Soldner X2: Final Prototype
- Solid shooting mechanics evoke the best of the old with a dash of the new
- Progression unlock system adds some longevity at the expense of fluidity
- Looks incredible and moves at a silky smooth 60fps
Not so much?
- Can be confusing at times with so much on Vita screen
- Progression system can be frustrating to farm the last lost keys
- Succumbs to genre issues of longevity and depth of play
Soldner X 2: Final Prototype is a superb shooter on a system not exactly flush with schmups. It takes the essence of what made shooters like Gradius, Thunder Force and Apidya awesome back in the day and distils it with some modern technical know-how to serve a veritable ocular cacophony on your shiny PS Vita screen.
Back in the very early 90′s side scrolling shooters were all the rage. You could thrown a rather tiny stick in any arcade and be sure to hit at least one of them. Huge classics such as Parodius, Apidya and Project X were amazing players the world over on home systems and all way pure and good with the world.
Then some smug git invented some fancy “3D” games and apparently shooting things in 2D from the side was less exciting. Flash forward many years and SCHMUPS (as they are now known) are now once again more prevalent, but still a niche area.. This remastered PS3 shooter from EastAsiaSoft and SideQuest Studios hits all the right buttons!
This is a shooter so don’t expect any real story here. If you really want to know the background then it is 3124 AD and the Soldner X defence force has been re-formed to push back the imposing threat in the galaxy. You take on progressively harder foes through a series of eight stages. Each stage taking you roughly five to ten minutes to complete.
As with all games of this type there is no save feature so if you start at stage one be prepared to battle for a good hour and a half if you want to reach the end of the game. Thankfully as you progress you do unlock a stage so you can start again at what ever your highest reached stage might be.
Graphically the game is a blast (no pun intended honest!) & looks absolutely gorgeous at times. The ships and enemies are well drawn and animated with impressive attention to detail for what basically amounts to cannon fodder. The game is missing some of the ludicrous layers of parallax scrolling found on the PS3 version though. The sheer volume of bullets, lasers, projectiles, enemies and rocks skimming by at a blistering sixty frames per second can look dazzling – both in a good and a bad way. Sometimes it’s all a little too much for the small screen.
The game is incredible to look at – for a download SCHMUP that is – but it sure can get eye meltingly busy on screen at times and you can find yourself overcome by the sheer volume of on-screen activity. This is both the curse and the beauty of a good shooter though and it’s in the balancing of a screen full of mayhem with a solid gameplay experience that separates the field.
Soldner X2: Final Prototype manages this eighty percent of the time, only slipping up at a few points when there is purely too much happening on screen to be deemed a playable sequence – it still looks fantastic though!
Sound wise the game is jammed full of the hi-hat, bass pulsing eurobeat you would expect from this kind of title. There are a few tinges of J-Pop in some of the undertones but this is pure Euro-Dance from the late 90′s and it fits the game perfectly. Explosions are meaty as are the range of pulse, beam and bullet weapons on offer and the shits and foes all explode with a satisfying cacophony of flaming death.
The game controls like a dream with the power-up and limit break system employed, although initially confusing, soon becomes second nature. Gone are the days of picking up power pods to fill a single meter and trading them in for better weapons or boost. In Soldner X2 Fianal Prototype you pick up power up pods sure, and these help increase your ships overall “power” but you also pick up power-up pods for one of your three weapon types too. These slowly build up your beam, bullet etc. You can easily switch between weapon types by using the R1 button and different weapon types benefit you at different times. You pick up “life” for your craft in this manner as well as score multipliers.
Adding to the chaos you can build up a limit break metre which, when activated, make the entire screen erupt in fiery death dealing massive amounts of damage to all enemies. You also build up the smaller scale, but equally useful shocker too that helps take down a small number of enemies in a close proximity. The energy bar used for each of your ships means that you can collide with a few objects of bullets and not get frustrated. This adds a slightly more relaxed feeling to the play style but things are still frenetic throughout.
Add to all this the regular wave after wave of enemy. The increasingly ludicrous creations to destroy and the unrelenting adrenaline fuelled gameplay and this really is an example of shooters at the top of their game. Longevity might be an issue but truthfully if you are buying this kind of game you already know the limitations it has in that respect. The game ramps up nicely in difficulty with me, having not played a shooter for a few years, managing to get to the end of Stage 4 without using a single continue. Later levels are fiendishly difficult and very satisfying to complete. To see those later levels you have to locate secret keys with-in the other levels. This certainly adds longevity as you hunt down the key orbs during all the shooting chaos. What it also does it make progress a little stilted and frustrating.
The longevity is improved by the ability to choose from several different fighter ships and each plays a little differently so you might get something from playing through with each class. The online leaderboards are also a nice touch as are the unlockable challenges.
You can access the additional DLC content straight away as stage 9 and once again you must unlock the last couple of stages to progress through to the end of the game.
Soldner X 2: Final Prototype is a superb shooter on a system not exactly flush with schmups. It takes the essence of what made shooters like Gradius, Thunder Force and Apidya awesome back in the day and distils it with some modern technical know-how to serve a veritable ocular cacophony on your shiny PS Vita. It suffers from the draw backs of it’s genre – shallow gameplay, niche twitch market, no multiplayer, overly frenetic screen action – but does a superb job of delivering what it sets out to do. For the relative low cost of entry this is a must purchase to any SCHMUP fan and a great place to test the water if you’re remotely interested in the genre as it does a great job of catering to new players.
Even with those few caveats and niggles, with PS3 cross-buy thrown in to the deal as well, I really can’t recommend Soldner X2: Final Prototype enough for people looking for a engrossing shooter experience.