15 September 2007
This fine vertical shooter is actually a sequel to Star Soldier for the NES. Staying true to the genre, Super Star Soldier features some sweet power-ups. In fact, there are four different ones: bullets, lightning, fire, and rings. You can also get homing missiles and little companion ships. Each weapon has four power levels, and any additional powerups you get after that for your weapon of choice cause a blast that nukes all enemies on screen.
The flame weapon is gorgeous graphically, but on a practical level it's slow and cumbersome. The quality of the graphics is particularly clear with the flame weapon, especially during the first stage, when you have the puffs of flame against bright greys in the foreground and the dark blues fading to black below.
The levels are actually quite long, featuring both a mini-boss and the real deal. Don't get too cocky when the first boss shows up. If you aren't victorious, then you have to start at the very beginning of the level. You don't even get to start at the half-way point.
Getting through the second stage is a struggle; from the moment it starts the action doesn't let up. During one especially nasty section, you have to run the gauntlet with enemies swooping down and rows of turrets on the left and right side of the screen. Power-ups aren't very plentiful, so once you crash and burn, it's really hard to start from the beginning with just your pee-shooter.
The obvious comparison here is Blazing Lazers. Admittedly, that's also a great shooter, but Super Star Soldier has the edge in graphics. Every screen seems more colorful, and levels have a better sense of depth.
Though the music gets a little repetitive, it has that swelling and drumming quality that gets you really amped and in the mood to shoot things. Sound effects are basic and rather minimal, mainly the sound of your weapons and enemies exploding.
There aren't any problems with the game control. You can adjust the speed of your ship by hitting select—a feature that should be standard in all shooters. The gameplay comes up a little short in that there's an absence of any special weapons. No bombs or super-shots. I always feel like the other button on the gamepad should do something great, but all you can really do with it is switch your side-ships between a vertical and horizontal formation—less than exciting. As I mentioned before, the rarity of power-ups can also be problematic, especially after you blowup.
Settling on the best shooter for the TG-16 is really difficult, since the genre has such depth and variety on this console. Still, the combination of graphics, intense dogfights, and steep challenge put Super Star Soldier on my short list of greatest TG-16 shooters ever.
Yet another excellent review from Chris Bucci: