Steam-Heart’s review – Classic-Games.net
Developer: Technical Group Laboratory Publisher: Technical Group Laboratory Release: 03/22/96 Genre: Shooter
At a glance Steam-Heart’s looks like any other PC Engine shooter with an anime aesthetic. But after about five minutes you will discover its eroge roots. Hentai games back in the day were largely uninteresting and tried to do the bare minimum to entice players with mild scenes of sex. Steam-Heart’s is one of the few that is actually a good game underneath. While it pales in comparison to the better shooters you could do a lot worse.
The plot of Steam-Heart’s is simple. A virus is wreaking havoc around the world and causing insanity in those it infects. The only ones immune are Blow and Falla, who possess the only cure. Now the two must fight their way through the enemy commanders and have sex with them to deliver the cure. It’s a lame justification for the sex but whatever. Steam-Heart’s is a port/remake of the PC-98 game of the same name. While it looks better it loses a few features at the same time.
You can play as either Blow or Falla with their weapons featuring unique properties. There are only two weapons, the Vulcan shot and laser. For Blow his Vulcan shot splits and produces more consecutive bullets with each press. His laser is a single beam that grows larger with each power-up. Falla’s Vulcan remains static and not as strong. However her laser gains two additional shots for an ersatz wide beam. There are a number of additional power-ups as well. The rare shield can take a lot of punishment on top of your life bar. The homing orbs are more useful than the straight missiles and drops frequently. Odd enough there are no speed items but you can quickly boost in any direction.
Steam-Heart’s is a well-paced game for a few reasons. Enemy waves are predictable yet still imposing. Power-ups drop after every few waves right up until the game’s conclusion. Usually they are the ones needed for the upcoming situation, be it a shield for a bullet heavy area or the homing orbs to deal with a mess of smaller ships. The levels may seem short but that is only because you can deal with waves swiftly. Considering how stripped down this is from its PC original I’m surprised how much I like it. Honestly the porn elements are a distraction from what is otherwise a competent game.
Surprisingly Steam-Heart’s is only medium in its difficulty. You have a single life but a seven hit shield. Early on you only get one or two shield point refills a level. Even defeating bosses only restores a single point. By the midpoint these items are more consistent. The game is very generous with power-ups which make the frequent action easy to deal with. Boss battles are the highlight and are a real challenge. They have numerous attacks and while their patterns are easy to recognize it still comes down to execution. Many have multiple phases and switch up their attacks in each. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed the measured difficulty in this one; more shooters need to balance it like this instead of only targeting the hardcore crowd.
Although this version of Steam-Heart’s is more or less a remake it is missing features from the original. There is no multiplayer which sucks and is most likely due to the oversized and useless UI. A few of the auxiliary weapons like the mini satellites. These were really cool and came in different flavors. The graphics have been redrawn and are better in some cases but worse in others. The PC-98 version had choppy scrolling while this edition is smooth. But the overall level of detail and quality of the art is not as good and makes the game look generic. The PC-98 is known for its distinctive color palette and art in its games and its sad to see that lost here. The sex scenes are also new and are suggestive rather than explicit. Unless you are a preteen I don’t think most will care however.
Steam-Heart’s is a good game overall, flaws and all. Ignore the porn and you have a title that has plenty of action and decent production values to hold your interest. That being said I would recommend the Saturn version; it has all of the features of the PC-98 original and phenomenal artwork to boot. It is easier to find as well but expensive.