If you owned a Sega Megadrive (known as the ‘Genesis’ in the USA), then you’re likely to have played one of the ‘Strike’ games. It was the done thing, back then, like owning a copy of Sonic 2, or saying that everything was “Awesome”.
However, while my enjoyment of 90s slang terms has faded with age, my rose-tinted memories of blowing the crap out of everything in sight in the Strike titles – Jungle Strike, Desert Strike and Urban Strike – remain as strong as ever.
So, to help gamers who only vaguely remember the Strike titles and reboot your childhood memories a little better, close your eyes and listen to this:
There. If you’ve played any of these isometric helicopter-based arcade shooters, you’ll be reliving the laughs and explosions by now yourself.
Strike from the skies
The Strike games were simple shooters that masqueraded as espionage thrillers. The objectives in all three games – be it rescuing stranded troopers or destroying nuclear missile silos – were varied and interesting, as well as being worryingly accurate at times.
One of the levels in Urban featured an attack on the World Trade Center in New York city, for example.
The controls were easy enough for my then-7-year-old mind to grasp. Good thing too – these games were tough. Playing from an isometric perspective, the gamer had to steer one of a selection of helicopters (and later fighter jets or tanks) around a map, completing objectives, nabbing fuel and avoiding buildings.
The ‘boing!’ sound effect that played when I accidentally ricocheted into yet another tower block is burned into my memory forever.
The levels ranged from the wide vistas of dense jungle islands to the cloudy skies of San Francisco, and tasked the pilot with completing a series of objectives in any order you choose to do them.
Flying the chopper gave the player a feeling of immense power – but the game’s difficulty stopped the action short of becoming a turkey-shoot. Your foes could be deceptively accurate at times, and the amount of fire blasting up at you could quickly send even an experienced gamer scuttling back to the wide ‘H’ of your launchpad.
Naturally, with fuel a concern as well as ammunition, running out of gas and crashing into the jungle canopy never stopped being annoying.
Bringing war to the warlords
The plot of all three games centred around a warlord or two empire-building, and your cocky pilot and co-pilot pairing taking him down at every turn.
The plot of Jungle, for example, evolved around two rent-a-bad-guys who want to blow up America because… well… because. Ibn Kilbaba, son of predecessor game Desert Strike’s antagonist, and Carlos Ortega, a “notorious South American drug lord”, have nukes and are prepared to use them, and it’s up to the player to track them down and finish the fight.
Urban – the last of the traditional Strike games – saw the rise of ‘HR Malone’ – a name that’s hard to forget once the game gets to the twist in the tale…
Sure, the graphics and gameplay seem amazingly low-tech these days, but back in the 90s – in the golden age of 16-bit action – they kicked butt – and still do, if the copy I’m running on my PC’s emulator is anything to go by.
For the record, I don’t count Nuclear Strike as part of the series. It was naff.
So, here’s my grand plan for a reboot of the series on eighth-generation.
Firstly, we’re going to need to go 3D – 2D isometric won’t cut it anymore, despite the value inherent in an Indie release on Xbox Live Arcade and the like. This is going to mean a decent flight simulator will need to be co-opted for the action – and this isn’t an easy ask on consoles.
However, I do have a solution. Back when I still owned an Xbox 360, I had the pleasure of reviewing Apache Air Assault. While it would have been easy to dismiss the title as another arcade shooter – this time helicopter-flavoured – the bad box art disguised a pretty amazing flight simulator game.
The controls were solid, the action intense, and the in-game helicopters handled like you’d imagine a multimillion dollar weapon would. Also, much like the Strike series, it had a kickass theme song.
So, if we’re rebooting the Strike series, we’re going to need Gaijin Entertainment. Nobody else will be needed – this company captured the essence of flying a high-agility helicopter and raining down fire from above perfectly, first time.
As for the plot, were Tom Clancy still alive, I think i’d tap him for a decent techno-thriller storyline to underpin the action. However, since Mr Clancy is helming a submarine in heaven, let’s get Dale Brown in here – nobody else can do a renewed plot for the Strike series justice.
However, I do have one caveat. HR Malone must return. He may have been a pixellated mess of a character, but he was truly eerie, and left quite the impression on my young mind.
Article first published at 6aming.com