Satazius – Review

Satazius

developed by ASTRO PORT

published by Nyu-Media & Capcom

Excellent, only begins to describe the old school horizontal shmup that is Satazius.  There are literally thousands of space shoot’em ups out there.  No matter your preferences in gaming hardware, be it PC, console, or handheld, the Shmup genre offers a huge selection for gamers who enjoy that fast paced and frenetic fix.  It’s easy to locate any number of these games at any time.  The hard part is finding the ones that stand out and make an impression or offer lasting appeal.  Satazius is one of those shmups.

If you remember the great experiences you had when going to the arcade or your local convenience store just so you could drop your quarters into classic shoot’em ups such as Gradius, Darius, and R-Type, then you’ll definitely get a warm fuzzy feeling when you start up Satazius and blast your way through dozens of relentless enemies for the first time.  Satazius is the perfect throwback to the old school shooter heritage.  The gameplay is reminiscent of every other good horizontal shooter, but the level of intense gameplay and the variety of weapon combinations will keep you coming back to experience the game multiple times.

The story behind Satazius is simple.  The year is 2051 (our time?).  Your cruiser was out patrolling the long-thought-to-be-abandoned planet, Satazius.  Unfortunately for you and your crew, the planet wasn’t abandoned.  Having stumbled upon a confederacy of space pirates, your cruiser is shot down.  You barely escape the wreckage in a top-secret assault ship named  ‘Trafalgar’.  Now, the pirates want your ship and the only thing left to do is fight.  It’s a paper thin storyline that takes itself seriously, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from a real shmup.

I had a helluva good time playing through Satazius.  I used to love this type of game on the old Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, mostly because I didn’t have to spend quarters and I could play it in the convenience of my own home, but also because of the mindless mayhem and destruction that makes any good shooter fun.  Satazius offers that same level of fun, but it will also test your skills and reflexes as a shmup fan.  The game starts with a number of small waves of enemy fighters, but before you know it the intensity picks up and you’re being swarmed by enemy fire and forced to dodge environmental obstacles.  Among the action, players can pick up power-ups to increase weapon strength and stars that add big bonus points to the end-of-level scoreboard.

The pacing is excellent.  Satazius proceeds with non-stop, pulse pounding, action.  It has the elements of a bullet hell shooter, but requires skilled discipline when maneuvering through each level, on top of the familiar patterns of bullet dodging.  It’s easy to pick up and play, but tough to master.  Satazius will definitely appeal to shmup fans, though any gamer who enjoys a fast paced action game should look into this title.  Adding an extra layer of depth, the developers have included four difficulty levels.  The easiest difficulty is playable by novice gamers, while the insane difficulty will test even the most stalwart shmup veteran.

Controlling the assault ship ‘Trafalgar’, is easy to do.  You have your choice of keyboard, or gamepad.  Both offer extremely tight control and precise movement.  Of course, if I was to recommend one control scheme over the other, I’d have to go with the gamepad or controller every time.  Tight control is important in a shooter, and Satazius delivers a great shmup experience because of it.

Satazius does feature your standard shmup load-out, but also offers players a wider variety of choice when selecting these load-outs.  Everything from spreadshot to lasers, homing beams to missiles.  There are some great options to play with and the enemies and level design will force you to learn which work best for each particular section of the game.  As you make progress through the game these weapons can be strengthened through power-ups.  If that wasn’t enough, the deeper you get into the game the more weapon types you unlock.  It’s a great setup and one that will be immediately recognizable to those who have played other shmup games such as the Gradius series.

The graphics in Satazius sit side-by-side with any of your favorite shmups found on the 16-bit console of preference.  The sprite based artwork is very nice.  It’s both detailed and colorful.  The enemies look good, and the bosses are big and animated.  Some of the early sections of levels start off a little bland but I found that as each level progressed, the backgrounds and environments starting looking better and better.  The aesthetics are old school and retro.  It makes Satazius the type of game you wished you owned on the SNES back in the day.

The sound and music are also good.  The soundtrack is pretty cool with a techno-hop style.  This isn’t the type of soundtrack you’d want to hear over and over in an adventure game, but for an energetic action game, it works great.  The sound fx aren’t noteworthy but they provide all the ‘pew-pew’ needed to engage the player.

Satazius is a blast from the past and one of those games that could be easily missed or overlooked.  If you’re into shmups then you should buy the game right now.  It’s a mere $5.99.  There are a number of levels, and each of these levels are a bit longer than those found in your average shooter.  It is both challenging and fun at the same time.  The weapons, hazardous environments, enemy patterns, bullet dodging, and boss battles make Satazius one of the more memorable shooters in recent years.   Having four difficulty levels and a handful of continues means that anyone can jump in and enjoy Satazius without having to worry about how skillful they are, but veterans will quickly see why it’s such a quality entry into this already crowded genre.

You can pick up Satazius through a number of digital distribution sites.  Such as, Steam, Gamer’s Gate, and Impulse.  For the low price and great value, I’d recommend that fans of the genre grab the game immediately, while newcomers should definitely give the demo a try.

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