Originally released on NeoGeo arcade machines 10 years ago, Strikers 1945 Plus was a standard but competent vertically scrolling shooter. Now, it has made its way to the PSP as a downloadable game, but while shooters like this never completely go out of style, Strikers lacks anything to make it stand out from other games of this type. Its unremarkable gameplay is joined by stiff difficulty and a high price point, making this a game that can only be recommended to the most voracious shooter fans.
In typical shooter fashion, Strikers casts you as a poor sap who pilots a tiny, vulnerable plane on a desperate mission to single-handedly defeat a massive, powerful army. Your enemies here include squadrons of small planes that can be destroyed with a single shot, but there are also plenty of screen-spanning flying fortresses and other large, well-armored enemies on the ground, on the sea, and in the sky. This enemy force initially appears to be composed of WWII-era planes, tanks, battleships and submarines, but after you deal enough damage to the bosses at the end of each stage, their outer shells strip away to reveal massive mechs and otherworldly flying machines. This juxtaposition of earthly and alien elements makes the game conceptually interesting and visually memorable. It's too bad that the gameplay doesn't quite measure up.
There are a total of seven planes available, each of which has a standard machine-gun attack that can be upgraded with power-ups left behind by defeated enemies. Each plane also starts with one more powerful supershot and can earn more by destroying enough enemies, if you can dodge bullets and stay alive long enough to fill the meter. And finally, each plane has its own unique bomb attack, which summons a friendly plane, squadron, or missile to damage enemies and block enemy fire for a short period of time. Using these wisely is crucial to survival because there are times when the screen fills with so many bullets that only the very best players will have any chance of dodging them. All of this stuff is just fine. The action is fast-paced and blistering. But it also feels just like any number of other vertically scrolling shooters, making it unlikely that anyone who lacks a passion for the genre will find anything worthwhile about this game in particular.
One of the selling points for Strikers 1945 Plus is endless play, which is just a fancy way of saying that you have unlimited continues. This seems less like a feature and more like a necessity, though, because without it, this game would be far too difficult for all but the most skilled players. You're liable to continue at least a few times per stage in the 20 minutes or so that it takes to play through all eight. And upon vanquishing the final boss, you'll start the cycle all over again, playing through the eight stages at an even more punishing difficulty level, before seeing the credits roll. This feels like a cheap way to extend the game's length and certainly does nothing to make the $11.99 cost any more justifiable. Considering the game's brevity and simplicity, the price tag seems nothing short of outrageous.
The graphics are showing their age, but the constant explosions and showers of bullets keep Strikers visually interesting. And while the mechs and other alien craft aren't technically impressive by today's standards, they are well designed. The military marches that accompany the action are generic and forgettable, but the lively sound effects make up for them.
Ad-hoc two-player cooperative play is available if you've got the means to take advantage of it, but even after playing through the game with a friend, the $11.99 price tag is likely to seem pretty stiff. Strikers 1945 Plus Portable is competent but unremarkable, and you can certainly get a lot more bang for your buck.