Although alien life has not been discovered as yet…or has it…we as gamers have seen and often battled the dastardly invaders many a time. And in Star Soldier you’ll be doing just that, all over again.
In this shoot ’em up otherwise known as shmup, you’ll be piloting a spacecraft whilst flying through space taking on alien space ships. The task is simple: take out the aliens and battle against their boss. Being released in the second half of the eighties, don’t expect much of a background story in Star Soldier. The game is primarily an arcade title, focused more around acquiring a high score, rather than an enriched story putting you in the shoes of a genetically enhanced superhuman with increased reflexes to pilot one of the most advanced spacecraft Earth has ever seen. Indeed, this game may have been a hit back in 1986 in the arcades of Japan, but on your Nintendo Switch, it’s a whole new ball game, or rather “old” ball game.
Each level is set out in the usual perpendicular or ninety-degree angle. As you fly your spacecraft further into the depths of space, enemies fly onto the screen in various formations. Each formation has their own movement patterns as well as the ability to fire projectiles at the player. This is of course is a huge chunk of the core mechanic of the game. It is a shmup after all. So, with incoming enemy all over the screen and projectiles to dodge, does Star Soldier offer the player any advantages to fight back except for the double cannon your ship will start off with? Thankfully, the answer is yes. As you proceed through the level, you’ll soon discover that a lot of the platforms or rather what seems to be structures or buildings in space, can be shot at. Within them are power-ups that’ll grant the player additional firepower in the form of a wider spread cannon shot in multiple directions. However, this isn’t always a good thing. You can only imagine the chaos that is littered across the screen with you firing what seems to be fifty projectiles in a few seconds whilst still trying to dodge incoming projectiles and enemies. Thankfully, there is a cool feature within the game that can assist with this. The buildings or structures mentioned earlier can sometimes hide your space ship. As the player passes through the structures your ship will be hidden away underneath the structure, making you invulnerable to not only projectiles but enemies flying into you as well. This of course is a catch twenty-two situation however, as you’ll learn that while you do this, you’ll be unable to fire any projectiles yourself.
Although Star Soldier is a fun shmup to pick up and play, there are a ton of other shmups out there that do it so much better. The game falls into a derivative mechanic of the same boss fight over and over again. The enemies, although different, just don’t pose much of a challenge. Sure, there may be a difficulty spike that may find you being blown up often, at first. But once you’ve become accustomed to the enemy movements, even their projectiles aren’t much of a challenge. The game does try and incorporate cool power-ups and the feature that allows you to hide underneath the structures, to keep you entertained for a while. And the audio isn’t too bad either with a fast-paced catchy arcade tune. The visuals however, can become a little lacklustre. The colour palette just doesn’t help in some instances. For example, a lot of the structures that you’ll pass through or over are brown. The enemy projectiles are of a similar colour, making it frustrating at times. But perhaps this was intentional from the developer’s side of things.
All in all, I enjoyed playing Star Soldier for the first time. Playing it on the Switch was also an advantage as it does seem like a pick up and play title if you only have a thirty-minute window to spare on the go. And the joystick on the joycon helped give me that arcade feel. Sadly, it isn’t a game I find myself thinking about afterward. I can definitely appreciate its heritage and where it’s come from…1986. However, there are a ton of other shmups out there that do it so much better. I am sure that in its time this may have been an absolute hit and perhaps founded the way for other space shoot em ups, but sadly, it hasn’t aged well. Titles like Gradius and Twinbee, which are also available on the Nintendo Entertainment System’s online platform on the Nintendo Switch, are much more memorable in my opinion. Star Soldier may have been a hit in the past, but sadly, isn’t blasting into my future.