The shoot 'em up genre has been lacking for many years now, so it's no real surprise that shooter fans have been anxiously awaiting Hudson's newest entry in their Star Soldier series. WiiWare seems like the perfect fit for a good old-fashioned space shoot 'em up, but many fans have been wondering if this new title would be a complete shooter package or just a stripped down version of the Time Attack Mode that was included as a nice little bonus to the full campaign version of the game. Sadly, Hudson has decided to make this new entry in the series completely time-based and this is likely to turn off many gamers who are expecting a more complete package.
In Star Soldier R, your job is to take control of your space fighter and shoot your way through each of the two levels as fast as you possibly can. You can collect power-ups that will increase your firepower, but there aren't any of the typical smart bombs found in many other shooters to bail you out. You'll have to earn these points the old-fashioned way. At the end of each level, you get to take on a huge boss, and given the time limit, you'll have to find a way to take this boss out as quickly as possible.
You do have your choice of three different modes of play. The 2-Minute Mode lets you take on the first level with a two minute time limit -- plenty of time to finish the level and take out the boss. It's all about points and getting them as quickly as possible. This mode is a good place to start for beginners and is also a good place to get some practice in for the 5-Minute Mode, which allows you to play both levels. The second level will prove to be more of a challenge than the first. Not only will you have to quickly make your way through, but you'll have to find a way to quickly beat the end boss, which is quite a bit tougher than the first. The final game mode is called the Quick Shot Mode and this is nothing more than a very short 13-second shootout to see how quickly you can press the fire button. The game will even calculate how many shots per second you were able to squeeze off. This mini-game is more for bragging rights than any type of shooting challenge and proves to be fairly forgettable in the overall scheme of things.
The control in the game is perfect. It is extremely responsive and even allows you to change your ship's movement speed, which can really help out as far as scoring quick points goes. There are tons of enemies to take out, not to mention the blocks strung across each level that you can shoot for points and power-ups. Since there are only two levels, you're going to be seeing the same scenery over and over and since the patterns of the enemies never changes, once you get a firm grasp of these two levels it should be fairly easy to blow throw them. The bosses are not too tough to take down as long as you leave yourself enough time, although the second level boss might take you a few tries to beat.
The visuals in Star Soldier R are outstanding and the scrolling and enemy movements are all silky smooth. It's clear from the moment you begin playing that the developers put a lot of time and effort into making this game look good. Even the bosses, while not as intricate as those found in some of the more legendary shooters, show a lot of detail and style in their movements. The power-ups are easy to distinguish from the enemy fire, and even with so many enemies flying around on-screen at once, there's never even the slightest hiccup in the game's frame rate. It's quite refreshing to play a visually impressive shooter without the annoying slowdown found in so many other games.
The soundtrack is also quite good. Star Soldier fans will immediately feel right at home with the score. While the tracks aren't rehashed from any previous Star Soldier titles, it does have that same familiar style and sound that's become a staple of the series. The Dolby Pro-Logic II sound system is very well done with the music and sound effects blending together perfectly. If you're fortunate enough to have a good surround sound set-up with a decent sub woofer, you're likely to shake the walls down with the explosions.
Rating Star Soldier R is a difficult task. On one hand, these two levels are really outstanding and well executed, but on the other hand, there are only the two and they are basically the same every time you play them. It's fun to shoot for a higher score each time and to try and beat the scores of gamers around the country using the Wi-Fi connection, but as good as the game is, it really leaves you wanting more. Had this been a full campaign shooter, it would have easily scored a 9, but it's obviously going to leave some gamers, who are expecting a more complete shooter package, feeling a bit disappointed. That being said, if you can appreciate this game for what it is, you're likely to find a very enjoyable shooter experience. And at only 800 Wii points, it's one heck of a bargain.