You may recall the original Super Star Soldier—you know, that top-down ship shooter game that had you curled up and crying in the corner for days thanks to its asinine level of difficulty? Well, the original has been available as a Virtual Console download for some time now, and even though 97% of the world has not completed the game in spite of its relative age, developer Hudson Soft has seen fit to update the franchise with a quick pick-up-and-play version available only through Nintendo’s brand-new WiiWare games download service.
As is the case with most currently-available WiiWare titles, the $8 Star Soldier R is intended to be a quick, arcade-like experience where high scores are the ultimate goal. To that end, it feels very much like the games of yesteryear that so many of us miss, and that may make it enticing for both ‘core gamers and those who have not played since the Galagas and Gradiuses of the 1980s.
But while it is entertaining, the depth of the experience is actually quite thin. There are two main game modes to choose from—a two-minute and a five-minute mode—plus a quick 20-second mini-game called “Quick Shot” that really only amounts to an assessment of how quickly you can hammer on the A button. The former two modes play out very much like the original Star Soldier games, featuring a variety of pattern-based enemies swarming at you from all directions, and even bosses. There are two levels (and thus two bosses) in the five-minute mode; the two-minute mode only features the first of those two levels.
The basic gameplay is precisely as you would expect if you’re familiar with the genre: blast away frantically while avoiding incoming bullets and other myriad hazards. Typically, it’s one-hit-kills, though there are also plenty of power-ups, including weapon upgrades and shield-orbiting (“option”) enhancements, which can change that (the shields can also be commanded to spread outward from the ship to serve as another weapon as well). As is typically the case with these shooters, the use of these power-ups is critical to your success. But seeing as you have unlimited lives in Star Soldier R, the focus is to romp as quickly and efficiently as possible through the waves of enemies and beat the bosses is speedily as you can. To better incentivize the use of these power-ups (since you’re guaranteed to make it to the boss with unlimited lives), you also receive point bonuses for picking up power-ups when you’re already maxed out.
Beyond that, there are a wealth of golden pick-ups that boost your score, hidden bonuses for especially efficient destruction, and a combos system that rewards you as long as you don’t die and keep blasting. Should you manage to complete the entire sequence (either one or two levels, depending), you are then offered the opportunity to share your high score with the rest of the world. Then, you can view your rank on both the regional and worldwide leaderboards to see where you stand amongst your peers.
The “R” Stands For “Reduced”
But, regardless of how fun it is, the bottom line is that there just isn’t enough here. Sure, the game features simple, attractive visuals and a classic shooter-style adrenaline-pumping soundtrack, but apart from that (and the leaderboard functionality), this isn’t all that different from the various Virtual Console offerings out there—except those games are cheaper and more robust. My suggestion? Check out some of said games on Virtual Console, including the older Star Soldier titles from Hudson, and you’ll probably be more than satisfied. Then, if you find yourself hopelessly obsessed and you’re absolutely certain you will spend ample time with Star Soldier R, return to WiiWare and consider your options.