Steel Empire review - Sega Megadrive

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Steel Empire box artImamio Thunder might sound like a sad Japanese pop band to us, but to the citizens of the Steel Empire it is a moniker to be feared. The Imamio Thunder is in fact a big gun with the power to destroy large areas of cities. As you might expect, this super-powerful weapon has fallen into the wrong hands, those of the Motorhead empire, who are now embarking on a mission of conquest across the globe. Only one force stands in the way of the evil Motorheads and that is the Silverhead Empire - to which you have sworn allegiance. Thus it falls to you, controlling a fighter team, to destroy as many Motorhead war engines as possible and blow up that big gun.

Steel Empire is a horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up set in a Super-Science industrial Revolution era, replete with steam-powered flying ships and cities in the sky. It is your job to hunt down all the Imamio Thunder weapons in possession of the Motorheads and destroy them. This sounds easy enough until you find that each one is mounted on a nigh-on indestructible war machine up to three screens long! Are your flying skills up to the challenge?

What the Mean Machines staff thought


" Laputa is one of my favourite films, so I've been waiting for this since I saw the first screenshots. It must be said that Steel Empire is stunning visually. The sprites and multi-layered backgrounds are superbly detailed and coloured (although blatantly stolen from the film) and the game is full of smart effects, such as the mist on level two and the sea on level four. What's best is that the gameplay comes close to the standards set by the graphics. The two-way fire makes things a bit more interesting and there's always plenty to do on-screen at any time. However, there are one or two faults. Firstly, when there's loads going on and the screen is stuffed with sprites, bonuses and bullets, Steel Empire does suffer quite badly from slowdown. Secondly, most of the challenge in each level is held with the end-of-level guardian, so if you've got any objections to multi-phase bosses which keep drawing new weapons or transformating, Steel Empire quickly becomes boring. The game is also way too simple on EASY mode - set the difficulty to HARD for a decent challenge. Although the gameplay could never be called original (one of the guardians looks suspiciously like the Dreadnought from R-Type), the atmospheric graphic feel and the frenetic action make Steel Empire a worthy purchase for blasting fans. "

" I have to disagree with Rad on this one. Gorgeous looking it might be, but Steel Empire didn't provide me with much excitement. There's no originality or surprises in the gameplay (with elements taken from R-Type, UN Squadron and P-47 amongst others you immediately get those seen-it-all-before blues), there's only on weapon and the challenge level is very, very low. It's possible to finish it on EASY on your first go, NORMAL requires a couple of credits, and HARD takes an hour or two to conquer. If you're a shoot 'em up beginner, you might find this fun, but anyone who's played a few games of this type simply won't get full value for money. Try Gynoug or Hellfire instead. Both were recently officially released and offer superb, highly addictive and challenging gameplay. "


Overall Score70%

Retrospective comments


Unlike the MM guys, I hadn't seen Laputa: Castle in the Sky - the anime on which Steel Empire is (very loosely) based. However, even without experiencing the source material, the visual 'hook' of the game still managed to impress me. You can only play so many space-based 2D shooters before they all start looking the same, so Steel Empire was a breath of fresh air, with zepplins and canvas-winged craft battling it out with death-dealing locomotives and massive airships. Graphics aside, the game is probably not as good as some of the more stellar examples out there, but there's nothing you can really fault with the game. It offers a fair degree of challenge and the inventive enemy design will keep you coming back time and time again - even after you've finished it. Recommended.

Daryl McGarry - 28 Sep 2009, 07:16 GMT

I had this game for my SEGA (as Empire of Steel) and i sometimes played for over 6 hours! it was top of my games pile for quite some time until i got into Shining Force. I sold my SEGA a few years back, but recently i have found website that have Emulated Games. Empire of Steel is still top of my SEGA list, with Shining Force and even Lost Vikings. Empire of Steel combines intelse berserk action with great sounds and brilliantly written music. A good storyline, although a little dull, and a rare Boss and Mini-Boss combo. The levels, powerups, enemy types and bosses are fairly unique (Windmills that fly???) and the gameplay is quite fluid. For its time, it was, and still is, a wicked game! 10/10! Daryl

Ian Wilson - 26 Oct 2010, 10:32 GMT

Never played it *hangs head in shame*.

Eager to get it sometime though, if not for the stunning cover artwork as well. :)

Paul - 26 Oct 2010, 15:16 GMT

I remember this review from MM at the time... and I never played it at the time either. I picked it up about 10 years ago, and I've got to say I was utterly dissapointed! The graphics I thought were pretty below standard even average shooters, and the whole thing was a bit boring...!

Tens - 10 May 2013, 20:21 GMT

I just purchased this one.......Not a bad shooter for the Mega Drive, But it does have some bad slowdown in parts, Not too much but when it happens it does get quite slow.
The bosses are tough enough but overall the game is quite easy.
The major annoying factor with this game I found to be the look, It's really dull/Dark to look at making it a bit tricky to see at some points in the game.....And the insane idea to add the Flickering effect on the title screen and level intro's....WHY???

For shooter fans......I'd give it a go....It's overall a playable game.

7/10 I give this one.

Mean Machines Issue 20 - May 1992
Shoot 'Em Up Sega Megadrive
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Steel Empire

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