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Featured Review

If ever you''re short of a storyline for a game, there''s always the old sci-fi mainstay, that of a bloodthirsty alien invasion fleet headed for Earth with just one tiny spacecraft and loads of power-ups to stop them.

The invasion in this case comes in the form of a huge robot fleet, led by a small pink crystal... Well this is a Japanese game, so you should pretty much expect it to be weird!

Fans of 3-D games are going to be disappointed to learn that Star Soldier isn''t particularly three-dimensional. Instead, the game resorts to what has to be one of the most successful video game genres ever, the 2-D scrolling shoot-''em-up.

In the ''good old days'' of video gaming, barely a week went by without one of these being released onto an eager public, and as a rule, they were usually pretty successful. With this in mind, it''s surprising that it''s taken this long for the first to arrive on the N64.

At first look, Star Soldier certainly seems promising. It''s smooth and colourful, with three heavily armed craft to choose from and a multitude of murderous alien robots to take on. As you blast through the first level you''ll find yourself thinking "Yeah, this is what it''s all about!" That''s until you suddenly finish the game.

For it''s here that Star Soldier really falls down. There are only six levels in the game, and each level is very short, at least by traditional shoot-''em-up standards.

This is compounded by the problem of the difficulty level. It''s far too easy, at least in ''beginner'' mode. Okay, that may sound a little obvious, but you don''t expect to finish a game in half an hour, no matter what the difficulty setting! Although the ''master'' setting provides more of a challenge, the only way that it differs from beginner is that you get fewer lives, fewer power-ups, the enemies take more hits to kill and their gunfire is heavier. The levels themselves are exactly the same. This means that if you''ve inadvertently played through all the way on beginner (the default setting) then there''s not really any incentive to continue.

Other essential elements are missing, too. Although there are three different ships to choose from and each ship has a primary weapon, a secondary weapon and a super weapon, there are no other weapons. Power-ups simply boost the power of your primary armament, turning one laserbolt into ten. There is no bolt-on weaponry, and this is pretty much a necessity in a shoot-''em-up.

The real disappointment though is that the game is only one player. There is absolutely no excuse for this. As the game is viewed top-down and uses forced scrolling, you could easily have two players on the same screen. Come to that, why not four?

If you''ve been desperately seeking that essential vertically scrolling shoot-''em-up then it''s well worth at least giving Star Soldier a glance, but only if you completely ignore the easier difficulty modes and only play it on ''master'' level. It''s simple to play, with some nice backgrounds and effects and some really huge end-of-level bad guys (who unfortunately can be toasted in about ten seconds). However, there''s not really enough here to warrant getting particularly excited, and it has to be said that Star Soldier isn''t half as good as many 16-bit shoot-''em-ups that you can probably pick up for about a tenner these days, complete with console! We really need one of these games for the N64 -- just not this one.

Rating: 7 of 10

Author: Roy Kimber