"If you own a Wii and you've caroused the selection of titles available on the Virtual Console, you might have noticed something about the Turbografx-16: nearly every game is a shooter. If you didn't already know that, then chances are you haven't had much experience with the genre. The people that play shooters generally know the field very well, and as such most games in this category are specifically targeted at a very small audience. Games like Ikaruga and Gradius V were not..."
If you own a Wii and you've caroused the selection of titles available on the Virtual Console, you might have noticed something about the Turbografx-16: nearly every game is a shooter. If you didn't already know that, then chances are you haven't had much experience with the genre. The people that play shooters generally know the field very well, and as such most games in this category are specifically targeted at a very small audience. Games like Ikaruga and Gradius V were not made for everyone that owns a Dreamcast or a PS2, but for people that are highly familiar with the conventions of the genre and have the patience to endure the beauty in chaos paradigm. So if you've spent most of your time with platformers or puzzle games, shooters are tough to broach. One hit kills, swarms of enemies, punishing difficult, and numerous other obstacles seem like they are intended to alienate novice players rather than invite them -- the back of Ikaruga mentions the words "frighteningly intense" as a warning to would-be casual purchasers.
Soldier Blade stands out from other shooters as an anomaly in this regard. There are no one hit kills, little memorization, gratuitous power-ups, bountiful extra lives, and infinite continues. In short, if you want to pierce the shooter genre, Soldier Blade is one of the best places to start. It is straight-forward, accessible, easy (and cheap) to purchase through the Wii's download service, and highly satisfying.
Facilitating the game's reduced difficulty is a power-up system that also functions as health. There are three colored capsules that represent the game's three weapon types; by getting the same colored capsule more than once, the player can improve the effectiveness of their weapons to a maximum of three. When the player is hit (and the collision detection is very forgiving), the weapon will power down, and if it cannot be powered down further, the ship will be forfeit. The player can hold up to three capsules at once, choosing to consume them for an invulnerable special attack when necessary. However, doing so will not power down the player's weapon. What this means is the player can lose a ship while capsules are still in their possession, causing said capsules to be released back into the playing field to be reclaimed when a new ship arrives for use. Considering how liberally these items are provided, the player will almost never find themself defenseless -- and even in such a case, the generic bullet weapon is adequate for dispatching most enemies (including bosses).
Levels are designed to be the epitome of clarity, ranging from a ruined city to cloud-cover to the token star-field. There are no walls to crash into or places where bullets are hard to distinguish from a busy background. No tricks, no gimmicks. Everything is straight forward with no attempt to frustrate or otherwise cheaply end the player's experience. Being a late Turbografx-16 game, its technical presentation is superb for its time. All sound channels are used to their maximum effect and detailed backgrounds mask the system's age. The framerate never slows down and you will never lose a ship to design faults.
In addition to the seven level campaign, there are also two and five minute score attack modes -- an excellent feature to hone your shooting skills and enjoy a quick game without long term commitment!
In short, Soldier Blade is the perfect entry point to shooters. It certainly isn't the most original game ever made, but the stages are memorable, the music catchy, and the difficulty very inviting. If you've ever seen a video of a Cave shooter and thought "oh dear, I could never play a game like that!" then Soldier Blade might just be the half-way point you need in order to experience one of the oldest and most significant genres. Perhaps you'll enjoy it and find it to be a gateway to the more challenging titles on the VC, like R-Type and Gradius III.
Community review by dagoss (March 02, 2008)
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