G-Rev has been in the Japanese STG scene for a long time, but many of their games never made their way to the West. Finally, after many years, they have made their debut on Steam. Strania is a rather interesting shmup. Combining many aspects from other shooters it's one heck of a harsh, yet enjoyable experience for fan of the genre.
Strania let's you play one of two different perspectives. There's Strania and Vower, the latter of whom pilots a Red mecha. Each character can use the same ability, but the two scenarios have different challenges. Gameplay at first seems like many top-down STG's, where you you shoot enemies and collect powerups. Although the power-ups work more like Contra III's weapon system. The power-up are mostly just different weapons, and you can only hold onto two at a time aside from your sword. Depending on the combinations you can use both at the same time.
Each weapon is better in different situations, so repeat runs will have you memorizing where powerups will show in order to both collect and avoid them as needed. While the game does give you 'armor', they basically serve as your lives. You only have a maximum of three continues, provided you turned the continue option on. If you max out your special gauge, you can use it as a buffer before it's consumed. Once it's used, you go into an invincible state to escape danger and cause damage to anything you touch for a few seconds. One peculiar choice to make in regards to continues have you start from a checkpoint, as opposed to other shooters that let you pick up right from where you died. It's a harsh system that's more reminiscent of games like R-Type or Gradius.
Strania is a fun game, but its high difficultly level make make it less accessible to most players. There isn't even an easy difficulty setting, so this is almost purely for the hardcore STG audience. As for the port's quality, it's really well done. Music and graphic sound and look great on a monitor. The only other issues would be that the game's programming doesn't really account for your chosen gamepad's button layout.
The remaining issue would be that the online rankings seem to be for the extremely competitive and expert crowd, as changing the settings to allow continues, more armor, etc. disable your ability to get in the rankings. Otherwise, Strania is the sterling example of a PC port done competently. In the wave of recent PC releases being shoddy, that's a welcome thing to see.
The Good – A very fun STG that takes a few different elements for various shooters to make for an interesting combination.
The Bad – The old-school nature of the game is very harsh.
The Ugly – Online rankings are purely for those who like it hard.
SUMMARY: Straina is a hard, yet entertaining STG that uses some elements from other shooters for a more interesting experience.
Review code provided by G-Rev