As part of the “Hudson Collection”, Star Soldier is an enhanced port of the Nintendo 64 shooter of the same title. With its new additions and improved graphics, is it a worthy title to play or should you stick with Ikaruga? Read here to find out.
When it comes to obscure genres that cater to the hardcore, the GameCube has limited offerings. The 2D shooting genre, in which you typically control a space ship and fire at tons of enemies on the screen, has been around since Space Invaders. It was very popular in arcades in the early 1990s, but has since died down to that of a niche genre catering only to hardcore gamers who still enjoy a shoot ‘em up. Enter Star Soldier, which is one of only two 2D shooters available for GameCube in Japan. It’s not even an original game, but rather an enhanced port of a Nintendo 64 game, which was a sequel of a very old Famicom and PC Engine shooter of the same name.
It is still strange that Star Soldier was brought back to life on Nintendo 64, and then later ported to GameCube as part of its Hudson Collection series in Japan (N64 ports that offer a significantly cheaper price than brand new games). So how does Star Soldier stack up against Ikaruga, the only other shooter on GameCube, and a well respected game of its genre? First, it’s worth explaining exactly what Star Soldier offers.
There is only single player gameplay, which is an automatic strike against the game considering that cooperative play is standard for this genre. While you can use the second controller to assist the main player, this feature is by no means a good alternative to a real two-player mode. There are three modes of play, Normal Game, 2 minute, and 5 minute. Normal Game takes you through 5 different stages, each getting progressively more difficult. 2 minute and 5 minute are simply infinite lives modes, where the point is to rack up the most points you can in the time given. Getting high scores in all three of these modes will unlock secrets in the Omake (bonus) section, which include movies such as the original TV commercial of the old Famicom Star Soldier game.
The basic gameplay in Star Soldier has you using the A button to shoot (like in most modern shooting games, you can hold the button down and you will fire unlimitedly), and using the B, L, R, or Z button to fire a missile, which is very useful for taking out stronger enemies and objects. Although the missiles are unlimited, your ship has a brief charge time after each use, so using the attack wisely is part of the strategy in the game.
As in most shooting games, there are items that you can collect that make your ship stronger, although Star Soldier is very ‘bare-bones’ on this issue. There is simply a special block that you fire at and collect, which will set your ship through a series of upgrades (no customizing like in many of Konami’s shooting games). You can also collect extra lives and if you rack up enough bonus points and get really lucky, you can earn the Blaster, which is an extremely strong beam that can take out everything in its path.
Star Soldier is not a walk in the park for inexperienced players. Even with only five stages, a novice will find himself constantly replaying and slowly getting better at the game. However, a seasoned shooting game veteran may find Star Soldier a little too easy. Compared to Ikaruga, Star Soldier’s learning curve is much shorter, and since the only variety on the maps are the enemies (more or less), it is much less difficult overall than Ikaruga. This may be a good or bad thing depending on your taste in shooting games, but I would still recommend Ikaruga over Star Soldier. This game was created for old school Star Soldier fans in Japan, so any importer looking into the game should already have some familiarity with the shooter genre.
In the end, Star Soldier only has limited playing value, as it is a short game and it won’t take very long to unlock all the Omake. A shooter fan may find it to be a nice diversion, but if you are not a fan of the genre, you might find yourself getting bored even halfway through the game. Whatever the case, it is a pretty cheap game, and if you are in the mood for a short time waster, and you like these sort of games, Star Soldier may be a safe bet.