The Legend of Steel Empire Review

The Legend of Steel Empire is a game that has been floating around since the early 1990’s, with the game originally released on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in 1992, under the name Steel Empire. Since then, it’s been re-released on GBA, 3DS, and PC. Now The Legend of Steel Empire has taken flight once more, arriving on the Nintendo Switch.

The Legend of Steel Empire is a side-scrolling shooter set in an alternate 19th century, where technology and society has erred firmly into Steampunk territory. Players are a pilot hailing from a small nation that has gone to war with the Motorhead Empire. As one of your small country’s elite pilots, you can use one of two aircraft in the war. The first is a bi-plane called the Striker, armed with a machine gun and small bombs that can be dropped on enemy targets. Its diminutive size makes it faster than the other aircraft, but it also means it has less armour to deal with incoming enemy fire.

The second aircraft is an airship called Z-01, a zeppelin that moves slower, but has increased armour and more firepower. However, it’s not as useful at targeting enemy ground forces and will require flying low to hit them. While the Striker is an excellent option, the Z-01 feels better to play as. While it is slightly slower, this allows you to assess the situation better while the improved firepower makes light work of enemies. Both can fire behind as well as forward, so there’s not a constant requirement to switch directions to deal with different enemies. On the other hand, it means that enemies will swarm so you have to be quick to take on these groups while avoiding incoming fire.

The gameplay is what you would expect for a side-scrolling shooter. You play across various stages taking on waves of enemies before meeting a sub-boss, and a main boss. As you defeat enemies, floating power-ups appear that when collected can award more firepower, health, more bombs, and increased damage. As you collect power-ups your pilot level increases, making you a a more formidable opponent for your enemies.

You will have a small inventory of lightning bombs too which do major damage and clear the screen of enemies, but it is worth keeping these either for boss fights or unused. Unused is best if you are trying to rack up a high score as you’re rewarded extra points for that. If you do run out of lives you have one continue as default, but if you die and run out of continues it is game over. One playthrough on normal in The Legend of Steel Empire took approximately an hour, and while there is some replay available by playing through on higher difficulties to complete a piece of artwork, or to beat your high score, the asking price of £19.99 for what is on offer is steep.

The visual aesthetic of the levels and the action is very good, with a decent amount of enemy variety. It can sometimes be a bit tough to see enemies along the ground, and there is a level where the lighting is dimmed to make it harder to spot enemies, which is not really worthwhile from a gameplay perspective. The sound design does the job but it’s not outstanding and the music is a bit on the forgettable side too.

The Legend of Steel Empire is a fun side-scrolling shooter set in an interesting alternate history timeline. The gameplay is easy to get to grips with, allowing people of all skill levels to deal with enemies. However, the short length of the campaign is not truly worth the asking price, so I'd recommend waiting for a sale to pick it up.
  • A good re-release of a classic side scrolling shooter
  • Two aircraft that have their own unique ways of dealing with the enemy
  • The classic visual design holds up
  • Steep asking price
  • Can be tough to spot ground enemies
  • Sound is only okay
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From the heady days of the Mega Drive up until the modern day gaming has been my main hobby. I'll give almost any game a go.