Star Soldier R
Developer: Hudson Soft
Platform: Wii (WiiWare)
Price: 800 Wii Points (Wii Points unavailable for purchase at the time of this writing)
With the Wii Shop set to completely shutdown in early 2019 and users being locked out of the ability to add more points to their accounts, this review couldn’t have come at a more pointless time. But if, like me, you have a few hundred extra points burning a hole in your digital pocket then this review might just help you decide which ‘Buy’ button to point your Wii Remote at. Especially if you’re looking for experiences that as of this writing are exclusive to WiiWare.
I don’t profess to being an expert of the shoot ‘em up genre but it has always been a part of my palate – an R-Type machine was right across the street from one of my usual summertime haunts and Space Megaforce was a staple of sleepover game rotations. But it wasn’t until the Virtual Console began releasing shooter after shooter after shooter than I understood the breadth and variety of the genre. The Star Soldier series, primarily released for the Turbografx-16, was particularly beyond my purview. Luckily my desire to grab just about anything from the WiiWare service that seemed remotely interesting led me to Star Soldier R and subsequently to the rest of the Star Soldier series.
Even within the Star Soldier canon R is an atypical game – gameplay revolves primarily around a short main game designed to be played many times for a high score. The game is even split up into “2-Minute” and “5-Minute” campaigns. And yes, they are quite literally 2-minutes and 5-minutes long; regardless of where you are in the game’s two stages, when the timer runs out it’s game over. This length lends itself incredibly well to return sessions every few months or even years. Players are meant to spend the first few plays memorizing and then the next thousand plays optimizing. For people who find other “full length” shooters to be too intimidating or too much of a time commitment, Star Soldier R offers a bite-sized experience that begs to be replayed over and over.
For a game this slight of content, the amount of time devoted to story is kind of amazing. Waiting on the title screen long enough will trigger a series of still images and text that explain Star Soldier R’s place in the greater Star Soldier timeline and give context this ship’s particular mission. This is so wholly unnecessary that I can’t help by find it outrageously charming. The earnestness with which Star Soldier R presents its story perfectly captures the feeling of an arcade cabinet attract mode. Each stage is also bookended by short cutscenes showing the player’s ship taking off or moving on to its next destination.
Mechanically Star Soldier R is pretty basic; there are two kinds of power-ups that operate linearly and simultaneously. Blue capsules create satellites around your ship that can be sent of to automatically target enemy spacecraft, while pink capsules enhance your main ship’s shot. There are no branching weapon types or alternate types of fire (beyond the aforementioned satellites). Taking a hit will knock the player down a weapon-level and destroy the player’s ship if at the base weapon-level. This combined with the fact that there are no lives and infinite continues means that anyone can get through a round of Star Soldier R provided the death count hasn’t led to too much lost time, particularly when fighting one of the bosses.
Star Soldier R is a difficult game to recommend logistically speaking – I can recommend it all I want but the chance that anyone is in a position to purchase it is incredibly slim. If you happen to be one of the five people left on the planet with 800 Wii Points to spare and a desire to pick up a short score-attack space shooter exclusive to WiiWare, then by all means, Star Soldier R is the way to go. There are dozens of other games that will give you more content for 800 points on the service but Star Soldier R is fun little revival of a series that is unlikely to resurface anytime soon. Give it a shot if you have to ability to do so.