Youre almost always outnumbered in Strike Suit Zero, but youre never outgunned. Enemy fighters, frigates and missiles cant stop the titular Strike Suits fury, creating a sense of empowerment unlike any other space combat game. Strike Suit Zero nails the balance between simulation and arcade shooter, creating an excellent combat experience that helps you overlook its more egregious flaws.
In Strike Suit Zero, you play as a disgraced pilot named Adams. While out on a routine mission to prove youre ready to get your wings again, the evil Colonial forces attack the Earth fleet, destroying all but a few capital ships and star fighters. Now youre humanitys last hope, and only through the power of the one-of-a-kind Strike Suit can you hope to take on the Colonial fleet and keep Earth from being destroyed by a new superweapon. Sound familiar? Thats because Strike Suit Zeros plot lifts a lot from stories youve heard a thousand times, but it never manages to develop into anything surprising or meaningful. I never connected or identified with any of the underdeveloped characters, who always feel like tired war movie stereotypes. This is likely due in part to the way the storys told in brief, in-game cutscenes or through talking heads appearing in your heads-up display. No matter how heavy handed the storytelling got in the final moments, the ending was as insignificant as the narrative beats preceding it.
Strike Suit Zero absolutely nails whats important, though: the combat. Within moments of launching my first sortie, I was locking onto enemy fighters while managing my speed, maneuvers and weapons in intense dog fights. Strike Suit Zero doesnt bother making you do especially simulation-like things such as manipulate your shield energy or effect mid-mission repairs on a hyper-realistically damaged craft. It instead strikes an excellent medium between keeping things simple enough to feel immediately capable and giving you just enough to manage to make you feel like a badass when you pull off a tight turn to get a bead on an enemy, deftly avoid a missile with a well-timed EMP blast, or barely save a friendly ship from certain death with the Strike Suits crazy-powerful weapons.
The difficulty curve in Strike Suit Zero works because the Strike Suit empowers the hell out of you. The first few levels and a couple in the middle force you to pilot traditional fighters, and here the enemy count is decidedly lower. When it comes to Strike Suit missions, though, be prepared to face a host of foes. Kill enough enemies to charge its energy bar and the Strike Suit temporarily transforms from an agile fighter to a slow-but-ultra-powerful flying mech that rains flurries of gunfire and missiles. Situations that otherwise seem impossible and overwhelming become moments that reward precision and control. Whole wings of fighters that take a lot of work to takedown in the few missions you dont have the Strike Suit take seconds to turn into space dust. Youre certainly far from invincible when using the Strike Suit, but it makes you powerful enough that engagements where youre outnumbered 10-to-1 still feel fair.
Despite creating engaging battles, Strike Suit Zero could have benefited from more mission and enemy variety. Every stage basically boils down to either defending a friendly ship, attacking an enemy ship, or a combination of the two. Other games have just as formulaic of an approach to mission design, but they mask it with better storytelling or encounter and level design. Within a few missions of Strike Suit Zeros campaign youve basically seen all there is to see. Combat remains fun throughout, but itd be great to get more mission and enemy types in future DLC.
Occasionally brutal checkpoints ensure youll replay large portions of Strike Suit Zeros missions, too. On top of that, you cant currently save mid-mission, and with some of them taking more than thirty minutes it feels like a lot to ask of someone to finish in a single go. If you do decide to jump back into the levels after finishing the campaign, Strike Suit Zero gives plenty of incentives. On top of awarding additional weapons based on your score, each stage has a secondary objective you can complete to unlock permanent upgrades for all of your ships. Theyre good enough, and so is the combat, that its worth it to pop back into older stages once youve really got some skills under your belt.
Strike Suit Zeros combat isnt great enough to entirely compensate for its problems, but skill-based space battles sure go a long way. Noticeably repetitious levels and bad storytelling cant overshadow the awesome feeling of piloting the Strike Suit, and simulation fans and less-hardcore players alike will find plenty to like in Strike Suit Zero.