Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut Review‏

I love space combat. I love giant Japanese robots that transform into stuff. For the most part, I love Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut. Sometimes though…..sometimes, man, this game drives me up the bloody wall. Perhaps it’s because it comes so close to greatness, so close to being the game that I wanted it to be, but when things go wrong, they tend to go hair-pullingly, teeth-gnashingly, outrageously annoyingly wrong……so, a bit of a mixed bag then.

Despite those moments of sheer frustration though, Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut is a game worth persevering with – when Strike Suit Zero is good (which it very often is), it tends to be really good. A rare space combat game, and possibly the first I have played since the 360’s little known but surprisingly decent, Project Sylpheed, Strike Suit Zero looks great, has largely fantastic art design and in terms of core mechanics, is slick and enjoyable. Sadly, while all the individual parts point towards a space shooter that could very realistically match the genre’s finest, a few poor design choices ensure that Strike Suit Zero will invariably remain a game that you’ll want to love more than you actually will.

While many of the faults from the original PC-only release have been fixed, there are still an array of issues keeping Strike Suit Zero from delivering the kind of enjoyment that its fundamentals dictate should come as standard. Despite the improvements to handling, the improved strike suit capabilities and the reduced difficulty level (it’s still hard as nails mind), Born Ready’s space based shooter still feels painfully uneven.

For any one coming straight to the Director’s Cut, I’m sure you’d be amazed to hear that this is the easier version of the game. Yes, your wingmen take more damage and your Strike Suit is no longer an attractive, but apparently armour free model kit, but despite these improvements, the difficulty is still all over the place with certain missions and check points falling comfortably into the realm of sheer sadism. Check points in particular, while again more balanced this time around, still feel unduly harsh. I’m sure some will enjoy the old school sensibilities of this rather cruel checkpoint system, but honestly, I haven’t got enough hours in the day to re-play the same 20 minutes of gameplay over and over again.

The improved controls and targeting system do make life considerably easier and thanks to your wingmen being a little less useless, escort missions aren’t quite as horrible as they once were, but even these positives are offset by the complete lack of a mini-map and the outrageous difficulty spikes. I’m all for a bit of challenge, but unlike games such as Dark Souls which does difficulty so well, Strike Suit Zero simply feels cheap, and worst of all, more than a little unfair.

If you can get past the difficulty and handful of poor design choices though (and I do hope you can), Strike Suit Zero still has a heck of a lot to offer. The ships handle beautifully, the three Strike Suits, created by Japanese artist, Junji Okubo are outrageously cool and the visuals throughout are magnificent. There are moments in this game, when everything comes together when you’ll feel like I you’re playing the best Gundam game ever made. If you’re at all interested in giant Japanese robots (and who isn’t, right?), then the art design alone will make, Strike Suit Zero worth the price of admission.

It still has its faults, but on a fundamental level, this is a fantastic space shooter which revels in those kind of super cool moments that are typically the calling card of triple-A Japanese development teams (despite the aesthetic, Strike Suit Zero was actually made in the UK). The relatively basic controls make this an appealing proposition to those new to the genre while the subtle depth delivers plenty of room for seasoned vets to experiment. It may not add anything particularly new to the genre, but given that fans have been so unreasonably starved over the past few years, the simple sight of a well-made, if still fundamentally flawed space shooter should be enough to bring a smile to their world weary faces.

It may be the games’ second run out, but Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut could still do with a little more work under the hood. The fundamentals are rock solid and the inclusion of the previously released expansion pack, Heroes Of The Fleet is certainly a welcome addition, but despite the solid controls, gorgeous visual design and additional content, it is once again a handful of poor design choices that keep this otherwise top notch space shooter from reaching the heights it could, and arguably should have.  This is clearly a labour of love for developers, Born Ready Games, but Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut nonetheless fails to meet its potential.

Bonus Stage Rating - Good 7/10

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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