- Steel Empire
Steel Empire Genesis box art
Developer(s) HOT・B Publisher(s)
- Mega Drive
- JP HOT・B
- Game Boy Advance
Distributor(s) Flying Edge Engine Proprietary Platform(s) Sega Mega Drive, Game Boy Advance Release date(s)
- Mega Drive
- JP March 13, 1992
- Game Boy Advance
Genre(s) Horizontal scrolling shooter Mode(s) Single-player Rating(s)
- PEGI: 3+
Steel Empire (otherwise known as The Steel Empire or Empire of Steel in various English materials), and originally released as Koutetsu Teikoku (鋼鉄帝国) in Japan, is a 1992 side-scrolling shoot 'em up video game for the Sega Mega Drive home console, and was ported to the Nintendo Game Boy Advance in 2004.
Steel Empire is notable amongst shoot 'em up games for its unique aesthetic designs. Mostly low-tech in nature, with it being set in the late-19th century of an alternate timeline, the game's aircraft, power ups, environments, enemies and bosses are heavily stylized with a strong steampunk theme to the technology. Steam power, propeller-based aircraft, biplanes and dirigibles play a large role in the game's graphics.
History and port
Koutetsu Teikoku is a Japanese title developed by HOT・B. HOT・B originally began development of the game as an adaptation of the acclaimed 1986 Japanese anime Laputa: Castle in the Sky. However, the plot of the anime, characters and all references to it were eventually dropped during the development of the game in favour of an original story, and the finished product of the game retains only the themes of steampunk aviation from the anime.
The in-game credits of western versions specify that the inspiration of the game came from the 1819 novel Imperio do Aceiro (Empire of Steel) by Caar H. Schitch. This was a dystopian military fantasy novel set in the then-future of the late 19th-century, and which would later be considered of the first examples of the steampunk genre. 
In 2004, a Game Boy Advance port was released in Japan by Starfish Inc., retitled Koutetsu Teikoku from HOT・B. In 2005, British software house ZOO Digital Publishing brought this port of the game to Europe, as Steel Empire.
The game is set in a steampunk-inspired alternate timeline, during the year "18XX" of the "Age of Steel", where mammoth floating battleships cruise the skies and gigantic armored locomotives carry cannons the size of railway cars. A military coup has occurred in the world's largest city, Damd, and power-hungry dictator General Styron rules by brute force and military might, his goliath defenses carrying armor-piercing missiles and lethal aerial mines.
While Styron's Motorhead Empire has quickly conquered and enslaved most of the world, one small independent republic remains free and defiant - the Republic of Silverhead - who have developed an elite air force, as well as the "Imamio Thunder" - known as the "Lightning Bomb" to Silverhead's enemies - which is more powerful than anything in Motorhead's arsenal. Silverhead are the last hope for freedom, and they alone have the will and the weapons to bring about Motorhead's downfall.
The game begins with the Motorhead Empire attacking Rahl, Silverhead's chief mining city, and the player is tasked with defending it. Further missions will take the player into the vast subterranean caverns of Liedengel, the war torn no-man's land of Z-Sector which lies between Silverhead and Motorhead, and the foremost defences of Motorhead - the Gardamdi Islands, which lay in front of Damd, Motorhead's capital city. Finally, after General Styron has launched himself into orbit via space cannon, the player must pursue him and his flagship into space to the moon, where you must destroy Styron once and for all.
Steel Empire is a fast-paced scrolling shooter. Gameplay is linear in that the player is restricted to flying in only one direction, and the player will meet enemies in a predesignated order. However, unlike many scrolling shooters, Steel Empire allows players to fire from behind as well as ahead.
As a pilot in Silverhead's air force, launched from Silverhead's flying battleship Etopilica, the player can choose to fly either the eagle-like "Striker" - a small, swift and manueverabile interceptor aircraft; or the "Z-01 Zeppelin" - a larger, slower, yet tougher and more durable rigid airship which also packs more firepower. The Z-01 Zeppelin tends to be better at bosses, yet the Striker tends to be more efficient at larger numbers of smaller enemies and at ground assaults.
The player combats enemy aircraft, ground artillery and other assorted enemies and obstacles through seven progressively harder levels, each containing a boss at the end, which must be defeated in order to advance to the next level. The levels also feature less powerful minibosses, which appear about halfway through each level.
Ammunition is unlimited and players have the ability to collect level powerups, which increase their firepower strength from level one to level 20. These and other powerups may be collected by flying into them. Other powerups include the usual shoot-em-up powerups - more destructive firepower and such - but also aerial mines, bouncing bombs, homing missiles, and of course Silverhead's ultimate weapon, the Imamio Thunder and Lightning Bomb capable of destroying all Motorhead's forces.
Players are given a certain number of "lives" and "continues". If a player loses all of his health he loses a life, his craft simply reappears where it was destroyed and becomes invulnerable for a few seconds. If the player loses all of his lives, then he must spend a "continue" and restart at the beginning of the level. Firepower level data is retained however throughout the course of the game (even after using a continue). When all continues are expended, the game is over.
Critical reception upon the game's release on the Sega Mega Drive in 1992 was mixed, with some saying that the game was an unremarkable and unoriginal shooter. However the majority of the reviews were positive, with the positive reviews noting some original features in the game such as being able to fire behind you, a rarity in shooters of the time. Positive reviews also praised the unique steampunk style, visually appealing colour themes and backgrounds, and innovative enemies of the game.
- ^ http://www.meanmachinesmag.co.uk/review/312/steel-empire.php
- ^ http://www.geocities.jp/bgrtype/gsl/md/koutetsu/koutetsu.html
- ^ http://steampunkperu.blogspot.com/2008/06/steampunk.html
- ^ http://www.mobygames.com/game/steel-empire/release-info
- ^ http://www.honestgamers.com/reviews/3494.html
- ^ http://www.mobygames.com/game/genesis/steel-empire/mobyrank
- ^ http://videogamecritic.net/genss.htm
- ^ http://www.sega-16.com/review_page.php?id=816&title=Steel%20Empire
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