PS3 Reviews: Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype Review

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Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype Review

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Graphics:

 

8.7

Gameplay:

 

8.5

Sound:

 

8.3

Control:

 

8.6

Replay Value:

 

8.0

Overall Rating:       8.4

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

EastAsia Soft

Developer:

SideQuest Studios

Number Of Players:

1-2

Genre:

Action

After enjoying more than a few downloadable gems on the PlayStation Network for a decent expanse of time, we’ve seen a bit of a drought thus far in 2010. And as we all lie in wait for thatgamecompany (Flow, Flower) to reveal their latest, we have to peruse the available PSN titles in the hopes of finding something worth the standard $10-$15 range. Admittedly, the episodic series, Blue Toad Murder Files, is worthwhile in some respect, but we’ve been looking for something that feels…I dunno, classic, I suppose. You know, a game that takes one of the tried-and-true concepts from yesteryear, spruces it up a bit, and allows us to revisit the golden age of gaming in a slightly new way. A bunch of great puzzlers are examples of such experiences, although elite games like echochrome seem to be in a class by themselves. So we were hoping that EastAsiaSoft would provide us with what we crave: an old-school side-scrolling shooter with plenty of pizzazz and a high entertainment value. And you know…we got it.

It’s a fairly large download, clocking in at about 1.5GB, but when you see the wonderfully smooth and refined visuals, you’ll know why. The game isn’t very long but they obviously need a bit of space to portray that slick space world; the special effects are mostly satisfying and colorful, the level design is impressive and even innovative in some special ways, and the bosses would’ve made us grin in delight if they had appeared back in the ol’ days. If you’re too young to remember, side-scrolling starfighting shooters like this were common, and although the gameplay certainly reminds us of that lost age, these bosses would’ve been considered above and beyond. There’s also a nice variety of enemies – some look more like creatures than enemy spaceships – and everything is clear, relatively polished, and pleasant to behold. Oddly enough, I felt that I would often lose track of my ship, as it seemed to get lost in the myriad of visuals, but this is a minor complaint and besides, I got used to it. The bottom line is that for a downloadable title, Soldner-X 2 looks great.

The sound is also good, but not quite as impressive. The voice acting is surprisingly solid (I say “surprisingly” because this genre is notorious for laughable voiceover work), the effects are crisp and diverse, and even the voices over the radio when flying along aren’t too bad. Now, due to its stylish nature, it’s not surprising the developers would include some high-tech electronic music tracks, but although they’re well implemented, there aren’t a ton of available tunes. I wouldn’t say it’s repetitive but I sort of wished to have some kickin’ electro/techno tracks to accompany the more stressful, invigorating parts of each level. It’ll remind you a bit of Shatter’s soundtrack – which is arguably the best we’ve heard in a downloadable product – but it isn’t quite as prominent. I also think some of the weapons could’ve used a bit more “impactful” effect to go along with the destruction but besides that, the game sounds almost exactly as it should.

If you’ve played any side-scrolling shooter of this kind in the past, you likely know what to expect from the gameplay. You zip along and attempt to survive as a constant stream of enemies and dangerous objects move to prematurely end your noble quest. Dozens of foes can populate the screen at once and unlike some of the really old-fashioned titles of this sort, you can move your ship forward and back in addition to up and down, so usually, there is no restriction to where you can move. This means enemies can often get behind you (but you can’t fire backwards, so you gotta maneuver skillfully), and if you want to snag a particular power-up, you might have to dodge a whole lot of opposing fire. And while this is nothing new, the developers toss in a twist: certain parts of levels will require you to squeeze between walls and other obstacles, limiting your scope of movement. You’ll also find the backdrops moving down and up in addition to right to left, which is another nice feature.

If you didn’t play the first title, Soldner-X: Himmelssturmer, you should know that it was almost unbearably unforgiving and certainly didn’t feature this level of slickness and solidarity. This sequel represents a big upgrade because while it remains very challenging, it’s nowhere near as frustrating and being able to start a new level with all your lives is a God-send. Furthermore, there’s far more inventiveness and creativity going on in Soldner-X 2, all of which is noted and appreciated. The gameplay itself is silky smooth and almost never fails, although there were times when I felt convinced I had snagged a power-up when in fact I hadn’t. Everything else works very, very well. The variety of enemies poses a variety of different challenges, the background environments are appealing, the bosses are always challenging and a blast to take down, and this time, the experience is demanding (fun) without being overbearing (not fun). Plus, it really looks great from start to finish.

There are three ships to choose from – you need to unlock one of them – and each have two very different main weapons, easily selectable with the R1 and L1 buttons. You can also pick up a third weapon as you fly along, and you can increase the Power of your equipped weapons by grabbing the Power upgrades that appear when you defeat enemies. Other goodies include chain bonuses, shield, health up, and of course, the different weapons, like a laser that snakes out and drains health from any surrounding foes. The more powerful you become, the more effective your weapons will be, and as was always the case with games like this, you want to carry some momentum into a boss fight, so try not to die before that time. As always, the key is watch all the crap flying towards you rather than the enemies themselves; just hold down the fire button and keep dodging. It may sound ineffective – and sometimes it is – but you do what you must to survive. It’s not easy, but it’s very rewarding.

Really, there’s very little wrong, here. It’s colorful, the presentation is slick and eye-opening, the different weapons are all very cool (although I did think that they all sorta did the same amount of damage), each boss felt unique, and the frenetic pace felt just about right at all times. As usual, length is a concern when dealing with smaller productions and technically, you could finish this one in a couple of hours. However, you do need to find the four unlock keys in each level in order to proceed to the next, and you can see an ending after finishing the first five stages. But there are actually seven stages – you gotta unlock two – and there are also a healthy number of separate challenges that will test your skill and reflexes. Then there are the online score leaderboards; if you want to best your score, you can play and replay the stages, which isn’t an altogether unpleasant prospect. It’s just always fun. Given what you receive for the price, I do heartily recommend it to those who loved these games in the past.

Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype is a beautifully composed and ceaselessly entertaining shooter, one with an old-school feel combined with modern flash. It still feels a little short for $12.99 (the proper price would’ve been $9.99 in my eyes), I wanted the music to hit me a little harder, and there may be a detection issue when your ship goes to haul in a power-up. This is what keeps it from being an elite 9+ title. But that being said, it’s a polished, fun, smile-inducing experience that should be a super way to spend a rainy afternoon, and it’s even more fun with a buddy. Taking it all in perspective, isn’t this all we ask from our worthwhile PSN games?

5/31/2010 Ben Dutka

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Comments (31 posts)

Zemus101
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 9:02:42 PM
Reply

Excellent review, thanks Ben for the redeem code the other day. I haven't downloaded it yet but it's all set to do so. Didn't play the first one and quite frankly, I've never really been into these types of games, which is why I'm really happy I was able to get that code to give it a try. I did play and enjoy Shatter though (which I know is quite a bit different, but it's the closest thing I have)

Also, I totally agree that this year so far has been mostly (if not completely imo) terrible for PSN updates. I was hoping this year I'd see better PS1 classics (namely some important RPGs) and some serious PSN games. The announcement of PJ Shooter 2 was nice to see though, loved the first one (might be my most played PSN game ...maybe)

Anyways, thanks again Ben. Can't wait to try it out and nab some trophies while I'm at it.

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Banky A
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 2:12:08 AM

Cheers to us.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 9:43:49 PM
Reply

Is a Soldner like a Soldier?

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Shams
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 10:25:37 PM

"Soldner" is a German word. I think it means "mercenary". So, yes.

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fluffer nutter
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 10:35:43 PM

I thought söldner was mercenary?

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Shams
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 10:49:58 PM

I don't speak Deutch, but if you typed a special character (which my browser isn't formatting but I'm guessing if it did, it would show up as the 'o' with the two dots on top) you're probably right.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 11:04:04 PM

Good to know :)

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fluffer nutter
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 11:22:26 PM

That's what I get for not hitting <Enter>, earlier. Hur!

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dlte
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 3:39:51 AM

yeah the german word "Söldner" means mercenary soldier.

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Shams
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 10:24:15 PM
Reply

Awesome review Ben, and thank you. I was curious about this game, and I'll get it definitely.

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Shams
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 10:27:10 PM
Reply

Quick question, Ben: Does it have online co-op?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 11:27:24 PM

If it does, I honestly didn't test it.

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OtisFeelgood
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 12:03:47 AM

If it does I'd definitely get it.

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DazeOfWar
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 12:27:20 AM

From what I've seen it's only online leaderboards. Besides that the first one was fun so I'll be picking this up sometime soon.

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Alienange
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 10:43:27 PM
Reply

It usually comes down to cost and time. It's not worth the money and it takes up valuable gaming time that could be spent on my back catalog.

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Shams
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 10:55:24 PM

In my conjecture, it would definitely be worth the price of entry, especially if one could trade in a couple of older games that one doesn't play anymore. Sure side-scrollers may seem a bit tame (they basically amount to those column climbing sessions in GOW to all those to young to have experienced the genre) but there's something mesmerizing about the visuals and sounds, and addictive about them. Great for 5 minute play, when you're in the need for some twitch gaming and are short on time. Fuller games tend to require more time per session.

Space left on your Harddrive, on the other hand, may be remain as an issue for some.

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Shams
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 10:55:55 PM
Reply

Damn, I just spammed this section. Sorry about that.

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spiderboi
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 9:37:31 AM

no worries, all of which were sensible points.

onto the topic--i'm not really good at sidescrollers so i may take a pass on this. i'm easily frustrated by these games coz i can't memorize the patters of safe zones :(

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CharlesD
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 12:45:14 AM
Reply

Fairly high rating for this game but it looks like a good buy. These kind of games are classically difficult so anybody looking for a challenge might be looking in the right place. Looks better than expected, but the DLGames have always impressed me, magic orbz, flower, shatter etc. they might be a bit higher quality than this one but 8.4 isn't half bad for this old styled side-scroller.

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Banky A
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 2:13:26 AM
Reply

Oh yus. And I won one of the codes from you Ben, thanks heaps!

I can't wait to play it - my download is omni slow at the moment.

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tumbletunnel
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 2:44:22 AM
Reply

I told you to try this one, Ben. A pity no online co-op. Good game

Last edited by tumbletunnel on 6/1/2010 2:45:12 AM

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fluffer nutter
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 3:21:03 AM
Reply

The first one was great but definitely hard. I didn't go for this one because I figured it would be another test of my sanity. Now I'm even more interested as my hands have been getting punished lately.

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___________
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 4:47:30 AM
Reply

dam straight we've has a drought this year.
i dont know whats happened, last year they had such a good variety of games to play. this year every week theres only DLC to choose from and maybe a classic or demo once a month.
come on dammit what happened to the classic PSN releases like shatter, fat princess, stardust HD. last year there was almost a great title a week to download, this year were lucky if we get one!!!

if sony are planning to charge for PSN than they really have a sh*t load of catching up to do!
where all the classic titles being upgraded for the service?
why is XBL the only one to get doom, doom 2, duke nukem 3D???
sony really need to start shelling out some cash to get some good titles on their store, if they think im going to pay just for cross game chat than they have another thing coming!!!

thats what i like about the 360, M$ may charge you through the a$$ but at least you get something for it.
id much rather pay and get, than not pay and miss out.

i wish sony would get developers to port Iphone games onto the PSN, honestly i have bought more games off the apps store this week than i have the PSN store ALL YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!
now thats pathetic!
come on sony, i wants my joe danger and earthworm jim already!!!!!!!!!!

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tridon
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 9:18:02 AM

We've got Planet Minigolf this week and Joe Danger next week. We've also had plenty of good games this year on the PSN. They might not be of the same caliber as last year's titles but they're still decent enough to play (and most of them are exclusive). Personally, I don't like having a great, must-have game every week because my wallet can't handle it.

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tridon
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 9:19:14 AM
Reply

So this is easier and not as insanity-enducing as the first game? The first game was one of the hardest things I've played in my life. I never even passed the second level. The first level was fun, though. Awesome graphics and sound, too.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 10:15:31 AM

Far more accessible. I suck at games like this and I was able to finish it.

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fluffer nutter
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 10:24:39 AM

Sold!

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tridon
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 12:38:49 PM

Well, I just may have to get it now. I guess it's $3 more than the original game because you're paying for the accessibility now, eh? Thanks, Ben!

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CharlesD
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 10:22:29 AM
Reply

Gives me a bit more hope for this one, I'm more more likely to buy it knowing that it's not to that extreme level of difficulty which is fun in some games but this format shouldn't be "insanity-enducing" as tridon said
I also like the fact that it's sharp and colorful unlike the older ones.

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sunspider13
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 10:47:17 AM
Reply

Shmups have a special place in my heart because the first batch of games I ever beat were shmups (Star Castle, Time Pilot, Sinestar). That being said I got this on Friday and yes it's easier than the first by leaps and bounds. With a little practice anyone can beat it. Good review Ben.

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FlyingKickPunch
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 @ 3:43:46 PM
Reply

Sweet, I was waiting for a review I trust on this one. Gonna go DL it right now. Thanks Ben!

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