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Sophstar logo.png

Sophstar cover art.jpg

Cover Art (Steam / Nintendo Switch / PS4 / PS5)

Developer: Banana Bytes
Publisher: Red Art Games
Official site:
Planning: Rafael Lima
Music: Gabriel Gomes, Thiago Halleck
Program: Rafael Lima (main dev & game design), Leonardo Miranda (testing)
Art: Mário Santos (art direction), Luiz Felipe Erthal (concept & divulgation art), Elder Junior, Saulo Santiago, Rafael Lima, Rodrigo Siqueira
Designer: Débora Muth (dialogue & voices)
Release date: 2022
Previous game: N/A
Next game: “Gemhawk” (working title, WIP)[1]

Sophstar is a vertical arcade shoot'em up with heavy inspiration from the best games of the genre from the 90s, while adding new-exciting features and regular game modes for both casual home players and hardcore arcade fans. It plays in the traditional arcade 240×320 pixel screen size.

Gameplay Overview


On Nintendo Switch you move the ship with either the D-pad or left analogue stick, the movement is of the digital 8-way type.

  • B: main weapon
  • A: sub weapon
  • ZL: half-speed
  • L: focus movement (= even slower)
  • ZR: teleport

The main way to teleport is to hold ZR and set the position with the left stick / D-pad. Alternatively, if you have the rights stick enabled in the options, you can teleport by just moving the right stick, skipping the need to press the button. For some ships, like Rigby which teleports to a random position, it is enough to just tap the teleport button without other input.

Teleport system

Teleporting is different from ship to ship and is one of the main differentiators of the game[2] and it fulfils a similar defensive purpose as usually bombs do.[3]

While intentionally[4][5] not necessary to beat the game, the different teleports are fun and may be of great use for beginners to get out of tight spots. It becomes even more useful on higher difficulties, mostly to avoid getting hit, but a little bit also for scoring (esp. with blue ships).[6]

All ships of blue colour have a short teleport cooldown.[7] But Z2 even shorter cooldown for its cutting dash teleport.

Unlockable Secrets

While you play arcade mode(?) you unlock additional credits as well as graphical filters. You unlock different filters also by gaining the highest ranks in cadet school.

Once you finish the game on arcade mode on any difficulty, you unlock ultimate challenge, which is a kind of a boss rush.

When certain conditions are met you will find question-mark items – 3 in each stage. If you manage to get all three in a stage, that stage’s end-boss will be in its more difficult hyper mode, and you will get an extend at the beginning of the next stage. If you beat the boss in its hyper mode, you will gain a big score bonus; if you die though, the boss will revert to its normal (non-hyper) attack pattern though. For more information on how to obtain them see the hyper bosses section of the strategy subpage.


Soph can pilot 9 different ships from the start, which all play very differently.

A quick numbers-based overview:

Ship name Speed Fire power Recovery
Reyka 4 4 4
Nina 3 3 3
Arobe-D 2 2 2
Hirane 5 5 3
Dumont 3 2 2
Rigby 2 3 1
Katha 4 4 4
Z2 4 4 5
Leo 1 3 1

One could roughly divide the ships between the strong and fast blue ships (Reyka, Hirane, Katha), the slow “quasi-Arobes” (Arobe-D, Rigby, Leo) and the miscellaneous yellow ships (Nina, Dumont, Z2).

The individual ships’ details with their pros and cons:


  • type: advanced
  • speed: 4
  • main weapon: fire blast
  • sub weapon: area cleaner
  • fire power: 4
  • teleport: double dash
  • recovery: 4
  • pros:
    • very powerful at point blank
    • double teleport with fast recharge time
    • sub weapon is defensive and offensive
  • cons:
    • hard to control at full speed
    • weapon loses power at long distance
    • no attacks to protect the back

fire blast is an interesting weapon. If you hold the fire button it is a flame-thrower where the closer to Reyka the wider and more powerful the shot is – great for off-centered point-blanking. If you tap the fire button you get a spread shot though.


  • type: aggressive
  • speed: 3
  • main weapon: spread cannon
  • sub weapon: missile barrage
  • fire power: 3
  • teleport: ghost drone
  • recovery: 3
  • pros:
    • aggressive weapon and teleport
    • main weapon covers huge area
    • sub weapon can deal a lot of damage
  • cons:
    • sub weapon won’t give invincibility
    • teleport takes too long to recharge
    • sub weapon uses a lot of energy


  • type: defensive
  • speed: 2
  • main weapon: 4-way and homing
  • sub weapon: shield
  • fire power: 2
  • teleport: transdimensional
  • recovery: 2
  • pros:
    • good for safe strategies
    • homing missiles will hit any enemy
    • may use sub weapon many times
  • cons:
    • very weak on close combat
    • sub weapon has no offensive use
    • very slow speed may be troublesome


  • type: powerhouse
  • speed: 5
  • main weapon: power laser
  • sub weapon: piercing blaster
  • fire power: 5
  • teleport: single dash
  • recovery: 3
  • pros:
    • insanely strong main weapon
    • high speed can be very useful
    • sub weapon can destroy bullets
  • cons:
    • no spread weapon
    • high speed can also be a trouble
    • lacks defensive options


  • type: close combat
  • speed: 3
  • main weapon: ripple cannon
  • sub weapon: full washer
  • fire power: 3
  • teleport: fake explosion
  • recovery: 2
  • pros:
    • can do lots of damage at close range
    • sub weapon is good for offense and defense
    • teleport can be used for offense
  • cons:
    • teleport takes a while to recharge
    • main weapon has small area coverage
    • speed could be better


  • type: balanced
  • speed: 2
  • main weapon: steady 4 way
  • sub weapon: power orbs
  • fire power: 3
  • teleport: random portal
  • recovery: 1
  • pros:
    • very balanced ship
    • main weapon has fair power
    • sub weapon destroys bullets
  • cons:
    • could be a little faster
    • teleport may be dangerous
    • sub weapon does not give full protection

Rigby’s sub-weapon can be either tapped to just send out the three orbs as an attack; or held to have the orbs circle around the ship, where the orbs fly up when the button is released. In both cases (? double-check) the orbs both cause damage and block bullets.


  • type: wide attack
  • speed: 4
  • main weapon: wide plasma
  • sub weapon: piercing laser
  • fire power: 4
  • teleport: tripple dash
  • recovery: 4
  • pros:
    • main shot covers wide area
    • easiest ship to use teleport safely
    • sub weapon can do a fair amount of damage
  • cons:
    • low fire power may cause trouble against bosses
    • sub weapon makes ship slower while active
    • lacks proper defense systems other than teleport


  • type: unorthodox
  • speed: 4
  • main weapon: cannon spreader
  • sub weapon: fixed spreader
  • fire power: 4
  • teleport: cutting dash
  • recovery: 5
  • pros:
    • teleport can be used very aggressively
    • sub weapon can be used for a long time
    • main weapon does a good amount of damage
  • cons:
    • fire rate of grenade cannon is very low
    • can’t easily aim with the spreader
    • relies too much on the teleport for offense


  • type: just fire
  • speed: 1
  • main weapon: homing missile
  • sub weapon: power shield
  • fire power: 3
  • teleport: blackhole portal
  • recovery: 1
  • pros:
    • no need to aim your shots
    • teleport may create some defense
    • sub weapon gives full protection while dealing damage
  • cons:
    • your shots may not go where you want
    • very long teleport recharge
    • very difficult to score with


All ships have the same[8] size 2×2 pixel[9] hitbox. To make it easier to see, you can enable the Hitbox option under Game Options to cause the ship’s hitbox to pulsate.[10]

Enemy hitboxes basically correspond with their sprites.


Certain enemies, when killed, will drop an item that circles between the following values:

  • (5K) – bonus score of 5.000
  • (H) – recharges the sub-weapon meter by a half
  • (15K) – bonus score of 15.000
  • (F) – recharges the sub-weapon meter fully
  • (1UP) – extend (shows up after two full circles of the other values)

There are also question-mark (?) items – three on each stage – which trigger the boss’ hyper mode (see #Unlockable Secrets).

Items bounce from the edges of the screen and after a certain amount of time they will not bounce off of the bottom edge, but leave there instead.[11]


When playing wtih original scoring you gain the first extend at 500.000 points, and then another one every 1.000.000 points.

When playing with advanced scoring you gain the first extend at 500.000, the second at 2.000.000, the third at 5.000.000 and from then on every 5.000.000.[12]

In addition if you pick up all three question-mark items (see #Unlockable Secrets) you gain an extend at the beginning of the next level.


Sophstar features both local and online leaderboards and divides them by mode (arcade, score attack, timed, endless, ultimate), as well as difficulty and scoring method where appropriate. It seems the leaderboards are kept separately by platform.

The game features two different scoring methods, the differences between the two will be explained further below.

Each enemy is worth a certain amount of points when you kill them. The more hits they take, the more points they give.

By killing enemies you gain a chain multiplier (the max. length of the chain depends on the scoring method). The enemy kill score is multiplied by the chain multiplier. The multiplier does not apply to bonus score from gems and items.

In addition, enemies will drop gems (green on original, yellow on advanced scoring), which gets smaller (i.e. visually fall down into the background) with time. To pick it up at its max. score you almost need to point blank the enemy. If you wait too long, the item will disappear though.

As such the rule of thumb for scoring is to pick up gems as quickly as you can and also keep the chain multiplier as high as possible as long as you can. Gems should be a priority early on, while with the later the beefier enemies it is safer to keep the multiplier going then risk death by hunting a gem.

Certain enemies will drop an item from which you can get either 5.000 or 15.000 bonus points.

Killing mid-stage bosses will on death turn their bullets into 500 bonus points each (? check how exactly that works).

At the end of the level you get additional bonuses[13][14] awarded for:

  • complete bonus is 50.000 earned for completing the level
  • survival bonus is tied to how many times you died in that level
    • 35.000 - (deaths × 5.000), but minimum of 1.000
    • full bonus of 50.000, if you lost no lives
  • collect bonus is tied to how many gems you picked up
    • 50.000 × (picked up gems / all gems on screen)
    • full bonus of 50.000, if you collected at least 75% of gems
  • max. value bonus is tied to how many gems you picked up at their max. value
    • number of max. value gems × 400
    • full bonus of 10.000: if you collected at least 20 max. value gems (8 on level 8)
  • (optional secret bonus – if you managed to kill a boss in its hypered mode, you will get 190.000 bonus points (see strategy page on hyper bosses)).

Original scoring method

The chain multiplier is limited to a maximum of ×9, so it is not a huge tragedy if you break the chain. When playing with original scoring method, gems are more important than multiplyer.

Green gems are not affected by the multiplier, and they start with 1000 as its maximum value and as they get smaller / fall into the background, their value falls in increments of 100.

For example killing a smallest pop-corn enemy at the maximum chain multiplier (×9) at point blank and then collecting its green gem at its maximum value (1000) you would get:

(10 × 9) + 1000 = 1090

As another example, if you would kill a more beefy enemy at chain multiplier ×4 and then pick up its gem when it has already half way perished, you would get:

(450 × 4) + 500 = 2300

Advanced scoring method

The chain multiplier in this mode is not capped, so it can go as high as you manage to maintain it. Whe playing with advanced scoring method, the multiplayer (especially later on) is more important than gems.

Yellow gems are not affected by the multiplier, and they start with 5000 as its maximum value and as they get smaller / fall into the background, their value first falls in increments of 1000, and in the end in increments of 100.

For example killing a smallest pop-corn enemy at a substantial chain multiplier (×53) at point blank and then collecting its green gem at its maximum value (1000) you would get:

(10 × 53) + 5000 = 5.530

As another example, if you would kill a more beefy enemy at chain multiplier of ×23 and then pick up its gem when it has already half way perished, you would get:

(450 × 23) + 3000 = 13.350


Arcade mode

This is the main mode of the game. Follow Soph’s story through 8 stages of pure arcade action. By default it includes story sequences between stages, but you can turn those off in the Options menu.

It features the following difficulties:

  • Child – If you are easily frustrade with games and don’t like losing, this is for you.
  • Beginner – If you have no experience with shoot’em ups and want to have some fun with them, this is for you.
  • Intermediate – If you have some experience with shoot’em ups and kno whow to dodge bullets and face end of level bosses, this is for you.
  • Advanced – If you have lots of experience with shoot’em ups and want a good challenge, this is for you.
  • Hardcore – If you have beaten lots of shoot’em ups, know your way around them and are ready for a tough challenge, this is for you.
  • Brutal – Don’t even try unless you are a robot. No human can beat this.

To reach the “proper” ending and the True Last Boss you need to 1CC the game on intermediate difficulty or above.[15]

Within the arcade mode there is also a Training mode, which allows to select either the stage or boss you want to practice on.

In the menu you can select between two different scoring methods:

  • Original – simpler, limited chaining
  • Advanced – more complex, unlimited chaining, higher bonuses

Cadet school

Play 60 different trials, divided into 5 groups. By getting the highest ranks, you unlock graphical filters.

The trials are short challenges with a pre-selected ship and often turned off features, so you can concentrate only on the challenge at hand.

Different types of challenges are:

  • Destruction – destroy as many targets as possible
  • Score – make the best possible score
  • Survival – surive as long as you can (often with offensive capabilites disabled)
  • Time attack – destroy all enemies as fast as you can

Score attack

“Try to score as much as you can in 2 minutes.”

This is basically the game’s Caravan mode, but you also gain unlimited lives.

You can also choose between the original and advanced scoring methods.

Timed challenge

“Timed game with inifinite lives where you get time extends by collecting bonuses. How long can you last?”

There are two times to consider in this mode:

  • the clock that counts down in the top-center of the screen
  • the score, which is essentially how much time you managed to play

Certain enemies – or whole formations – drop blue gems, which give you time extends. At its most valuable, they add +5.0s to your clock, and then the smaller the gem gets, the less added time it gives you.

You have infinite lives, but during the death and respawn animation the clock keeps ticking, so losing a life is still a punishment.

The score is constantly ticking up, essentially showing how long you survived. The score is therefore not directly affected by how many enemies you kill, but since killing enemies is the only way to get time extend gems, it in some very indirect way still is.

Endless mode

“I single life, an endless level that gets harder as you progress. Try to beat the high scores!”

Ultimate challenge

“The ultimate challenge. A boss rush with multiple difficulty levels. Prove you are the best by beating it!’

It seems to consist of 5 loops, with 20 boss(-like) enemies each.


The tutorial is a very quick interactive overview of all the controls.

If you are looking for Training mode you will find one in the arcade mode menu.


See Sophstar/Strategy for stage breakdown, enemy and boss descriptions and advanced play strategies.


Sub-Lieutenant Soph has lived in Galanian for her whole life, having no memory of when her existence started, and no idea of how she developed her teleporting powers. But after being sent for a recon mission to a planet that suddenly appeared, all of what she knows about herself is about to change.

The true ending and with it the full story is locked behind finishing 1CC’ing the game on intermediate difficulty or higher.

Development History

Sophstar was created in GameMaker[16] and uses a traditional acrade 240x320 pixels play screen.

The developers cite Toaplan, Psikyo and Raizing (and Compile implicitly through Zanac) as their biggest inspirations for Sophstar, as well as shooters on Atari 2600.[17]

The team, who at its biggest consisted of 10 people[18], worked in their free time from three different cities in Brazil and some of them never saw each other in person.[19] How much that had to do with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic that took place at that time is unsure, but for sure it did not help.

Funnily enough, it all started almost as an accident. Rafael Lima says he initally wanted to create a dungeon-crawling game similar to The Binding of Isaac, but to get used to the new version of GameMaker and its new features, he decided as an exercise to first create a simple game in a genre he was confident in – shooters.[20][21]

In 6 days he whooped up a prototype with 5 levels and 5 bosses[22] and after people encouraged him after seeing a video recording of that early version[23]

Rafael Lima took another month to create a bigger 8-level prototype, still relying on free assets.

Then he showed it to a few friends who were more experienced in art and asset creation, they joined forces.[24] First Mario Santos, Gabriel Gomes and Luiz Felipe Erthal got on board. And a little later Saulo Santiago, Elder Junior and Thiago Halleck joined the team as well.[25] According to Rafael Lima all of them worked without any budget and in their spare time while working on other projects.

The whole development took 22 months (which is 1 year and 10 months).

Version Differences

The game was originally written for PC and porting to consoles was made by Red Art Games[26][27].

Improvements in the console versions are:

  • French translation
  • loads of polish (especially in cutscenes)
  • proper TATE support on Switch
  • haptic trigger capability on PS5


All the ships’ names have their origin stories[28][29][30]:

  • Dumont is named after Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian aeronaut and inventor
  • Reyka, Hirane and Katha are all references to Rafael Lima’s wife – Katharine Akyer, who was responsible for social media as well as the Spanish and English localisation; all of these three ships also happen to have a fast teleport cooldown and are of blue colour, which is by pure chance[31]
  • Nina was the name of Rafael Lima’s dog, who (the dog) sadly passed away in 2020 during development
  • Arobe-D is a backwards spelling of the game’s voice actress – Débora
  • Leo, the turtle-shaped ship, came to be, because Mário Santos was at the time also working on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
  • Rigby the beatle-shaped ship got its name after the Beatle’s song, Eleanor Rigby
  • Z2 just had a cool sound to it ;)

During development, Rigby and Leo were internally referred to Arobe-C and Arobe-A, as all three “Arobes” were different types of the same ship model at the time. Arobe-B is a name reserved for a future game by the developer.[32]

Rafael Lima had another dog at the same time, whose name was Sophia, who passed away in 2018[33], so the rest of the team suggested to use that name for the game’s protagonist – Soph – and as a consequence the game’s title – Sophstar.[34]

Conversely, the enemies in the game do not have names, even though that option was considered.[35] Internally they are assigned numbers like “Midboss 18”, and some of the enemies actually have their numbers written on their sprites (e.g. the two rotund mecha-like enemies in level 1 are 52)[36]

The first midstage boss is a hommage to Zanac.[37]

There is a recurring midboss in the last levels. Every time it appears, a kanji appears. The kanji hints at the transformation it takes:

  • 仔 = Offspring
  • 蛸 = Octopus
  • 目 = Eye

Its final transformation into the True Last Boss shows 真 (Shin) meaning “True”". The kanji is on the boss’ forehead as well.[38]

Nina’s Ghost Drone teleport ability is loosly inspired by the Puppet Master’s ability in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow / Akumajou Dracula: Sougetsu no Juujika.[39]

The official logo not only includes a small katakana name too, but the “STA” letters are intenionally styles so they can be read as “STG” as well.[40]

The music in the main menu is the same song that was the only song in the early prototype.[41]


See (Template Page)/Gallery for our collection of images and scans for the game.

Video References

If the game already has an existing entry in the Video Index, please link to the page here. If you want to link to smaller clips perhaps not included in the Index, you can also leave them here.

References & Contributors

  3. Shmups On Switch: Sophstar Review (video)
  23. Rafael Lima: Shmup sem nome (video)