Star Soldier

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Star Solder start screen
Star Soldier
Star Soldier Cover.jpg

North American cover art

Developer: Hudson Soft
Release date: NES: June 13, 1986
MSX: 1986

Star Soldier (スターソルジャー) is an arcade-style vertical shooter developed by Hudson Soft and released in 1986 for the Famicom and MSX in Japan, and in 1989 for the NES in North America. Building upon other mid-80s shmups, Star Soldier is a fast-paced and agile, yet simple shmup. Being designed specifically with Hudson’s Caravan Festival competition in mind, Star Soldier places heavy emphasis on enemy quantity, variety, and competitive high-scores.

The resulting success of the title would lead to numerous sequels, spinoffs, and crossovers. The continued success of Hudson’s Caravan competition would also give rise to similar shmup tournaments from other publishers, such as Naxat Soft's Summer Carnival which involved Recca and Alzadick, and further expanding the competitive shmup audience in Japan.

For replay videos, visit the Video Index.

Story

“A strange and evil presence is lurking in space. Crushing Everything in its path, destroying spaceships full of innocent people, the fearsome Starbrain is threatening the entire Galactic Empire. Starbrain, a giant computer programmed only for destruction, inhabits an enormous space station, guarded by enemy ships and robot creatures. To penetrate the station is a job for the most skillful and experienced Star Soldier: you! You'll be piloting Caesar, the fastest fighter ship in the Galactic Fleet, with an awesome arsenal of weapons at your fingertips. Only you can end the brutal Starbrain's spree of destruction, and restore peace to the galaxy!” - NA manual

Gameplay Overview

Star Soldier is a one-button shooter. There is a low-rate negligible auto-fire that greatly increases once as the player collects their first upgrade. Movement is 8-directional and environments scroll vertically. Movement is relatively agile for a shooter of the period.

The gameplay of Star Soldier is relatively simple. Stages scroll vertically and enemy attacks consist primarily of small aimed shots. There is a greater emphasis on large enemy quantities and environmental elements than having a large amount of on-screen bullets.

There are a total of 16 stages with 2 alternating bosses. If the player fails to defeat the boss within a given time-limit, the player is brought back to the midway point of the level and they must clear it once more until they successfully defeat the end-stage boss.

Controls

  • A/B: Fire
  • A/B (Hold): Auto-Fire
  • Start: Begin Game & Pause
  • D-Pad: Movement

Power Levels

There are power-up capsules hidden within the P-mark ground targets that can be collected after the player has sufficiently damaged them.

Catching a single capsule increases the rate of auto-fire significantly. Two capsules adds a tailgun. Collecting three gives the player five lines of fire (one forward and four diagonally in the front and back), as well as a shield. The shield is able to absorb shots enemy bullets, but does not prevent death from crashing into enemies.

Getting shot once while shielded decreases the player's lines of fire back to three. Getting hit five times eliminates the shield.

Trap Zones

A unique feature of levels in Star Soldier are so-called “Trap Zones”. Throughout the levels, the player can dive in the background and become protected against enemy bullets and collisions. During this state, the player is also unable to return fire or collect items.

Strategy

  • With such a simple premise, the best strategy for Star Soldier is to eliminate enemies as quickly as possible before they progress to a point-blank range. Ground targets can interfere with the player’s range, but can be quickly disbursed.
  • Enemy patterns, trap zone locations, Zeg locations, and power-up locations are all consistent throughout runs, while enemy attacks and pursuit are variable. This combined with the score-chasing nature of Star Soldier makes it in many ways a hybrid between a memorizer and a traditional fast-paced shmup. The player will likely have to repeat stages multiple times to calculate their optimal path, if not due to losing as their are no continues.
  • Trap Zones can serve as both a blessing and a curse, so it's important to note their locations to both use them effectively and avoid accidentally missing out on points/power-ups by slipping under one. Slipping out of a trap zone is a matter of simply moving towards the edge of the object and onto it's surface, but they are not telegraphed.
  • A common strategy is to take a single deliberate hit upon collecting four power-ups, as the five lines of fire mode reduces your forward shot to just a single beam rather than two. Returning to the three lanes of fire mode allows you to deal damage to individual targets and bosses more effectively while still allowing you to tank four additional shots if needed.

Trivia

  • Star Soldier was created to be a spiritual successor to Tehkan’s arcade title Star Force, following the success of the Hudson-developed port of Star Force to the Famicom both commercially and in the first Caravan Festival.
  • An enhanced port to of Star Soldier to the Super Famicom was released in 1995 as part of the Caravan Shooting Collection, alongside Hector '87 and the Hudson Famicom port of Star Force. This version features additional sound channels allowing music and sound effects to play at the same time, as well as removal of sprite-flicker and slowdown present in the NES/Famicom version.
  • Star Soldier was given a quasi-remake/sequel for the PS2, Gamecube, and PSP as Volume 2 of the Hudson Selection series. It features fully redone 2.5D visuals, controllable ship speed, a secondary close-range attack option, A new a heavy metal rendition of the original's soundtrack, new unlockable ships, new stages, and new bosses alongside remakes of some of the original stages. It also includes the 2 minute and 5 minute Caravan modes featured in games from Hector '87 onward.
  • There´s a Studio SiestA doujin shmup called Soldier Force, which was released in 2006 and directly took ship designs, enemy designs, character names, music, and level layouts from Star Soldier, and as well as ships and music from Hector 87 and Star Force. However, the companies Hudson and Tecmo sued Studio SiestA causing Soldier Force to be officially discontinued, though it can still be found online.