SolarStriker
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developers:
    • Minakuchi Engineering
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 01/26/1990
    • US February 1990
    • UK 09/28/1990
Score: 60%

This review was published on 04/17/2018.

SolarStriker is a shoot 'em up video game published by Nintendo for the Game Boy. It was originally released in Japan on January 26, 1990, North America in February 1990, and Europe on September 28, 1990. Being one of the most influential game companies of all time, most of Nintendo's game library is well known. However, the company released a plethora of obscure titles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of which were designed by the late Gunpei Yokoi, the legendary inventor of the Game Boy. This is one of them. Designed by Gunpei Yokoi and Keisuke Terasaki, Nintendo worked together with an external developer known as Minakuchi Engineering to create SolarStriker. Other than the notable people behind it, there's not much to say about SolarStriker. It's one of the most generic vertically scrolling shooters out there. That's not to say that it's the worst game ever, but it's definitely on the mediocre side of the spectrum of quality.

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In the year 2159, the Earth Federal Government was established, uniting the people with a common government against other species. As part of this new initiative and to defend the human race from foreign invaders, the Earth Federal Army was also created. The army then went on the offensive, attacking a star known as "Turin." However, the Earth Federal Army was no match for the overwhelming combat power of Turin, and they soon set their sights on Earth. At this point, Earth's fate seemed sealed. As Earth's last chance, a top secret mobile unit developed a very advanced space fighter in Earth's final fortification. Flying with the mother ship, "Mother Atena," it arrived at Turin's solar system ready to launch one last counterattack. This advanced spacecraft, codenamed Solar Striker, is Earth's last hope for survival. You're going to be this thing's pilot, so you better do a good job.

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Saying that the controls are simple would be an understatement. The d-pad lets you move your spaceship in eight directions, the A button shoots, and the B button also shoots. Holding either button allows you to rapid fire. That's about it for the controls. Yeah, the controls are so simple, even the limited buttons of the Game Boy are too much for SolarStriker. That's not a bad thing, though. It makes the game that much more intuitive, after all. That simplicity extends to the health system, in that there is none. Like most every other old school shooter, you die in one hit. On the bright side, you get right back into the action after dying, preventing you from having to deal with the hassle of returning to a checkpoint. However, once you lose all your lives, you'll be thrown back to the title screen; there are no continues or anything. This is rather unforgiving for a Nintendo game, but typical for a shoot 'em up.

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Like Xevious, action is viewed from an overhead perspective and the screen automatically scrolls vertically. Enemies primarily approach you from the top of the screen, and your mission objective is to plow through them to reach and hopefully defeat the boss at the end. If you move all the way to the left or right, the screen will scroll a tiny fraction into those directions, giving you a slightly wider area to work with than the width of the Game Boy's miniscule screen. These parts of the screen do act as your blind spots, though, as you can't see what's there unless you move close enough. That may cause you to constantly move between the left and right side of the screen in paranoia, but it's ultimately not too big of an issue.

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Every so often, a small canister will appear, and shooting it open reveals an icon with the letter P printed on it. When you grab this P icon, your gun will get powered up. These power-ups can stack a few times, making your gun better each time you get one. Your gun starts out only shooting one bullet at a time, but power-ups increases that to two, three, and eventually you shoot out bigger blasts. Instead of losing everything when you die like in most shooters, your gun merely goes down a single level when you kick the bucket. Most enemies die in one shot, so the power-ups are more about extending the radius of your attacks as opposed to increasing damage. However, the increased damage output does become useful against bosses, since they obviously take more than one shot to destroy. Basically, there's only a single power-up in this game. As far as power-up systems go, SolarStriker is really boring.

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There are a mere six stages, and they're all quite plain. The first stage is set in outer space, stage two is set in the sky, stage three is set in a city, stage four is set in a canyon, stage five is set in a futuristic fortress, and stage six is set at the heart of the enemy's base. Aside from the background and types of enemies, there isn't much to differentiate one stage from another. You never have to worry about weaving past terrain in the environment, as there is none. Additionally, the enemy patterns are too similar, as most of them zigzag back and forth while shooting bullets. The third stage attempts to shake things up by having car-like enemies that restrict their movements to paved roads that are in the background, but this doesn't change much from a functional standpoint. The bosses aren't much better than the stages they inhabit, being that they just shower the screen with bullets. Everything about this game is dull.

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This game may not be terrible, but boy is it generic. Featuring bland power-ups, bland stages, and bland bosses, this has got to be one of the blandest shooters out there. Considering this game was partially designed by an innovator such as Gunpei Yokoi, it's hard to imagine how it turned out so uninspired. It's not surprising that this game never got any recognition, because it doesn't really deserve any.

Word Count: 1,021

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