Over the last few decades we’ve seen a number of side-scrolling shooters, from R-Type to Ikaruga can the indie title Stardust Galaxy Warriors : Stellar Climax blast it’s way to a high score.
I’ve been gaming a long time and over the years I’ve played some fantastic scrolling shooters, R-Type, Pop’n twinbee and more recently titles like Ikaruga have proven to be massive hits that are great fun and at times incredibly challenging as well.
With Stardust Galaxy Warriors you control one of 5 characters inside their flying mech, something odd is going off in the galaxy and it’s obviously down to the Galaxy Warriors to get to the bottom of it. This means lots of things flying around the screen and firing projectiles at you, thankfully there’s help literally on hand with some pretty powerful weapons, special attacks and a shield system that helps to set the difficulty of the game.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors does a few things good, a couple of things bad, but it also get’s some perfectly right.
Firstly graphics and sound aren’t going to set your world on fire, everything looks and sounds like it’s more than a few years old, I’ve played various Xbox 360 titles that are as superficially exciting as Galaxy Warriors, The fantastic Sina Mora is one prime example that puts Galaxy Warriors to shame with it’s perfect perspective based graphical flare and some great visuals throughout. Galaxy Warriors is lacking more than a few sharp edges and while there’s a mixture of sound effects dependent on your weapon, and a couple of tunes banging along in the background, the lack of any speech mean there’s room for improvement. Thankfully some decent weapon effects, and consistently easy to spot projectiles go a long way, and while one track felt like a portable headache coming out of the speakers a couple where catchy and very listenable so it’s hit and miss with audio depending on your taste.
I completed my first play-through in little under two hours, which isn’t long for any title, but thankfully there’s some longevity with the Game+ option allowing you to continue a fresh game with your current power-ups, this goes a long way to keeping people interested, because at this point you might have one stat fully powered (out of Attack, Defence, Critical and shields).
Many of the achievements are locked behind a normal to hard difficulty, and your first play through on an easier setting will go a long way towards success on these tougher challenges, on easy you’ll find you can take multiple hits, and recharge your shield before too many more fly in your direction, ramp the toughness up to Iron Man or Glass Cannon and you’ll be lucky to last more than a few levels as a single powerful shot will leave you hitting the retry button.
There’s plenty of options for power-ups, with each mission split into 3 stages, after the first two you can select one of a few pre-defined boosts to your main 4 stats, while mission completion gives you points/credits which can purchase the same boosts, but also some special powers such as auto recharge of your special dispersion weapon.
While there’s unfortunately no online player, you can play upto 4 players co-op locally and this was great fun although it’s such a shame the developers couldn’t incorporate online play. There’s a pretty solid selection of weapons to equip to right trigger, ranging from shotguns, rail guns, lasers and various others, with each firing in a different way such as slow, powerful shots that spread out as they travel, to the more precise flurry of bullets that create a constant stream in a small area.
Your weapon also has a second attachment controlled by left trigger. Choosing an effective set here can make or break your enjoyment of the game so it’s well worth experimenting with a few possibilities.
The special dispersion weapon ‘B’ varies from one mech to another, and while you’ll probably only see these a couple of times per stage, it’s well worth using when your up against a boss or stuck in a tricky situation.
After the first half an hour or so, you should have a good idea of what weapons you like, and while power-ups go some way to keeping you interested, the incoming fire-power seems to feel a little too random, small, under-powered enemies fill the screen, but you seem to be able to dodgy many bullets b simply staying high or low, and then there’s a few boss challenges which are equally disappointing, yes I’m looking at you large, pointless asteroid that does nothing at all, twice…
However after enduring well over an hour, I came across a bizarre disco ball and the final few challenges, at this point the game changed completely, the symmetrical, patterned projectiles that I remember from titles like Ikaruga filled the screen, working very slowly to take down the enemy, It was as much a task of evasion than hitting the target and this 10, 15 minutes was by far the most enjoyable of the game.
Quite literally side-scrolling shoot em’ups at it’s greatest, the story didn’t quite make sense, the characters carry zero emotion, but for a short period of time, Stardust Galaxy Warriors was near perfect and worth every second of my time.
Heading back for my second play through and boosting the difficulty up, a few enemies would stick around longer, meaning a couple more of these mesmerising projectile patterns, but not as many through standard gameplay as I would have liked to see. Instead difficulty resides much more on your shield, higher difficulties will diminish your shield much quicker, while on the easiest setting it’s boost is doubled and it regenerates so quick it helps to make the game accessible for all skill levels.
Slapping the difficulty to the highest and it’s a different story altogether as you aim to avoid every single projectile often with barely enough space to do so, the lack of consistent patterns outside of the end of a stage mean it’s not quite perfect but there’s still more than enough to ensure it’s an enjoyable experience.