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Star Soldier
  opened by paleface at 01:55:39 09/01/03  
  last modified by paleface at 12:25:50 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=GC; cat=Shooter_Vert; reg=JPN]
I haven't played the orginal Star Soldier but if it is anything near as fun as this I can see why people hold it in such high regard. Hudson's unfortunately characteristic blocky modelling and overblown, flat textures feature once again in this game but on the plus side everything zips around so fast that you'll be hard-pressed to notice the spots of artistic mediocrity. In a couple hours of playing I've hit one instance of incredible slowdown--if you're the type for whom two seconds of slowdown ruins an entire game, then steer clear; otherwise, you're in for some good frantic shooting fun as the rest of the time the game has zoomed along quite smoothly.
Throwback that it is, with none of those big fancy bombs of later shooters, SS comes at you with relatively few yet well-placed bullets and enemies who more very quickly indeed--some whipping onto and across the screen before you can say "ouch"! Twitch reflexes get you further here without the aid of tedious memorization than they would in most other recently-released shooters and I count this as a good thing.
The scoring system stands tall and proud as well, with vast fields of possible powerup blocks to mine, bonuses for shooting down a full squadron of attackers before they can escape, secret high-score "Z" blocks that appear quietly when you've blown up certain prerequisites, cumulative scoring of the Z blocks where each successive block yields many more points than the last, and more. Prime candidate for high score contests, to be sure, particularly with the addition of the "Two Minute" and "Five Minute" modes that give you unlimited lives but a limited time in which to gather as high a score as you can through some fiendish enemy formations.
Hopefully the main game itself gets that challenging later on (I've heard tell that it does), as in an hour of playing I single-credited Normal difficulty right up to the level four boss without too much effort--I think this is just about halfway through the game, but keep in mind that I normally struggle for hours on end to single-credit one or two stages in most modern shooters. It was an hour of nonstop frantic blasting fun nonetheless, particularly once you power your lasers up and begin spraying fire in all directions simultaneously--in those moments the game really opens up, forming a cyclone of flashing ships and bolts with you in the middle riding out the storm, trying to catch the hidden bonus block out of the maelstrom around you. The music deserves mention--at first it seems like the typical 80's-ish metal guitar stuff, only softer, groovier and strangely melodic so that soon even a non-metalish person such as myself comes to listen to it fondly.
The one thing I haven't liked all that much so far has been the Mars-Matrixesque "piercing cannon" short range weapon: unlike MM you can fire the piercing cannon and the regular lasers simultaneously, and there's no penalty for holding down the piercing cannon trigger button (the lasers, on the other hand, fire smaller and presumably less powerful shots if you hold their button down), so I can't see any logical reason *not* to hold the piercing cannon button down throughout the game, but following this optimal path while pumping madly at the regular fire button puts a mean cramp on my fingers.
Yet cramp or no, this game deserves to be played vigorously, and the budget price offers some salve for those aching digits. It'll be a splendid thing indeed if the rest of the old Star Soldier series gets this same kind of modern re-treatment. Oh, no real load times to be found here, and it supports progressive scan.
Update: aha! my thumb can hold the piercing shot button down, freeing the cramp from my fingers and allowing me to increase the speed of my hammering on the fire button. High scores surely await!
· Soldier Blade (PCE)
· Star Force (NES)
· Star Soldier (PSP)

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