Note: This review was done playing on actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation used.
Here is a Turbografx 16 ‘classic’: Super Star Soldier. Does this game stand the test of time? Is it still fun to play today? And more important of all, will it earn the Malstrom Award, the most highly sought after award in all of gaming?
Above: Gameplay of Super Star Soldier
Super Star Soldier is the first of the Star Soldier Trilogy by Hudson. After the success of Blazing Lazers which was made by both Compile and Hudson, Hudson made Super Star Soldier. It is also a type of ‘official sequel’ to the Hudson NES game of ‘Star Soldier. The other two games following Super Star Soldier in the trilogy is Final Soldier and Soldier Blade.
Above: Classic Game Room raves but struggles to say anything specific about the game.
Super Star Soldier is a very generic top down shmup. Sometimes you only come back immediately if you die, otherwise you start at a checkpoint. One hit doesn’t kill unless it is a large laser beam or obstacle. The hit just downgrades your weapons. Speed is determined by three settings chosen by select so there are no speed upgrades. You choose whatever speed you want.
There are two versions of quality to place Super Star Soldier, two alternate universes. Since Final Blade and Soldier Blade, the following two shmups in the trilogy, and Blazing Lazers, an unofficial type of pre-quel is legendary, there is much effort and thinking that Super Star Soldier is a ‘fantastic shooter’ and ‘one of the most excellent shmups ever made’. The other view is that Super Star Soldier is spiritually the same as its official predecessor on the NES, Star Soldier, in that it is extremely generic but solid, solid, solid on the gameplay.
I fall into the latter camp. I think the ‘praise’ on Super Star Soldier is unwarranted and is nothing more than the bandwagon effect and of people wanting this game to be good because the other three games in this series are good. This game is extraordinarily generic. It rips from every other shmup at this time. It has the fire loops from Salamander including the ‘narrowing escape’ from Salamander too. The soundtrack, aside from the first track, is nothing to write home about. The challenge is inconsistent. The game feels like it has no identity, no personality. This is the hallmark of being generic.
This game is a generic soup of shmups with no identity of its own. It’s only saving grace is that the gameplay mechanics are super solid. This is what makes people to think this is a great game. But is it? You’ll find many people tell these video reviewers raving about the game that ‘I don’t like playing this shmup. I prefer this other shmup much more.’
The challenge is so off that even die-hard Turbo fans have trouble finishing the game. I remember talking to the Hudson guy responsible for getting the Turbografx 16 games onto the Wii’s Virtual Console that he wanted to ‘finally finish this game’ as he never could do so.
Above: Even the Turbo Views reviewer had problems finishing this game which he has been playing since it came out!
I have an annoyance in this game that playing it makes it sound like I am making popcorn. I call stage one the popcorn stage because all the little enemies pop sound like popcorn. The more I play this game, the more annoyed I am at its generic quality. Solid gameplay isn’t enough, I need originality. This game lacks originality, lacks personality, and becomes less fun the more you play.
One major plus side is that this game has a caravan mode of 5 minutes and 2 minutes where you just go and get a high score. So there is another way to play the game. But seeing that the only differentiation between this shmups and others is the challenge, it is hard to recommend this game. You can get your challenge fix from other, more interesting, shmups.
Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.
-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-
Malstrom Awards: (Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)
Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)
Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)
Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)
Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)
(9) Blazing Lazers [$37] (Inconsistent quality, long stretches of boredom, yet fun to return to again and again)
(9) Gomola Speed [$15] (Snake meets Gauntlet. Genre defying. Gameplay hurts hand.)
(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)
(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)
(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)
(6) Super Star Soldier [$73] (Extremely generic, obtuse challenge. Solid gameplay. Extremely over-rated. No personality.)
(6) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)
Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)
(5) Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and very nostalgic.)
(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)
(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)
(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)
(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)
(4) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)
(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)
(4) Space Invaders [$12] (Arcade and Plus mode. Plus mode is cool but the game is still dull, dull, dull.)
(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)
(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)
(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)
(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)