~ SOLDIER BLADE ~
Pre-release screens of this shooter caught my eye thanks to the often-depicted big-ass laser super-shot, which is absolutely awesome.
As cool as the energy overload weapon is, though, the featured boss assemblage is the game's pride and joy. Soldier Blade's multi-part machines can really take a beating, and they have lots of different weapons to hammer you with. Dismantling them is a pleasure.
The coolest fellows in the lot appear during Operation 6:
This craft utilizes the armaments of slain bosses before tearing pieces from the wall and chucking them at you...
The standard stage foes are a stout bunch for the most part, though some of them have a very-flat look about them; and by Operation 5, enemy redundancy becomes a bit of a problem. But the action is consistently heavy; SB's strips never reach the level of intensity that Blazing Lazers' last few stages attain, but they don't contain BL's stretches of dead space either. They also look a good bit better than decent. Operation 3's blasted-up city was drawn extremely well, as was the sixth-level base, but for whatever reason, I've always found the cloud depictions in Operation 2 most appealing.
The most interesting progression of events occurs in Operation 4:
You can see your enemies maneuvering below you before they fly up to assault you. After you fend them off and defeat a good, tough midboss...
...the ground opens up. Soar through the steel-lined fissure until you find a gateway that somehow sucks you into outer space...
The music is nice, if not particularly special except in a couple of stages. SB has the sort of opening-level music that every shooter should have: the track flaunts a catchy hook and gets you involved and excited at once. And Operation 5's up-tempo number adds to that respective strip's intensity.
For some players, Soldier Blade might seem to lack a certain "wow" factor. The action and the visuals, while quite solid, never really reach a point where they could be considered mind blowing. This might be a concern since SB costs a decent chunk of change relative to most other chip shooters. I got mine on the cheap years ago and have never looked back, but knowing what I know now, I wouldn't hesitate to plunk down a good $30-40 for it. There's no question that it's one of the strongest chip verticals.