Super Stardust Portable Review

Stardust Title

  Title: Super Stardust Portable
Developer: Housemarque, Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: PSP
Download: 74 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: 
Yes

Twin-Stick shooters are quite a popular trend lately, and many are coming out as time passes.  If I were to ponder the PS Vita, it has quite a few of these games.  The first couple that come to mind are Crimsonland and Dead Nation, the latter of which was originally a game for the PS3.  This has happened before as well, having PS3 games like this go portable in enhanced ports.  The same thing happened with Super Stardust HD.

Super Stardust HD was a science fiction twin-stick shooter for the PS3 and essentially a reboot of Super Stardust that released on DOS way back.  After hitting the PS3 by storm, the experience came to the PSP and then the PS Vita.  The Vita game was called Super Stardust Delta, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about.  Today, we’re talking about the first Super Stardust on a handheld.  So, here’s my retro review of Super Stardust Portable!

Story

Due to the game not having a story, this section shall remain blank.

Gameplay

Stardust Game 1

Super Stardust Portable, much like SS HD, is a twin-stick shooter with defense elements thrown into the mix.  During gameplay, you have to defend a planet from incoming meteors as well as alien spacecraft.  Because there is an element of defense, I would say it’s a shooter with defense elements thrown into the mix.  You won’t be doing a full-on tower defense game, but it’s enough to make note.

First of all, this is essentially a handheld port of Super Stardust HD.  The game you’re playing is the same game you can play on the PS3, with the exception that this game has a new game mode that the PS3 version doesn’t have.  At its core, though, it’s the same game, but on a little screen instead of a big one.

The game has three game modes you can go through: Arcade, Planet Mode, and Impact.  Arcade Mode is the simple campaign mode.  This has you going through a gauntlet, trying to clear the stages for each planet in succession.  You don’t have to do them all each time, though.  If you unlock the third planet and get a game over, you can start again from the third planet.  You have Planet Mode that lets you do only one planet instead of all of them, assuming you’ve unlocked it in Arcade Mode.

Impact Mode is the most intense game mode there is, and the mode that is brand new for the PSP version of the game.  In Impact Mode, you lose the capability of using all of your normal weapons.  You have to rely on Boosts and Bombs to defeat enemies, rather than those two as well as the normal weapons you can use in Arcade and Planet Modes.  This is intense as it forces you to rely more on dodging and learning movement than just running and gunning through everything.

During each stage, there will be obstacles and enemies you’ll need to shoot down.  These could be giant asteroids or alien ships bent on bringing you down.  You have one shield and one hit until you lose a life, so dodging incoming fire is key.  As you destroy enemies and obstacles and increase your score, you will eventually unlock a satellite you can knock down to end the stage.

You also unlock power-ups as you destroy obstacles.  If you see any glowing asteroids, go for them.  They drop weapon enhancements.  You have a few different weapons, like endless laser waves and multi-shots.  Each weapon is efficient against a specific type of obstacle, so it’s important to learn them all.  The weapons aren’t all that useful at the beginning but as you pick up enhancements for them, they become more efficient, like doing more power per shot, more rapid firing, or more bullets per shot.

Stardust Game 2

The other thing to note are the boss fights.  Each time you clear a planet’s stages, you go to a boss stage, where you fight a giant boss enemy.  Each of these have specific patterns that you’re required to learn as you fight them.  This is definitely one of the high points of the fun.  Mindlessly shooting or boosting your way through enemies is all and fun, but learning boss patterns and taking them down feels very rewarding.

The only thing I’ll say that’s a downer about this version is the fact that they removed the multiplayer from the PSP port.  In the PS3 version, every game mode had multiplayer features.  In the PSP version, the only online feature is leaderboard scores.  To balance this, you have Impact Mode.  If you buy the DLC Expansion, you can have more game modes as well.

Length can vary.  A single stage only takes a few minutes to clear, if that.  There are 4-5 stages per planet, so you should be able to use up a good few hours across the entire game.  Even more if you go into the other game modes in this version and the DLC expansion, which features the same extra game modes the PS3 version got savor one game mode.  Why they omitted one game mode from the PSP version is unknown.

Controls

This is where things get pretty nice for Vita and PSTV owners.  Even though the PSP did not have two analog sticks, it stuck firing on the face buttons.  So a quick redirection for the Right Analog Stick makes this game into a wonderfully comfortable twin-stick shooting game.

Controlling your ship is done with the Left Analog Stick and the shooting is done with the face buttons, as I said above.  L handles the boost and R handles activating bombs.  Finally, the D-Pad is used for switching weapons.  Some of these are inter-changeable.  You can have Bombs, Boosts, or weapon changes on the D-Pad or either trigger button.

However, this is also where things get awkward.  L and R use boosts and bombs, which are needed in emergency circumstances.  However, to switch weapons, you have to let go of the movement and stop your ship, tap a button, and then go back.  This is very inconvenient in the midst of combat.  I tried all of the different schemes I could but all of them have awkward situations.  There’s no getting around it.

Presentation

Stardust Pres

Visually, the game looks surprisingly nice.  There are some jagged edges if you look closely, but even on the Deka Vita 7’s somewhat degraded LCD screen, the game looks great.  Even if you’re running it on the PlayStation TV, it looks nice.

Performance and audio are also really nice.  The music is definitely some of my favorite symphonic game music in any PSP game, let alone smaller indie titles like this.  There are many times where I would load up a game and just let it go while I listened to the music.  That’s actually what I did while I was writing up this review.  If you like symphonic movie-level music, you’re sure to enjoy Super Stardust’s soundtrack.

Summary

Super Stardust Portable is currently the only Stardust game you can download to and play on the TV with the PlayStation TV.  The control scheme for changing weapons and lack of multiplayer and a one of the DLC game modes do bring the game down, but thanks to the Vita and PSTV’s Right Analog controls, this experience is much better than it was on the PSP.

7/10

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