SOLDNER-X 2: FINAL PROTOTYPE REVIEW
One day the Söldner program may get out of the prototype phase.
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Jul 12, 2010 11:47 (Jul 12, 2010 11:47)
Written by: Alex
With the rising popularity of 3D and FPS action games the shoot-um-up genre (which was a staple of my youth) has faded in to obscurity kept alive by a small cult following. Recent examples of the genre have tended to be vertical scrolling games, and almost without exception they are Japanese. Breaking all of these trends comes the German studio SideQuest's Söldner-X series on PSN.
Now in its second instalment, "Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype", the series is a throw back to titles such as R-Type and Gradius. A 2D horizontal scroller in glorious HD filled with neon explosions, partial effects and screen filling bosses.
Like most of its forefathers Söldner-X 2 takes an entertaining stab at setting the action within a story. While the main goal of the genre lies in high scores and not narrative the inclusion of stories in such games has always been superfluous, but its inclusion here feels like the developers at SideQuest are paying homage to the titles that inspired them.
Set some years after the first Söldner-X game the galaxy is recovering from a war against a dark power that was able to control machines with a virus. In the aftermath of the war some factions rise up to increase their power by taking over weaker planets. Fighting back against this force what is left of Earth’s defence launches a new prototype ship, which has been fused with some of the dark viruses technology.
As a story it is clichéd and ultimately unimportant, but the inclusion of the convoluted plot combined with the over dramatic voice work feels like an apt call back to the tone of the genre when it was at its peak. Whether this was a deliberate move on the part of SideQuest I am unsure, but it is entertaining for what it is.
The shoot-um-up genre has for some time been seen as the home of titles. For many the term shoot-um-up now brings to mind screens filled with the visual noise of relentless enemy attacks. Requiring lightening reactions to survive these so called ‘bullet hell’ titles are no synonymous with the genre.
Söldner-X 2 takes a slightly different approach to the conventional bullet hell titles. While the screen still rapidly fills with the familiar noise the speed of play feels ever so slightly more paced than its Japanese counterparts, and the inclusion of health for ships means the instant death usually associated with this style of game is absent.
If you have ever played a shoot-um-up the basics of Söldner-X 2 will be instantly recognisable. Moving through showers of bullets, trying to avoid death while picking off enemies before finally meeting a screen-filling boss.
It is a format almost as old as gaming, but while Söldner-X 2 does proscribe to many gaming conventions it does mix things up from time to time. While foes continually drop items, the choice of what to collect prove for slightly more tactical than in similar titles.
Each of the games ships come equipped with two unique weapons with a third slot available for collected weapons. Making the right choice for this final weapon slot can make all the difference. To compound the issue of whether or not to pick up a new weapon these tertiary weapons the more you can collect the faster the ships special attack charges. This places a constant question in the players mind as to if is better to switch weapons to activate the special attack, or to stick with a weapon that may be better suited to the level.
Other items help by giving the ships extra speed, multipliers, and even additional craft that fly with the ship supplying shielding and extra firepower (similar the 'option' from R-Type).
Combining the strange trade off of collecting items and the range of (beautiful looking) weapons adds a little depth and thought to the otherwise twitch-based gameplay. It is a much appreciated addition that means, despite the repetitious nature of the genre, Söldner-X 2 keeps the player thinking and involved.