update would kick the game to next-level.

This ain't just portable ops; it's portable in-flight special ops

What you'd get if you POPSed Soviet Strike to the PSP 3.xx OE - Image 1The scrolling shooter's a perfect fit for the handheld - and Strike fits like a glove. It is pick-up-and-playable, and a gaming session usually can be completed in 30 minutes by average players. Plus the Strike series is one of the best in its day - and the capabilities of today's handhelds offer a lot of room for the classic game to evolve and rejuvenate. For the PSP, we're looking at surpassing what Soviet and Nuclear Strike on the PSOne offered.

Ace Combat X managed to generate the skins of the PSOne Ace Combat 3 (itself supremely gorgeous given the PSOne's limits) and the gameplay environment approaching that of a PS2 Ace Combat. PSP's capable of a lot once you know how to tease its chips right. A PSP Strike can look gorgeous and play hot.

Control probably wouldn't be a problem: the PSOne Strikes didn't use analog, and the L2/R2 weren't mission-critical. The challenge is to make the classic Strike formula more appealing to today's generation (no need to sell the series short here). You don't have the full power available in a next-gen console, but there are some tricks and innovations a developer could play with.

Tricks of the STRIKE trade

First up would be AI and the gameplay environment. Could the PSP generate a dynamic battlefield with smart enemies and allies that react to your every move? Even breaking apart the enemy's patterns of movement and attack would be an improvement. The classic Strike enemies were tough, but they had patterns, they were predictable. The next Strike has to throw some surprises to ramp the tension.

If I had to go to war with this AI army, I might as well surrender. - Image 1


Even given how much one can pack in a portable, allies deserve smart AI, too. Nuclear Strike took a step in this direction by allowing you to direct allied units to pre-selected chokepoints to slow the enemy's advance (and stave off mission failure). This gameplay element can be improved upon for tactical depth, and add a new dimension to resource (or at least ally) management.

The MDS gameplay can be evolved while retaining Strike's classic identity. Actual military helicopter tactics, and well-designed maps with useful and exploitable terrain (for example: being able to hide behind ridgelines, in gullies, or behind buildings) can make combat more interesting and cerebral.

Warfare is also a team sport, even in one-man armies

Now with Wi-Fi for ad-hoc and infrastructure, multiplayer options will be clamored - and Strike never had multiplayer. Given how multi-directional shooters work, the idea of opponents chasing each other like dogs in a yard might sound as appealing as yet another PS2 port to the PSP (again), but for the fans, such a Strike should not be limited to that. Time to visit Strike's maybe-spinoff, Future Cop LAPD.

Future Cop LAPD: you have no right to remain silent. - Image 1Future Cop's two-player and skirmish mode is base assault, Herzog Zwei-style. Victory is measured not by the frags you rack, but by shepherding one of your lemming units (in this case, a hovertank) into the enemy's base, and keeping his lemmings from breaching yours. The battle is won by control of the battlefield and lines of attack, by attacking enemy hovertanks yourself, capturing outpost bases and neutral turrets to boost your forces, and sniping at the enemy player on occasion.

This kind of gameplay offered quite the enjoyable challenge (if you didn't mind the split-screen), and could be adapted for a similar wireless multiplayer for a PSP Strike. Lessons learned in improving single-player missions can be adapted to pump up multiplayer arenas, leading to frantic races to wrest control the battlefield from enemies.

Get ready to STRIKE

I'm not just saying this as a fan of the series. Because it had a surprisingly wide appeal in the past, and because it has so much room to grow (particularly in multiplayer), Strike stands a good chance of succeeding as a remake/update to current standards.

Fortune favors the bold, in STRIKE and real life - Image 1Both the PSP and Strike have much to offer each other. The franchise gives the platform a solid brand that can offer current-gen something new to chew on. The platform gives the franchise room to grow and evolve, with improved graphics and processing capabilities, and the addition of the previously-absent multiplayer. Hand in hand, and given first-rate development, Strike can rise on the PSP like a phoenix from the ashes.

Resurrecting Strike may be just a long-shot dream, even given the rumors. But hey, that's why those who loved Strike, loved Strike. Because it was fun to dream we were saving the world, one madman at a time, dispatched with extreme prejudice and an extra load of Hellfires.


Also see RE-GEN: The Strike series on PS3/Xbox 360, Wii, and DS



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