March 17, 2015
One thing the Vita has more than its fair share of is scrolling shoot-em-ups. From Velocity and Resogun to Sine Mora and Big Sky Infinity, no Vita owner is ever far from a slice of sci-fi blasting action – and for the most part, they’re solid, inventive games.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Soldner X-2: Final Prototype is that while it’s essentially a good game and does nothing wrong, it lacks the charm and ambition of many of its stable-mates. It’s not as creative as Sine Mora, doesn’t feel as essential as Velocity, and isn’t as endlessly addictive as Super Stardust Delta. In fact, Soldner X-2 really is a game about holding the trigger down while you dodge incoming fire.
The story, such as it is, focuses on a future where a mercenary star-fighter must use a state-of-the-art prototype starship to battle an alien menace that threatens to infect and assimilate human life. Exposition be damned, it’s about shooting stuff, about navigating a bullet hell of neon laser beams, guided rockets and kaleidoscopic missiles as you annihilate wave after wave of enemy ships that insist on flying directly at you, as opposed to flanking you in any way.
As is standard for the genre, you can move anywhere on screen, avoiding enemy fire that behaves in impractical ways while destroying baddies and collecting power ups. These pick-ups will affect things like your weapon loadout, health, and damage, or may give you a little drone beside you for increased firepower.
The only thing Soldner X-2 has in the way of gimmickry is that you can choose between three ship types with varying weapons and attributes. Once you’re in the fairly bite-sized stages on the way to a boss fight, the minute-to-minute gameplay is thrilling enough, and perfectly suited to the Vita’s portable frame – it’s just very samey. There’s nothing here to wow. Even the aesthetics seem entirely uniform for the genre.
Originally released on the PS3, this port (bundled with the The Last Chapter DLC) looks beautiful enough on the Vita’s small screen, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Played in small doses, it’s entertaining, and as a shmup it’s more than serviceable in terms of gameplay, but most people will experience more than a slight sense of déjà vu while playing.
But of course, the shmup genre is fairly niche, and if you’re in the market for this type of game then you know exactly what to expect. You’ll be more concerned with chasing your scores up the leaderboards than getting immersed in a story, in which case Soldner X-2 will almost certainly serve its purpose – though even die-hard shoot-em-up fans may struggle to feel excited over the been-there, done-that mechanics, especially after being spoiled by some of the aforementioned big-hitters of the Vita’s lifespan.
Perfectly good shooter.
Decent level of challenge.
Same old, same old.
Nothing really creative or inventive.
A serviceable shooter that lacks the ambition or willing to take risks that make its contemporaries stand out.