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Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth (Nintendo 64) artwork

Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth (Nintendo 64) review


"The fifth level of this game has an almost Derridian, self-reflexivity to it: the screen goes black, you see the words "Level 5" in bold white text, and a deep male voice announces the stage's subtitle, "Terrible". Vanishing Earth is without a doubt the worst shoot 'em up on the N64. It's also the best. In fact, it is the only shoot 'em up on the N64. Unfortunately, it is so generic, so flawed, and so unresponsive that you'll feel like your playing underwater, that it isn't worth your..."



The fifth level of this game has an almost Derridian, self-reflexivity to it: the screen goes black, you see the words "Level 5" in bold white text, and a deep male voice announces the stage's subtitle, "Terrible". Vanishing Earth is without a doubt the worst shoot 'em up on the N64. It's also the best. In fact, it is the only shoot 'em up on the N64. Unfortunately, it is so generic, so flawed, and so unresponsive that you'll feel like your playing underwater, that it isn't worth your time. Oddly, its developer Hudson is responsible for a sizable list of impressive shooters for the TurboGrafx. If you have played any of those games, Vanishing Earth will likely make you cry as though a loved one just died.

The game has both aesthetic and technical problems that render it extraordinarily mediocre. To start with the later, the game's framerate is inexcusable for a shooter. The genre demands that objects scroll smoothly and their position remain consistently visible, but here the trajectory of bullets is difficult to predict because their movements are so choppy. In moments of intense action, it is easy to loose track of an object on the screen and die, not because the player lacks skill but because bullets seem to phase around like magic. Not only that, 3D backgrounds are not washed out, faded, or in any way differentiated with the foreground (i.e. the things that kill you. There are also particles that look like debris from an enemy but are actually bullets. Sometimes that pillar in the background is actually in front of you. In short, every problem that can be created in the translation of a series from 2D to 3D is present here. Perhaps the most frustrating graphical issue is the way enemies flash when hit, which adds to the game's choppy feel while providing no real benefit.

These technical issues, not skillful design, are the only challenges you'll face. Bosses follow pathetically simple patterns while normal enemies fly on-screen like they're trying out for synchronized swimming. If you are hit by something, your weapon powers down until it is pretty much unable to kill anything. But with unlimited continues and a respawn setup that puts you right back into the game were you died, any challenge you encounter is likely unintentional.

The game's one interesting mechanic is your ship's ability to barrel roll and become temporarily invincible. Doing so allows you to reflect bullets at enemies and fly through attacks -- a good, albeit unoriginal, idea. Unfortunately it still suffers from the same sluggishness as everything else in the game. The sound that it makes is hushed and the shield itself appears quietly over your ship and fades away just as smoothly a few seconds later. The effect this has is denying you the knowledge of the duration that your ship is actually being protected. In a genre where split-second timing is the difference between life and death, this minor oversight will frustrate you every time you are killed and you can't figure out why.

In short, Vanishing Earth feels like your playing in maple syrup. It's lethargic -- but not in a good way like R-Type -- and completely forgettable when you see the blueberries and cream other shooters are using on their waffles. Even with three secret levels, three playable ships (each with their own generic weapon), and the 2 and 5 minute modes from the other (better) installments of the series, the core game is still just plain boring. It isn't completely unbearable, but don't be surprised if you fall asleep and crash into one of its generic enemies.

Rating: 5/10

dagoss's avatar
Community review by dagoss (January 18, 2008)

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