Friday, February 27, 2009

Super Star Soldier

Hudson Soft / NEC

A lot of people dig this game, but I've never been a big fan of it. I think it's ugly, sloppy, unoriginal, and clearly inferior to many other Turbo space verts.

Let's take a level-by-level look at this paper classic:

Stage 1 - Generic opening space stage. The melodic theme is the best number to be found in the game, though it isn't as good as Soldier Blade's first-stage tune or anything from Blazing Lazers' soundtrack.

Stage 2 - I've seen this level in way too many other verts. Soar over a dull green landscape before you reach a coastal base and then a stretch of sea, where a typical floating hunk of metal awaits you.

Stage 3 - Extremely ugly desert stage. The popular scorpion boss looks cool, but he's easy to defeat.

Stage 4 - Generic space stage with an orange circle in the background. Wonderful. The enormous boss would be just another bum in Soldier Blade, but he's one of the highlights here.

Stage 5 - Another stage straight from a million other shooters. Shoot the chunks of ice and watch them break into smaller parts. Serpents slink around in the meantime. The action isn't too terrible here, but the "monster that blows up and becomes a snake" boss is lame.

Stage 6 - This one is very reminiscent of Blazing Lazers, as it features fast scrolling and multitudes of small foes to fend off. Decent stage with satisfying action.

Stage 7 - The best level of the game. Launching an attack on a large battleship is nothing new, but the inside of this particular vessel looks pretty cool, and the speed run at the end is enjoyable enough. A rather anticlimactic bout with two meek spiders doesn't spoil the board entirely.

Stage 8 - Features the traditional boss gauntlet. Sadly, you have to fight through a seemingly endless stretch of riffraff before you reach it. I can't complain much about the final battle, though.

Stages 5 through 7 represent the best stretch of action that the game has to offer, but there's nothing here that matches the intensity of BL's toughest levels or calls for strategy like Nexzr's tightest sequences, and very few of the bosses can compete with Soldier Blade's multi-attack-type giants. The music isn't very good, and the graphics are quite bad; and there really aren't enough neat or original concepts at work to make up for the lackluster superficials. I will say that the game plays well enough to be mediocre rather than disastrous and offers a reasonably high level of challenge, and the green lightning weapon is actually pretty cool (though it's no Field Thunder).

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