Dreamcast refuses to die. While the last official game was Karous, released in 2007, independent developers just won't let it go. Among them is the German team Duranik with their -very German- contribution: 2D horizontal shoot 'em up "Sturmwind". We had the opportunity to take a first look:
Sturmwind was supposed to be released quite a while ago, but as is usual with semi-professional productions there's been a delay. In this case publisher redspotgames' long-time CD manufacturer of choice filed for bankruptcy. Until an alternative was found the game's release had to be postponed indefinitely. But now the release finally seems to be imminent. Preview versions have already been sent out to the press.
Sturmwind originated on Atari Jaguar. Back in 1997, "Native" showed what could have been possible in terms of shmups on Atari's console. Unable to go through with a full fledged production of the game for the Jag, the project was frozen some 13 years ago and eventually revived as "Sturmwind" on Dreamcast.
The result is astounding. Duranik spent more than ten years working in their spare time on the game, designing 16 stages filled to the brim with different enemies, explosions and bombastic visuals.
The game is reminiscent of the PS1 classic "Einhänder", with strange "Germanic" words everywhere. Weapons have names such as "Rudel" or "Nordwest", stages are called "Festgenagelt" or "Gegenschlag". Americans and Japanese will love it.
For the game design Duranik borrowed ideas from a whole bunch of well known genre classics. The player's ship is equipped with a two-stage beam which eventually will overheat if used excessively. Aside of that, the player can choose between three basic weapon systems each of which can be upgraded. Using the L-trigger the weapon can be aimed backwards. And, of course: the player's arsenal would not be complete without a smart bomb.
The difficulty can be adjusted, thankfully, as Sturmwind isn't exactly easy. It's no bullet hell type of game but the level designs are tricky and the bosses tough. And at times it isn't easy to tell apart fore and backgrounds, leading to some confusion.
The VMU saves any progress so that after a Game Over the player can continue in the last stage played. Considering the game's length, trying to 1cc the entire game will be a task of monumental proportions.
Visually Sturmwind is extremely impressive. I am convinced that none of the commercially released Dreamcast shmups comes even close to Sturmwind in this regard. Every single stage is one phenomenal display of what the game's engine is capable of visually, whether it's the background or the bosses. If you always wanted to really impress your friends with the Dreamcast's power I recommend trying Sturmwind.
The preview version still suffers from the occasional slowdown here and there when there's just too much going on but I am sure that can still be fixed until the game's release.
Sturmwind features a soundtrack by chiptunes musician "505" that undoubtedly will make fans of C64, Amiga and Atari ST music cry for joy.
Sadly the tunes don't always fit with what's happening on screen. Hearing those 8-bit chiptunes while the screen explodes into the epitome of an 128-bit inferno seems kinda odd at times. Anyway, the soundtrack is better than that of almost any other homebrew game out there, so take this comment with a grain of salt.
If you want to see the game in action check out my video preview:
We can't wait for the final version of the game. Stay tuned for a full review including our final verdict.
They said "Trotzdem überragt der Soundtrack nahezu alle anderen Homebrews problemlos, so dass die Kritik nur marginal ausfällt.". A perhaps more literal translation would be: "In spite of that [(8-bit chiptunes vs 128-bit graphics)], the [game's] soundtrack easily surpasses almost any other homebrew, so that's just a minor issue."
It doesn't say whether Dreamcast homebrew is meant, or homebrew in general, but I think you're right, it most-likely is referring to other Dreamcast homebrew.
I agree with the point your raised about the music being great in most games, so I am rather skeptical about how this game's soundtrack is supposed to blow them all away so "easily"...
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