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Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype review for PS Vita


Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS3
Publisher: EastAsiaSoft
Developer: SideQuest Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Leaderboards
ESRB: E

If there’s one thing Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype does well, it’s boss fights. There’s just something that feels so right about reaching the end of a level and coming up against an enemy who fills up almost half the screen. Whether you’re squaring off against a giant head, a giant flying robot, or…well, a different-looking giant head/robot, Söldner-X 2 knows how to make a level’s ending seem epic, even if you’re playing it on the Vita’s smaller screen. You just get an undeniable sense of satisfaction from beating something so enormous.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing I’d say that Söldner-X 2 does well. Which isn’t to say that it does everything else poorly, of course. I don’t think there’s any part of the game for which “bad” could be used as an adjective. But if you’re looking for areas in which the game goes beyond being your standard shoot-’em-up and into the realm of something special, it’s basically that one area and nowhere else.

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This is evident in every area of the game. Take the graphics. As I said, the bosses look incredible, and when you reach one, there’s no questioning whether you’ve reached a level’s big bad because they look so wonderfully distinctive. The thing is, everything leading up to that point looks really bland by comparison, with interchangeable enemies and environments that rush by in a nondescript blur. Obviously, they don’t need to be amazing works of art, since the whole point of a shmup is constant movement (which generally means you don’t get to stick around in one area long enough to really notice how things look), but it still feels like they could’ve worked a little bit harder on making the first 85% of each level at least come close to that final 15%.

Or look at the weapons. They work as they should, in that they fire straight and they blow up enemy spaceships. But that’s about the extent of what you get; you’re not going to start jumping up and down with glee about getting some particularly awesome cannon or anything. The laser might be a little more enjoyable to use than the other weapons, since it’s fun to just send a constant beam of death all over the place in front of you, but still, considering we’re talking about a game where “shoot” is right in the genre’s name, the firepower feels a little lacklustre.

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The place in which this is the most obvious, though, is the overall feel of the game (for lack of a better description). There’s no real weight to any of your ship’s movements — nor, for that matter, is there any real sense of movement. Whereas a game like Sine Mora — the Vita’s best shmup, as far as I’m concerned — made you feel like you were flying through space, Söldner-X 2 never figures out how convey that feeling. The backgrounds don’t change enough, picking up power-ups never feels momentous enough, and getting hit by enemy fire doesn’t rattle you enough. I understand that it’s inherently impossible for Vita games to have the same sort of tactile feedback you get from a rumbling DualShock 3, but at the same time, if a game like Sine Mora (or even the vastly inferior Big Sky Infinity) can do it, there’s no reason why Söldner-X 2 shouldn’t be able to as well.

Still, those boss fights — those incredible, epic boss fights. However blah the lead-up to them may be, once you reach one it’s easy to forget how middling everything that came before it may have been. And really, if you’re going to deliver, you may as well make it in the one place everyone is sure to notice. It may mean that you’ll have to suffer through some pretty mediocre lulls, but Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype knows how to make it worth your while in the long run.

Grade: B