Welcome to the wonderful world of Westina, a lush planet inhabited by super-cute elves, cat-women, and goat-girls! The “Master Embryos”, known to most as “seven succulent sorceresses”, have governed the world for years, maintaining peace and order. Unfortunately, this peace was not to last. The dread “Quan Virus” infected these seven sexy leaders, draining the mercy from their minds and the humanity from their hearts. Now, the former champions of good are ravaging the lands, converting the planet’s climate so that the Virus may prosper.
This world needs a hero! Fortunately, it has two. In Steam Hearts, two outlaws have escaped infection — the masculine cat-boy Blondia Varady (nicknamed “Blow”), and his redhead sister Falandia (nicknamed “Falla”). After selecting an avatar, players confront the Master Embryos in vertical shooter battles. Rather than simply kill the planet’s former guardians, Blondia delivers the antidote necessary to cure their tainted bodies.
The story barely affects the action. For the most part, players simply guide their chosen character through the skies in a small and agile spaceship, destroying everything in sight: kamikaze drones, angry mechanical hornets, and cannon-toting soldiers. Every enemy unloads gobs of bullets, although fewer than a modern bullet-hell.
Steam Hearts starts slowly but builds towards an exciting climax. For example, after cruising through an asteroid field, accompanied by soothing space lounge tunes . . . the music suddenly ramps up, swarms of enemies surge forth, and lasers streak across the playfield from off-screen battleships. This mid-level switch from rock dodging to all-out starfleet combat is both exciting and involving. This level tells a story; I only wish the game’s other stages were so clever.
Steam Hearts only features two primary weapons, but they behave differently depending on the chosen character. For example, Blondia’s laser is a fully-frontal, streaming ejaculation of carnage, while Falandia’s laser spread-eagles diagonally in thin wisps of whitehot bliss. Toss in eight degrees of upgrades, a few secondary abilities (shields, black hole missiles, or homing droids), and you’ve got a decent firepower potential despite the limited selection.
As players penetrate further and further into the game, the foes fight back quite fiercely, even on the easiest difficulty setting. The ore chasm, a rocky mining shaft filled with cannons and gatling turrets, is particularly harrowing. Steam Hearts forces the player to dodge volley after volley of bullets with little room to maneuver (due to a MASSIVE hit-box). Fortunately, control is slick and stable, making it surprisingly easy for a skilled player to wind through even the tightest and most intricate streams of cannonfire. A turbo boost button helps players escape from particularly tricky barrages.
At the end of each level, one of the female leaders arrives in her ornate mecha suit, each equipped with elaborate weaponry. LayFang, the guardian of Ancient Westina, launches blue homing beams and pelts players with bullets. Beat her down . . . and then she pulls out a REALLY long staff (it nearly spans the length of the screen) which sends lasers streaking through the sky! Another boss briefly summons a black hole bomb. While avoiding the antimatter blast (tap that Turbo Boost button!), Blondia and Falandia scream: “Oh my god, what is that?!” “It’s a black hole!” “Hit the speed, avoid it! Watch out!”
That kind of character reaction turns a potentially typical attack into a memorable event. Furthermore, each of the Master Embryos speak before the battle begins, adding a bit of drama to the whole affair.
Once you’ve physically beaten down the boss, you’ll have sex with her.
Yes — Blondia’s antidote to the dire Quan Virus happens to be his sperm. So, once you’ve blown one of the frisky female leaders’ mobile suits to bits, Falandia will subdue and molest the cutie (prepping her for Blondia’s shaft) and then you’ll be treated to a well-drawn still picture depicting the sexual vaccination of the Master Embryo. After the deed is done, the little lady turns back to the Path of Justice and thanks Blondia for raping her.
While most of the goodies are cleverly obscured by hair, arms, and heart-speckled panties, this is pretty hardcore stuff in concept. Heads on the ground, buttocks in the air — I think you get the picture. Blondia risks his life to save the world by raping anime babes. He just does it less explicitly than in the PC-98 version (which also happens to be a better game overall).
If Blondia didn’t rape women, then he would have to murder them — inaction would condemn the entire world to destruction. It’s an absurd situation designed to justify Steam Hearts’ throwaway cutscenes, so I’ll save the discussion on “logic and morality” for a game that actually means to test our virtues. This is a shooter, and shooters are about blasting things to bits; that’s why so many of them end up glomming together into one huge puddle of done-it-before destruction. It takes a pretty strong hook to stand apart from the rest. Steam Hearts features a hook so notoriously unforgettable that the game — which would otherwise be quite forgettable — remains famous over a decade later. Sure, there are some disturbing undertones, but I like looking at cute cat-girls. I guess that means I’m going to hell.