A competent love letter to space shooters of old.
Strike Suit Zero is, to some degree, a game out of time. While it is available on every current generation platform, I could just as easily see it gracing the original Playstation 2 or early iterations of Windows. This is because Strike Suit Zero represents so purely the most traditional elements of the 3D Space Shooter genre and is, in that way, rather timeless. And while I mean this as a sincere compliment, it does bring with it a certain insinuation of predictability.
As so often happens in the distant future, humankind finds itself locked in a deadly war. Earth’s own colonies fight for their independence. You play on the side of Earth, as an amnesia stricken fighter pilot who stumbles into piloting a fighter that can transform into a robot. What are the strategic advantages of your airplane also being a robot? I have no idea, but it looked cool in Robotech and it still looks cool now. You and your airplane with an identity crisis are plunged into a variety of scenarios throughout Strike Suit Zero’s 13-mission campaign. On top of this is a second campaign built less around telling a story and more around setting up cool new scenarios to play through.
Missions take place in wide open spaces. While specific objectives are always indicated, the player is able to roam freely. It always feels like there is a grander battle going on around you, and it is up to you whether you stick to the plan or join in the greater battle. Objectives and mission types range from simple combat to bombing runs and more. You’ll fight small individual ships, giant canon-laden cruisers, and entire space stations. Along the way you’ll also unlock additional ships. Some missions will require a specific ship while others leave it open for the player to decide. Each of these ships can also be fitted with an assortment of weapons (more of which will unlock as you progress). As you make it further, weapon choices will have a greater effect. Certain environmental effects can alter the function of specific weapons which will need to be accounted for when loading up your ship. For myself, I found it very reminiscent of 90s space games like Wing Commander, though lacking the open-ended progression that those games were famous for.
Ultimately, that is Strike Suit Zero’s greatest weakness. While it does a fantastic job of capturing the magic of the genre, it does little to introduce its own unique elements. As a result, I never found it as compelling as other 3D space shooters, both modern and classic. The closest thing Strike Suit Zero has to a unique hook is the titular Strike Suits themselves. While in pursuit mode (the standard airplane-like appearance), you’ll build up flux points which are used up while in strike mode. While in your bipedal strike mode, however, you’ll be very powerful, with the ability to perfectly and quickly auto-target enemies. I found this mode most useful for quickly taking out defensive turrets on larger ships.
Strike Suit Zero originally released on Windows in 2013. While the artwork is solid and the music is fantastic, the presentation in general can’t help but feel somewhat dated. When compared to other titles in the genre already available on Switch, Strike Suit Zero isn’t particularly impressive. I had hoped that the simpler visual design might ultimately be beneficial to Strike Suit Zero’s performance, but unfortunately that didn’t prove to be consistently true. While in many levels it is able to hold its target of 30 frames-per-second, more visually demanding levels sit closer to 25. This drop occurs anytime a level takes place inside a nebula. These stages incorporate heavy alpha effects that, while convincing, take a relentless toll on performance. This remains true in both docked and portable configurations.
If you’re a fan of the golden era 3D space shooters that permeated gaming in the mid to late 90s, I can virtually guarantee you’ll enjoy Strike Suit Zero. That being said, it is at best a solid and enjoyable entry in the genre that doesn’t do much to advance it. Its performance levels make it a bit of a rough ride as well. All that said, its grasp on the genre is solid enough that I still found myself having a very good time playing it. If you’re hankering for a classic 3D space shooter you can take on the go, give Strike Suit Zero a shot.