Indie Corner: Steel Empire

Steel Empire originally launched in 1992 on the Genesis and Mega Drive, later it was remade for Game Boy Advance back in 2004. Now, years after the original release, the game is remade again for the Nintendo 3DS. If you like classic shoot ‘em up games set in a steampunk environment, this one is definitely worth checking out!

It’s all about the setting

Steel Empire was a huge success back in the days thanks to the unique steampunk setting. Anno 2015 however, a lot of games have used the steampunk universe as source of inspiration. A lot of genres can be played in a steampunk setting; a lot of genres but still not that many steampunk shoot ‘em ups. This results in a very unique setting for Steel Empire, even years after the original release. The game is remade gorgeously for the Nintendo 3DS. Every sprite looks incredible and the extra 3D layer adds a lot for the aesthetics of the game. The environments, planes and enemies all look polished and are a lot of fun to spend some time with.


The real highlights of the game are of course the bosses. Every boss consists out of a machine powered by steam. Varying from steampunk trains to more obscure underground machines. Each boss has a different look and needs a different tactic to take down. Fighting these well-designed bosses is a lot of fun for sure. Too bad there’re only seven playable levels and you can easily complete the game in less than an hour. Since this is an old school shoot ‘em up however, it’s meant to be played multiple times of course.

Great shoot ‘em up gameplay

Setting isn’t everything in a game of course, the way it plays is as important. Well, the good news is that Steel Empire feels very modern, even years after release. The gimmick in Steel Empire is the ability to shoot in two directions. You can shoot enemies in front of you and behind you. This means you’ll need to look out for enemies on both sides of the screens. This was a rather innovating mechanism back in the days and it’s still very fun to play nowadays. You’ll also need to fight enemies in the sky and on the ground. With every shot you fire comes a small grenade to take down enemies on the ground. Aiming both your bullets and grenades precisely isn’t always that easy and will need some time to master.

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Unlike other popular shoot ‘em ups; there aren’t that many upgrades to collect. During your game you can collect round ‘P’ emblems that will upgrade your automatic guns. If you manage to collect three to four ‘P’ emblems, the speed and amount of bullets will increase. No new weapons, just an improvement of your basic weapons. Besides this, you can collect ‘B’ spheres that will add a deadly bomb to your gear or ‘O’ spheres, which unlocks two useful orbiters to add more gunfire above and under your aircraft. The upgrades aren’t that impressive as in other modern shoot ‘em ups but they deliver some needed variation in the gameplay without a doubt.

Select your aircraft

At the start of each level, you’ll need to select your aircraft. You can pick a small and fast bird-like plane or go with the slower but more powerful zeppelin. The bird plane is fast but lacks the health of the zeppelin, which of course is the slower of the two. If you like your shoot ‘em up fast and deadly, you’ll need to go with the smaller plane. If you like to have some more time and health to take down your enemies, you’ll need to go with the zeppelin. After each level you can select the other aircraft again if you like, the game doesn’t force you to reach the end with only one aircraft. Replaying the levels with the other aircraft is recommended for those who like to see and play it all.

Besides the airplanes, the story is told using small screens with text, explaining what’s going on. Although we never see familiar faces or heroes, the story is interesting enough to keep you going, especially thanks to the great music of the game. The original music is remade for the modern 3DS system and adds some great songs to the levels. The score of level 6 is without a doubt the most memorable one but every level has its own unique sound and that’s just great if you ask us!

The good: The bad:
+ Great setting – Too short
+ Shoot enemies behind you – Only one main weapon
+ Unique steampunk bosses

Steel Empire offers a great steampunk shoot ’em up experience for the Nintendo 3DS owners. If you like your shoot ’em up games fast and gorgeous, this one should definitely be on your radar. The setting is brilliant and the boss battles offer a lot of fun. It’s a shame there aren’t more than seven playable levels but replaying the levels with different aircrafts is fun nevertheless. That being said, if you’re into shoot ’em up games, try this one for sure!

4 out of 5



Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.