Steam-Heart's (スチーム・ハーツ) - PC-98, Windows, PC Engine Super CD, Saturn (1995)
Note: Steam-Heart's is technically a hentai game. Some of the screenshots on this page contain partial nudity, although the critical parts are censored (click for uncensored versions). So don't go browsing this around your boss or mom or anything.
I'm not sure what kind of career path one needs to go down to write plot lines for porn. It's not exactly the most glamourous of gigs, since the story is almost always an unwelcome third wheel. Yet I'd always admired those awful Cinemax movies that tried to parody whatever popular movie of the time, but adding some random naked chicks and God knows what else. You ever see that one based off The Planet of the Apes? Man. It was imaginative, if nothing else. Now, I'm not one to always wave the "Japan is superior!" sign around, but I do have to admit they can occasionally be a bit more creative when it comes to their porn, mostly in animated form. Do people really sit around and think "Hmmm, how can we justify underage rape this week?"
In Steam-Heart's, you play as a duo of warriors, a dude named Blow and girl named Falla. The idea is, there's a virus that's infecting a group of catgirls and have driven them crazy. I may be simplifying things a bit, but that's the general idea. The only thing that can cure them is Blow's man juice. The only way to save them is by piloting their starships through wave after wave of enemy fighters, destroying the boss robot piloted by the infected target, and railing her six ways till Sunday. I'd love a feminine critique to this concept - it's massively hilarious. And if you take the "shmup as dating" metaphor too far, what does that make the boss fights, foreplay? Why does that sound kind of hot?
Know as "Blow" (!!) amongst friends, this guy looks like a more pimpish version of Naughty Dog's Jak. Lucky bastard.
Usually called "Falla", this pink haired catgirl actually has a hidden...member which she helps use to prep (I guess) their fallen opponent before Blow injects them with his special serum.
Sierra is the first boss, a brown haired fox girl with an impressive array of earrings.
Homay is the second boss, and more closely resembles a tiger, although she appears to be wearing a Chinese dress. Before it's ripped off, anyway.
Yea has a whole lot of green, spiky hair and wears a funny looking bikini.
Chelno seems to resemble an elf. She has blue hair in the PC versions, but black hair elsewhere. One of those "iya, dame, yamete" type girls, if you catch my drift. ("No, don't, please stop," etc.)
The loli of the group, this pink haired girl seems to have...ram horns?
Another catgirl, this time a bit stronger and confident looking, with grey-ish hair.
The last boss. She wears all kinds of fancy make-up, and nearly sacrifices herself in order for Blow and Falla to make their escape.
Anyway, Steam-Heart's was initially a home computer game (originally released for the PC98, later for Windows 95), which means the porn is pretty graphic. For a mid 90s hentai game, the artwork is actually really, really good - I can't show much of the pictures from the PC version, lest Gamespy assault my inbox with notices and threats, because, I mean, these girls are drenched in unshowable stuff, constantly. But they're easy enough to find, if you look hard enough. I mean, catgirls and elfgirls - it's pretty much worth it. It was later ported to both the PC Engine and Saturn. Since most console manufacturers don't want graphic sex on their systems, the cutscenes had to be toned down quite a bit. Nearly all of them were completely redrawn to be more suggestive, although the artwork quality is still pretty good. Alas, instead of awkward text scrolling on the bottom of the screen, now you have awkward voice acting. Great. The Saturn version is actually slightly more censored, as they erased the few sightings of nipples that you get to see, and cropped out some other tiny bits, but otherwise, they're practically identical.
Oh, the actual game? Right!
In the PC98 version of the game, your ship is equipped with a primary weapon, which is either a vulcan cannon or a laser. Both can be upgraded or switched by grabbing power-ups. You also have an array of secondary weapons - some include turrets that stay at a certain part of the screen and rain fire, while others are satellites that hunt down foes, similar to MUSHA. You only have one life, but your ship can take approximately six hits before being destroyed, which isn't so bad. Although you can't directly control the speed of your ship, you can temporarily boost in a direction, so you can quickly dodge enemy fire or snag some power-ups. This is probably one of the most well implemented aspects, and should show up in more shmups.
Graphically, outside of the cutscenes, there's very little that Steam-Heart's does to distinguish itself. One level takes place over the sea, another takes place in the sky, another over land, another in a factory, and finally the last one is in outer space. At least some of the boss mecha designs are kinda cool.
From a gameplay perspective, there are three different versions of Steam-Heart's altogether, Now, the PC98 could produce some nice high res graphics, but the sprite manipulation didn't exactly lend itself well to action games, so the movement is more than a little bit choppy. Since your ship doesn't move particularly fast, you'll probably be using the boost - a lot. Plus the game gets really difficult even the lowest difficult setting - it certainly wants you to put effort into get to any of the action. At least there's two player simultaneous play. I haven't played the Windows 95 version, but everything points to it being just like the PC98 version.
The PC Engine CD version is substantially worse. All of the ingame graphics have been redrawn, and there's a nice huge worthless status bar on the side of the screen. While the scrolling is much smoother, the gameplay feels much slower, even though it still tends to toss a lot of stuff at you at once. Furthermore, most of the secondary weapons have been toned down or eliminated, and the two player mode is gone, although you can select to play as either Blow or Falla. Altogether, it just feels rather boring.
Thankfully, the Saturn version fixes all of these issues. The graphics have once again been completely overhauled, and retains the action of the PC98 version while running at a much smoother pace. Some of the scaling and rotation effects have been put to great use too, especially on some of the bosses. Two player simultaneous is back as well. There are a couple of new secondary weapons as well, including a flame thrower and a lightning sword. You can also store up to three secondary weapons and detonate them as necessary (similar to some of the Star Soldier games), with each having some kind of unique effect. You can have a bomb weapon that triggers at the same time as your main weapon, so you can hit enemies on the ground, another addition solely for the Saturn version. While this port is plenty difficult, you're offered unlimited continues from right where you died, so it's not too hard to get through the game. While it's technically the tamest of three (but only slightly over the PC Engine version), it's definitely the best version of Steam-Heart's. Compared to other Saturn shooters - well, it's not quite in the same league as Dodonpachi or Soukyuugurentai, it's at least as good as, say, Batsugun, and it's better than most of the older Raiden games. And I admit, I'd much rather play a shooter than a lousy stat-raising dating game for my naked catgirls. Both console versions are pretty expensive, although the PC Engine one fetches a bit more, despite being inferior.
Screenshot Comparisons (Gameplay)