©1986 Hudson Soft and ©Momo
Release: 1986-06-13 (¥4900)
Released in America as
( NES-SO-USA )
Star Soldier is a vertical shooter by Hudson Soft.
A giant super computer called the Starbrain is poised to take
over the galaxy. A pilot and his advanced space-fighter, the
Caesar, are on the front line of battle and they are mankind's
last hope against the imminent menace. The space fighter comes equipped
with a Vulcan gun - the weapon can be upgraded to fire in multiple
directions by collecting floating pods with a "S" stamped on
them. The fighter can also gain a rotating shield and the almighty
rapid-fire. Star Soldier is built around a score attack
theme which focuses on achieving the highest score - consequently,
levels are littered with tiles, large blocks and other destructive
elements allowing the player to crank up his score. The game features
sixteen stages each one capped by a Star Brain boss and,
interestingly, each one of them must be destroyed within a time limit.
If the player fails to do so then the Star Brain escapes and the
stage has to be played through again. Another unusual gameplay element
of Star Soldier is the abilitity to fly the Caesar underneath
certain the background to avoid enemies - however the ship can't fire
in this mode.
Star Soldier first came out for Nintendo's Famicom
in 1986 on cartridge
and for the MSX system on Hudson Soft's proprietary
card format, The Bee Card (picture on the left). The game seems
to be highly related to Tecmo's vertical shooter Star Force
released in the arcades in 1984 and converted a year later by
Hudson Soft for the Famicom and MSX systems.
Tecmo later developed sequels such as Super Star Force (Famicom, 1986)
and Final Star Force (Arcade, 1992). As a side note,
Star Force and Star Soldier were the first
two official Caravan games (read below for more information about
the Caravan Festival held in Japan from 1985). Hudson Soft created their
own license with Star Soldier and it was logical for the PC Engine system
to host three different Star Soldier titles (or four if we include
Star Parodia). Super Star Soldier
was released in 1990,
a bit late if you think about it as the PC Engine had already been around
for three years. Then Final Soldier
(1991) and Soldier Blade
(1992) followed. Then nothing until 1998 with the release of
Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth for the Nintendo 64, the first Star Soldier
title to use polygonal 3D. More recently, Hudson Soft released the last
episode of the series (so far) in 2005 for Sony's PSP system (a little
more than twenty years after the first Star Soldier).
Star Soldier also recently re-appeared in special editions,
such as Nintendo's Gameboy Advance in 2004 where it was part of the Famicom
Mini series or for the Playstation 2 where it was upgraded
and part of the Hudson Selection Vol. 2: Star Soldier released in 2003.
Hudson Soft started the popular (in Japan)
Caravan Festival event back in 1985.
It was a yearly and national contest where kids from all over Japan
(over sixty locations throughout the country !) could compete and play
their favorite video games (mostly shooters) and win prizes and
fame. This is what the Caravan Mode featured in most
of these games was all about hence players played for the highest
score. The Caravan competition
initially started with Nintendo's Famicom and the first
three competition games were Star Force (1985),
Star Soldier (1986)
and Hector'87 (1987). Interestingly,
the highest score for the five
minutes plays for Star Force was 314900,
Star Soldier was 1051500 and Hector'87 was 1068000.
The festival is also closely related to a Japanese
celebrity - Toshiyuki Takahashi, also known as Takahashi Meijin
or "16-Shot" (picture on the left). Takahashi Meijin became the festival's mascot
at the time and a star on his own thanks to his incredible ability to hit a
button at lighting speed - up to 16 times a second !
The PC Engine then hit the shelves and, logically, the competiting moved
to this system (don't forget that the PC Engine was a joined venture of
NEC and Hudson Soft). The competition games that followed were
Power League (1988), Gunhed (1989),
Super Star Soldier (1990),
Final Soldier (1991)
and Soldier Blade (1992). I am not sure
what happened next, but the competition carried on for a few
years for sure. Special limited edition Hucards, specifically
designed for the Caravan Festival, were given away to the
winners - no need to say that they are very rare and expensive items nowadays.
I have never seen a Special edition of Super Star Soldier though
and I do not think it actually exists - the only special
HuCards related to the Caravan Festival are Power League Special Version,
Gunhed Special Version,
Final Soldier Special Version and Soldier Blade Special Version.
Naxat Soft tried to organize similar
events called the Summer Carnival tournaments from 1991 to 1993
to promote their shooters such as Spriggan
A Star Soldier doujin remake called Soldier Force
was released in Japan in 2006 by Studio Siesta for Windows 2000/XP.
The game is incredibly faithful to Hudson Soft's shooter (maybe more than
Hudson's own releases) and is the only straight remake of the
Famicom/MSX originals out there. Two ships are available in this
version - the Caesar and the Noah (borrowed from
Hudson Soft's other vertical shooter
Click on picture to enlarge|
Add your Pov here !
Star Soldier is the game that started it all for Hudson Soft's
benchmark series and the Caravan Festivals arguably sold it to a wide
Japanese audience (this may explain why the game didn't *really* appeal to
Western tastes). But is the game any good ? Star Soldier is a bare bone
affair with endless waves of enemy ships and recycled stages. It however manages
to be a more compelling experience than its many peers of the time thanks to the
rather impressive Star Brains and the simple (yet effective) weapon system.
But Star Soldier has a couple of annoying flaws - the ability to fly
underneath the scenery is more confusing than useful, the game is incredibly hard
and stages are extremely repetitive. All in all, Star Soldier is a decent
shooter but later episodes in the series have a much stronger appeal.