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RF Generation Message Board | Gaming | Community Playthroughs (Moderators: techwizard, singlebanana, wildbil52, GrayGhost81, Disposed Hero, MetalFRO) | November 2018 Shmup Club - Steel Empire 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: November 2018 Shmup Club - Steel Empire  (Read 2341 times)
MetalFRO
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« Reply #30 on: November 04, 2018, 01:00:31 PM »

Well, it's been a productive morning for me already! I managed to get a 1CC, using Square_Air's optimal craft selection strategy, and scored 4,530,500 points in the process:


I followed that right up with an all-dirigible clear, scoring 4,560,400 points!


The dirigible run is especially difficult in Stage 6, with all the floating platforms to dodge, and tight spaces to maneuver in. Also, the floor you have to destroy on one of them can be hard to target, if you don't have the outriggers, and you'll end up taking damage, so you have to be prepared for that.
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lordb0rb4
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« Reply #31 on: November 05, 2018, 11:19:15 AM »

Did a good Dirigible run up until the very end, screwing up my 11 bomb reserve and losing 2 lives but managed to increase my final score:
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MetalFRO
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« Reply #32 on: November 06, 2018, 11:52:35 AM »

Nice! I really like how, in 2-3 spots during the game, you can really farm for extra lightning bombs. That really helps with some of the more bullet spammy bosses, and in particular, the last boss. I can dodge nearly all of its firepower up until it puts out its side units, then those fireball clusters come out, and are huge, and they're difficult to dodge. I tend to just expend my entire remaining bomb stock on those, to damage it enough that it goes into its final pattern, the flame waves.

I took another crack at Steel Empire on the Genesis last night, and managed to get the all-plane clear, and also got my highest score so far!


I think it's because of the spread effect of the ground bomb. You can use that to great effect for both ground and aerial enemies, if you use it right. Also, after a couple of attempts, I decided to try a "least optimal" craft selection run, meaning that I used the opposite of what Square_Air outlined. Thus, I used the dirigible for all stages, except 3 & 5, where it's most useful, and used the plane instead. It took a couple tries, but I pulled it off, and got a pretty good score in the process!


Short of a no-bomb run, or a no-miss run, both of which would be quite difficult, I've nearly exhausted the Genesis version, so I think I'll move on to the Steam release next, and see how that goes.
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Square_Air
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« Reply #33 on: November 06, 2018, 01:35:32 PM »

Awesome progress MetalFRO! Looks like I have some catching up to do when I come back to this game. I also believe that the genesis version has a hard mode as well, so that's something else to take a look at.
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Golem
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« Reply #34 on: November 06, 2018, 06:20:55 PM »

Nice work Lordb0rb4 and Fro! It is fun to experiment with the plane selection.

Apparently stage 2 is this game's hump stage, because once I cleared that, I sailed through to the last stage:
3,571,900

Now, it's time to show the final boss what's-for.

The turning point came when I could fight the stage 2 midboss without watching my plane, having burned my plane's movement into muscle memory (verified by the plane's shots). Muscle memory plays such a huge role in these games--I'm reminded of Gradius, where it was key to challenge my muscle memory to internalize Vic's higher speeds.

Some rough thoughts, to be revisited later to correct my naivete:

Years ago, I dismissed this game as boring for having no characteristic features. Playing it now, it seems to me its distinguishing feature is the way every goddamn thing has to undulate. Or, to be more exact, many enemies and hazards move irregularly. Some enemies have a slow vertical aspect to their movement, as if they bob up and down. Some things shift left to right, shooting as they go, so that bullet patterns have a shifting source.

(This comes out more in the Genesis version. I would say that's the better version, despite the cleaner presentation of the HD version.)

In the opening of the first stage, the scrolling brings the ground into view. You don't fly straight forward. Instead, the screen shifts slowly downward until the ground is in view.

Or there's the flying submarine (would that make it a supermarine?), which tracks back and forth.

It strikes me that this couldn't be as unique as I feel it is. "Stuff moves" is a pretty key aspect of shooters. The distinction I'm trying to draw is too subtle for me to really put my finger on.

Take the stage 3 boss of R-Type. You have to navigate the R-9 past a giant, hulking battleship exterior and strike a small, tender weak spot hidden away. The battleship moves as you approach. However, it moves at a fixed pace, pauses a fixed time, and then moves again. You also have the yellow weapon, which can climb along walls to reach it, and the force pod itself can be navigated into little nooks. In other words: the movement is regular, making it easy to understand, and even if you don't want to understand it, the game has options for maintaining your distance instead.

Compare it to the three battleships of Steel Empire. When you approach their weak points, they move without pause. And the best you can do to maintain distance is lob the dirigible's bombs upwards, which means you are less than a plane's hitbox away from slamming into the battleship exterior.

Or compare it to Metal Black. Scraping with your shots is a key tactic. You sidle the Black Fly just above or below an enemy, and your shot's hitbox is so big vertically that you can strike. So, the rockets and fish of stage 2 are perfect for scraping, since they lurch onscreen horizontally, with no vertical movement. You can line up the scrape with them easily.

Compare this to Steel Empire and, in particular, the hatch covering the battleship's weak spot. If you take the plane and lose your options, you're forced to scrape off the hatch. This feels about a million times worse than it does in Metal Black because the battleship will slowly pull away, then slowly pull towards you. You can't place the plane exactly--you have to constantly tap it closer and tap it away.

It gives the game the sense of not being "clean" or "orthogonal" or "discrete". I really feel like there's an unusual amount of undulation in the enemies and screen scrolling, but I would wonder how much of that is due to my inexperience in the genre.

The secondary fire also brings this out.

Consider Darius, where your bombs move diagonally out from your ship. Because enemy waves enter the screen in tightly-choreographed dances, you can easily line up your bomb trajectory with a key point in the enemy path and take out a squad without moving. The four-way bomb lets you take this approach no matter where enemies enter the screen.

Or Gradius, where missiles "fall" to the ground and travel along it. This naturally meets many of the enemies that exhibit a sense of gravity themselves, like the duckers.

And then there's Steel Empire. The upward arc of the dirigible's missile is so strange--you are either hitting an enemy just above you, in which case they're pretty close, or you are trying to aim down on an enemy, a process made complicated by its initial upward swing (you aren't drawing a straight line).

And for both vehicles, as you gain levels, the bombs upgrade by covering a wider horizontal swath. This reduces the need for accuracy, since you'll cover more ground. Compare this again to Darius. The upgrades there don't decrease your need to be accurate, since your front-downward bombs still just shoot along the one path. Instead, you get entirely new avenues for bombs to travel; you can line up an enemy above you or line up an enemy below you. By comparison, the upgrades in Steel Empire fit better with a slowly-shifting set of enemies, where it's hard to exactly line up shots.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2018, 06:40:20 PM by Golem » Logged

MetalFRO
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« Reply #35 on: November 07, 2018, 03:57:45 PM »

Awesome progress MetalFRO! Looks like I have some catching up to do when I come back to this game. I also believe that the genesis version has a hard mode as well, so that's something else to take a look at.

I hadn't even thought of that, but you're right! I think I might try and explore that...

Great thoughts, Golem! I think I get what you're saying. You can't sit still and pick off enemies for more than a couple seconds at a time. There's a lot of small movements you need to make, in order to line up shots, target with the dirigible's arcing bombs, or conversely, the plane's dropping bombs, for maximum effect. There's an interesting interplay between the risk/reward of the dirigible, due to its size, but balanced out with its increased HP and air-to-air firepower differential. On the flipside, the plane is faster and more nimble, has a smaller hitbox, and has the ground bombs, which move MUCH more predictably, so they can be used to more effectively target enemies below you, whether on the ground, or in the air. However, it has less HP, and isn't as effective against air targets for straight-on combat. I'm not sure if this disparity between the 2 ships was specifically designed this way, but it feels like it was deliberate, and the game has more depth than you would expect it to, because of that factor.

I'm with you on the upgrades as well. I think the upgrade system works well, and gives the game a slight RPG leveling progression sort of vibe. That wouldn't normally work in a shoot-em-up, but I think it fits the game, and the overall steampunk military theme. I really appreciate the fact that death doesn't instantly mean I lose all my upgrades, and am back to a measly pea shooter, with a fraction of the speed. Were that not the case, I suspect the game would be significantly harder, the later bosses would be even greater bullet sponges than they are, and it would become a war of attrition, or the kind of game that one seeks a no-miss as the only real way to play through it. I feel as though that would have hampered the game's appeal, and review scores for it upon initial release might have been more harsh.
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EZ Racer
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« Reply #36 on: November 12, 2018, 06:38:28 PM »

Finally got on a good run. I just am hoping to finish the game, and take whatever score I can get in the process. (2.5 million this time).

I definitely agree that it is nice the powerups don't reset upon a death, and I think that helps from a fun-level perspective.

I am curious: did anyone else have Level 2-B remind them of Battletoads Turbo Tunnel to a degree? I know it's not near the difficulty, but the first time in 2-B I instantly was thinking of that.

One thing I think is a credit to the game is how it mixes different playstyles into its levels. Sometimes the best playstyle is read and react, sometimes it's pattern memorization, and sometimes (like level 3 and 5 boss) it's more about placement of your ship in an intricate position to do max damage while taking the minimum.

On a negative, not a fan of the "bubbly" sound effect when you deal damage to enemy ships, but so refreshing to have nice, fully composed background music after playing 1942 for a month.


* 20181111_204637.jpg (1152.67 KB, 2560x1440 - viewed 26 times.)
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MetalFRO
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« Reply #37 on: November 13, 2018, 10:14:56 PM »

Got a 1CC of the Steam version my first try, with a half-decent score, though not as good as a couple others here:


This was using Square_Air's strategy as with the Genesis version. Will probably go back and try an all-plane and all-dirigible run, then try again on Hard. The Steam version is much easier than the Genesis original. Granted, I've played a ton of that version, but even with the changes they made to the Steam release, it's definitely easier. Something that's not so great: for some reason, on my Windows 10 laptop, the resolution is such that full screen mode goes off the screen, and I can't see everything, so I have to play in windowed mode. Not sure if it would be the same on my Windows 7 desktop PC, but it's an annoyance, for sure. Also, the sound effects were quiet in the Genesis version, but I didn't mind that so much, since I like the music. However, they went too far in the wrong direction in this version, and the default volume level for sound effects is WAY too loud, and overpowers the music, which is a shame, since the PC version remixed OST is pretty good.
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Golem
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« Reply #38 on: November 14, 2018, 09:24:13 PM »

On a negative, not a fan of the "bubbly" sound effect when you deal damage to enemy ships, but so refreshing to have nice, fully composed background music after playing 1942 for a month.

You can say that again! laugh The weirdness of the hit splash noise from Steel Empire is only bested by the hit noise in Space Harrier II, which sounds like someone stepping through mud in rain boots.

I gone and got the 1CC in Genesis on stock settings:

4,596,500
Speaking of comparisons to 1942, it's nice to see there's an extra digit in the score rather than not enough digits.
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MetalFRO
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« Reply #39 on: November 14, 2018, 11:01:15 PM »

Good score, Golem, and congrats on the clear! Which craft did you select for which stage?

I got an all-dirigible clear on the Steam version just now. I came close to a 1LC/no-miss, but that pesky sub-final boss that was added in this version is a real stinker, and whittled my health down to nothing. Sadly, I also seem to have trouble dodging those blasted fireballs in the final boss' second to last attack vector. Had I been able to navigate that, I would have made it in one life. As it stands, I think I did pretty well overall.


Anyone else playing the Steam version finding that, once you clear the game, it just sort of quits, and if you want to go again, you have to relaunch?
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MetalFRO
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« Reply #40 on: November 15, 2018, 10:31:46 PM »

Got another clear on the Steam version, all-plane, though the score wasn't as high, so I'm not going to bother and post it. Also: the hardest difficulty level on Steam is super challenging. Absolute bullet spam, enemies that are even spongier, and your HP drains WAY faster when you take a hit, to where you essentially have 3 hits and you lose a life. Very unforgiving, and not something I'd recommend trying, until such time that you absolutely memorize that version in and out. I managed to reach Stage 2, and that's about it.
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Golem
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« Reply #41 on: November 19, 2018, 05:23:20 AM »

Good score, Golem, and congrats on the clear! Which craft did you select for which stage?

Thanks! I chose:
1 - plane
2 - zeppelin
3 - plane
4 - zeppelin
5 - plane
6 - plane
7 - plane

For the battleship levels, I found it more important to have options than to have the upward swing of the zeppelin's bombs. Since it's much easier to stay alive with a smaller hitbox, that's what I went with.

I've also had some problems on the Steam version, although not what you describe. If I go to the options menu, then the score records, I can see them fine. If I try to view my scores without going to options first, though, it crashes. I also agree that difficult mode is much harder than hard mode, and I haven't made much progress in it myself. The sheer amount of bullets makes me think you'd have to do a plane-only run. Preferring the Genesis version, I think I'd rather go back and try to clear hard mode there.
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MetalFRO
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« Reply #42 on: November 19, 2018, 10:47:53 AM »

I'm with you. I think there's some interesting stuff going on in the Steam release, and the remixed soundtrack is fairly decent, I find myself preferring the Genesis version. No, the graphics aren't as pretty, yes the sound effects are a bit limp, but aside from a few issues I have with the design, I think overall it's pretty solid. I tend to prefer the music in the original, but I say that, knowing full well I'm a fan and proponent of the YM2612 and PSG sound hardware. The Steam version would definitely be recommended for beginners and novices, because it's substantially easier, and a clear could be achieved with reasonable effort, but not having to dedicate a ton of time. I feel like the Genesis version isn't overly difficult as well, but certainly on the default setting, it's harder than the re-release. I'm still working toward a clear on Hard in the Genesis version as well, so I'll be curious to hear if you get that done.
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MetalFRO
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« Reply #43 on: November 21, 2018, 09:29:31 AM »

I got the clear last night on Hard difficulty on the Genesis version, and my highest score yet, at 5,648,200 points:


I know it's possible to do better, because I've seen other scores above 6 million, but that would probably mean a no-miss, or 1-life clear, so that you get the extra lives bonus at maximum after every level, and making sure to earn all the 1up's throughout the game. Also, probably finishing each level close to (or at) max HP to get that bonus as well. I don't see myself accomplishing that yet this month, but I might make another run at it. I did this one with the dirigible on all stages except 6, because of those stupid "floors" that you have to destroy. Much easier to do with the downward bomb spread, versus the upward toss. Anyone else trying Hard mode on any version?
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Golem
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« Reply #44 on: November 21, 2018, 10:36:26 PM »

Playing hard mode, it strikes me how important it is to internalize the timing of enemy shots. There's no tell before an enemy shoots, so to use the full range of space available, you need an instinctive sense of when an enemy shot will pierce that space. This aspect leans pretty hard on long term memory, in my experience. I wonder how different the game would be if you hacked in a 15-frame tell for shots. Most shooters lack tells for most enemies, right?
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