Developed by SideQuest Studios, this tough-to-pronounce shoot ‘em up (shmup) is the latest in the rebirth of the genre. Shoot ‘em ups have been around since before Galaga, and many of them use similar formulas.
Due to the similarly of the genre, this results many comparable games that tend not to evolve much in terms of gameplay. Read on to find out if Söldner-X breaks the mold.
To be blunt, while very nice looking, Söldner-X doesn’t do much in terms of design that make you look at it differently than other shooters. The actual playable space-craft and enemies all look like they were from various R-Type games.
Also, SideQuest Studios included a pseudo-story to move the game along. As expected for a shmup, it’s very bland, involving a “strange gas” taking over the planet, and you have to investigate. A little more effort could have been put into it, but it’s not a huge deal given the genres’ history of little-to-no story.
Design choices aside, graphically, Söldner-X does not disappoint. The HD effects are beautiful on most TVs, and while some levels can look bland, the weapon and enemy effects are always vibrant. The locales vary from Cities, Jungles, Caves, and even Space. Each of the areas has something going on in the background, which adds life to the maps.
The gameplay in Söldner-X is more in-depth than most of the shoot ‘em ups I have played. Rather than focusing entirely on score, Söldner-X has a “chain” system that lets you earn more powerups for your fighter, in addition to having a deep powerup system in-itself. The game encourages you to build “chain power” with 1 weapon before switching to the next.
In the lower right hand corner, when the chain bar fills up, switch weapons to keep the chain going. The higher the chain number, the more powerups you receive. Söldner-X also has a weapon cooling system, that encourages you lay off that itchy trigger finger from time to time.
Your main two weapons will recharge when you aren’t shooting, and the remaining three have finite ammo that you have to replenish. This may come as a disappointment to some shmup enthusiasts, who are used to constantly holding down the fire button. The weapons aren’t very unique, but they get the job done. In case any shmup entuisiasts out there are wondering, your choices are:
- Pulse: A standard shot that does moderate damage
- Beam: A wide electrical attack that does little damage
- Beam Bow: A powerful crescent attack that has limited ammo
- Flame: A powerful short-ranged attack with limited ammo
- Rocket: A weapon primarily used on bosses, with very limited quantities (5 or less)
Another peculiar aspect of Söldner-X is its health bar and powerup system. The game has a traditional health bar, as opposed to most shoot ‘em ups that have a “one hit and your dead” mechanic, so it’s nice to see something different here. Also, Söldner-X boasts over 20 powerups, with a few of them technically characterized as “power-downs”. You’ll constantly be on the look out for power-ups like multi-shot, and speed increase, in addition to unique power ups.
There’s a power-up in particular that I like to call “weapon insurance”. If you die and have this powerup collected, you’ll come back with all of your weapons intact. The chain and powerup system keep the gameplay fresh, and prevent playing through the game simply “shooting everything that moves”.
The only real detraction gameplay wise is the extreme ramp up in difficulty going from World 1 to World 2. World 1 is essentially an intro to the game, showcased in a wide-open city and jungle, and is not hard to get through. World 2, however, is in a very tight, very difficult cave setting. Not only are the enemies doubled, but you have to maneuver through various smasher-machines and tunnels while shooting scores of enemies.
To add insult to injury, if you touch a wall, you rapidly lose health. As a result of the insane difficulty, it feels like World 3 easily could have been World 2, because it’s that much easier. If you are completely new to the shmup genre, consider staying away due to the extreme difficulty.
Similar to the design choices, the game’s sound effects aren’t special. Most of them are just typical explosions and laser sounds. More effort could have gone into developing unique effects for the game, once again detracting from the characterization of Söldner-X. The music isn’t too much of an improvement.
While I found myself enjoying some of the electronica flavored music, it will stay the same in each section of the world. There also isn’t much variation between tracks; they sound like they could have came from one mega-mix.
Despite it’s audio shortcomings, Söldner-X accomplishes something not many shoot ‘em ups can do: make you want to come back. There is a local 2 player co-op mode to add to the title’s replay value, and it’s different from the main game in terms of gameplay due to the fact that each player shares a lifebar, and weapons, so teamwork is essential. To further add to the game’s replay value, every time you play Söldner-X, you get closer to ranking up.
Ranks increase the amount of maximum continues you can have, meaning that if you’re having trouble on a certain level, you can go back with more lives than you previously had. After you complete the first level, you unlock the “training” option in the main menu. If you need to practice a certain level, or just really like to play it, you can choose it individually.
But the fun doesn’t end there! In every level, there are 5 hidden keys you can potentially find. These keys are basically just yellow power ups, so they’re really easy to spot so long as they’re not deliberately hidden. If you collect 4/5 of these keys in each of the four main worlds, you unlock an extra 5th stage! You can also unlock two more difficulty modes if you’re so inclined: Impossible and Nightmare.
In summation, Söldner-X is a solid offering that could have been much more with a better soundtrack and a more unique style. If you find the game to be too difficult, set the difficulty to “very easy”, and increase your continue count. As you play each level and rank up, you’ll find yourself getting better and better at the game. Hopefully, Söldner-X will champion more HD shoot ‘em ups into the PSN and Xbox Live Marketplace.
The graphics are incredible for a PSN arcade game. Although beautiful looking, there isn’t too much about Söldner-X that makes it look completely different than other shoot ‘em ups in terms of art style. Also, the developer tried to put a story in, but it could have been done much better.
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Söldner-X controls perfectly, and there are a ton of different powerups to earn. The secret keys are fun to hunt for, and the difficulty can be adjusted if you’re having trouble. If you are new to the genre, be cautious, because this game is not forgiving from World 2 on, due to an odd choice in level design.
The sound effects are decent, but don’t vary too much. The music ranges from various trance to dream electronica, but again, there isn’t much variation.
There are secret keys to be found, and difficult trophies to earn. There is a local 2 player co-op mode, as well as multiple difficulty levels. Training mode allows you to select any level you want, and every time you play the game, you increase your pilot rank. This is one shoot ‘em up worth playing over and over.
Söldner-X is a pretty solid shoot ‘em up. Even if you are a bit tired of the genre, it gives you enough reasons to keep coming back to it, and justifies it’s $10 price tag.