REVIEW – Old timer PS3 owners might remember, that Super Stardust HD was one of the earliest titles on the PlayStation 3. It came out only a few months after the console itself, but it was still one of the best arcade shooters on the system. I also played a lot the PSP version (Super Stardust Portable), which a pretty flawless port of the original PS3 game. Standing against doors in crowded subways or buses, when you to get off a few station later, nothing can beat a quick arcade shoot-em-up like Stardust. Ah the memories! Well, those memories may be revived, as Sony released an updated version of the classic game: Super Stardust Ultra.
How could we describe Stardust Ultra HD the best way? Well it’s a cross between the classic Asteroids and Geometry Wars wrapped around a sphere. The control is to get used to it, since instead of the X button, you’ll have to push the right stick in whichever direction you’ll want to shoot and same goes for movement on the left stick. It may sound simplistic, but it’s an exhilarating experience as you try to fly away from like thousands of meteors, broken meteor chunks, enemies that are far more aggressive than the drifting debris they shove out of the way and of course shoot the hell out of them.
Same game, awesome remake
Super Stardust Ultra is actually a remake of Super Stardust HD for the PS4, with shinier graphics, more detailed planets and an excellent 3D option added. This latter addition is especially sweet for those who own a 3D television (like me) as the current selection of 3D games on the PlayStation 4 is unfortunately pretty sparse. The 3D effects are especially impressive in this kind of game, with several debris and broken meteors flying all over the place.
The basic setup of Super Stardust Ultra is of course pure arcade. No story at all here: you have a spaceship flying in orbit above a planet, and meteors ranging in size from small ones the size of your ship to utterly enormous rocks rain down from space onto the orbital plane, and you’ve got to shoot them off fast, or else your ship will be destroyed.
Those meteors come in three types: rock, gold, and ice, and you’ve got also three guns to deal with them. The green spread of the rock splitter works best for normal rocky meteors, the snaky laser of the gold melter takes out the blobby gold ones, and focused blue high-speed shot of the ice cutter demolishes the jagged blue ice chunks. Add in a good variety of deadly enemies attacking in swarms, from exploding satellites to snaking green silverfish or just massive hordes of balls and the planet’s high orbit gets very crowded, very quickly.
Again and again
One of the game’s few problems is the fact it takes a long time, until you are done with a level since in the standard arcade mode each level is just a bit too long for its own good, frequently working on variations in a theme that you’re already skilled enough to overcome. It’s sometimes pretty hard, and a stray death may happen simply due to the time it takes to clear out enough targets for the final enemy wave to spawn, but once you’ve got the power to clear the sky efficiently it can be more about killing time until the interesting challenges show up.
The other modes ramp up the difficulty more quickly, with the Endless mode in particular being a great way to get a fast challenge, but other than Endless they come off as somewhat gimmicky. Bomb mode gives you a limited supply of bombs to get as far as possible, leaving you to carefully dodge so that each carefully-timed attack yields the maximum points and hopefully earns a pair of replacement bombs as well. Impact mode tweaks the boost function so you can zip around taking out the maximum number of enemies by chaining one into the other at high speed.
The two new modes are Interactive Streaming, which lets viewers help or hinder you assuming you’ve got anyone watching, and Blockade, which has the ship poop out an endless string of semi-indestructible rocks to limit your movement. All the modes are entertaining in one form or another, but only Endless and the full Arcade mode have any real longevity.
The good thing about Super Stardust Ultra that it doesn’t want to be anything else that what it is already: it’s a superfast arcade shoot-em-up with a timeless gameplay. Watching everything explode around you with upgraded 3D graphics is also a big plus. It’s nothing fancy gameplay wise, but still just provides the same simple arcade fun what we miss a bit – even with the last generation of consoles those years. It’ an excellent update of a great twin-stick shooter, and worth the time for both long-term fans and those who somehow missed it the first time around.
+ Classic arcade feeling
+ Superfast action
+ 3D Stereoscopic
– Levels are too long
– Some modes aren’t interesting
– No PS Vita crossplay
Editor: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: XDEV Studio Europe
Publication: 1 Mars 2015