Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Soldner-X (Playstation Network)

Shooters in the classic style of Thunder Force and Darius don't come along often these days, which makes their comeback with online consoles a great phenomenon for fans of this style. The emergence of Soldner X: Himmelssturmer on Playstation Network is a welcome surprise. It's solid level design and intuitve power-up system make it an impressive addition to the genre. Featuring high-def graphics and classic gameplay mechanics, this is an addictive title that delivers intense action, challenging tactical battles plus an impressive soundtrack, beautifully rendered HD backgrounds and visuals that makes for a highly polished title that delivers a solid shooting experience that fans of the genre will love.

Soldner-X: Himmelsstrurmer is an online downloadable title for the Playstation Network that offers a traditional 2D space shooter in the classic mold. This frenetic shooter delivers an intensely challenging experience that will test the mettle and skill of even the best players. Extensive practice, memorization and concentration are required to beat the game. As in most traditional shooters, the objective is to shoot as many foes as possible while avoiding their attacks. There are swarms of enemies which attack you in elaborate formations and waves. They fire at your ship, but you can take some damage as the health bar provides you some freedom, so single hits don't cause instant destruction. Players can collect numerous power-ups and extras that float by onscreen. Soldner-X tracks your progress in both the levels you've completed and the score you earn. The game's play mechanics are fairly simple and you can use either the analog or d-pad for ship movement. Both of these methods offer good maneuverability. The game also supports the Sixaxis for motion control, but after attempting to play through a single extremely frustrating round, this is definitely not recommended for extended sessions. The main controls and formations feel very much as they should for the genre, with most of the familiar elements in place. These include both stationary and attacking enemies, numerous obstacles to avoid, such as mines and other barriers that explode on contact or cause you to lose significant health power. Soldner-X's gameplay unfolds in a strictly linear fashion, and there aren't many hidden or secret areas to find. The game starts off at a frenetic pace in terms of number of foes and only increases in difficulty as you progress to the later stages. In order to help you practice and learn the formations, there is a practice mode included that allows you to test your abilities before you go in for your big run. Soldner-X is a classic test of skill and endurance, so you won't be able to use many short-cuts. However, the sense of satisfaction you get from beating the levels is more than worth the effort. Gamers who love a challenge will find plenty to like in the game's hardcore approach, which definitely falls into the range of uncompromising. This makes it directly opposed to the casual philosophy that's so much in vogue these days. It's definitely a throwback approach, and while some may find it too difficult, even on it's normal difficulty setting, its nice to actually play a game that makes you work to succeed for once.

The game's structure is fairly straightforward. Players can access five different primary weapons with the Pulse and Beam constantly available. You can switch between these which is an important strategy since they overheat and switch automatically if you aren't careful. You can also earn super Shockwave attacks that destroy all nearby enemy objects, The weapons can be powered up gradually by collecting pods that appear on the screen. Additional abilities include slowing down the weapons heat, rapid fire and armor piercing bullets. Players can also use more powerful weapons available in later stages include Bow, Flame and, Rocket weapons. Most of the enemies take multiple shots to defeat, and you'll need to be persistent and patient if you want to destroy them. Another key element in the game is collecting bonus items which can extend your ship's speed and firing rate. The foes amass in massive waves on the screen and shooting bunches of them usually releases power-up pods. In addition, consistent shooting is rewarded with bigger scores. As you shoot enemies, you create chains which increase your score multiplier. You'll need to defeat Complex enemy formations throughout the game and they can be quite tricky if you aren't careful. Soldner-X's high level of difficulty leaves you with little room for error. The key to beating many of the waves is memorization of enemy locations and formations. The standard shooting sequences lead up to some absolutely epic boss battles. These can take several minutes to complete, with vulnerable sections not always obvious, and the bosses putting up quite a bit of resistance, throwing hundreds of bullets and smaller ships at you simultaneously. The intensity of these battles is amplified by the fact that Soldner-X offers players an extremely limited number of continues. This means you have to earn every level you complete and any progress is hard-fought. There are 12 levels in all, divided into 3 sections that cover 4 unique worlds. Each one presents its own set of unique challenges, enemies and boss battles, which makes for an incredibly challenging title. However, you can judge your skills online by comparing score with other players in the online ranking mode. In addition, the game supports numerous trophies and awards. These are available for really good players. Most of these trophies can be earned by excellent performance during missions or by finishing off levels.

Soldner-X might take a traditional approach to its gameplay, it's sleek high-def presentation is thoroughly modern. The backgrounds are rich and vibrant in detail and the hundreds of ships and bullets pop of the screen with intense waves of color and sound. The game moves at a smooth rate throughout and doesn't suffer from the slowdown that plagued many of the classic titles. It's overall design is quite impressive, and there is a nice style to the game that's plain yet sophisticated. Soldner's enemies and levels feel a little familiar in places and shooter veterans will probably enjoy seeing the little tributes and allusions to other classic shooters here and there. These production values truly shine and there are even elaborate between level story sequences that help to move the story along. This makes for an exciting game with great visuals, but don't be fooled by appearances, this can be an extremely tough and challenging shooter. Don't be put off too much by Soldner X's high level of difficulty. It's actually a plus because it offers a challenge that's satisfying and uncompromising. Soldner-X: Himmelsstrurmer is definitely a solid title that brings a classic style of play forward to the HD level in a way that's simultaneously classic and forward looking, making it a title that's definitely worth the time and money to download.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

> Related Reviews

1942: Joint Strike
(Playstation Network/Xbox Live)
Wipeout HD (Playstation Network)
Space Invaders Extreme
SNK Arcade Classics (PS2 & PSP)

Space Ace (Blu-Ray/PS3)