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Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype – The PS3 Attitude Review

Submitted by on Wednesday, 2 June 20102 Comments

Shmups are an underrepresented genre on the PlayStation Network. Sure, there are dual-joystick shooters like Super Stardust HD available, but it’s just not the same.

In 2008, Söldner-X: Himmelssturmer hit the PSN and the reception was mixed. There was a lot of promise, but poor design choices kept the game from being great. SideQuest Studios received tons of feedback and decided to work on a sequel exclusively for the PlayStation Network.

Is Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype the classic shmup that fans have been waiting for?

Even though Shoot ’em ups don’t need a storyline, most games in the genre tend to have one. Söldner-X 2 is no exception. While it’s an appreciated effort, nobody cares about why we’re destroying countless waves of enemy ships. It’s the gameplay that matters. Thankfully, Söldner-X 2 does not disappoint.

Himmelssturmer was a very difficult game. So difficult that a beginners mode had to be patched in post-launch. For many, this was the only way to even beat the game. This is no longer an issue. Final Prototype isn’t exactly easy but you will find yourself completing the game on normal without too much frustration.

Simply put, Söldner-X 2 is nowhere near as cheap as its predecessor. You won’t find yourself trapped between walls this time and touching environments isn’t as punishing as it once was. The level design has been improved and each stage appropriately becomes more challenging and varied. Just like in the original, there is a health meter. Your ship can take multiple hits, although it’s in your best interest to avoid taking damage.

pfft, you haven't seen anything yet.

The standard difficulty modes are all present. However, there’s more to think about than just setting the game to beginner, normal, or hard (which must be unlocked). There is a ranking system that dynamically changes as you play. The more efficient you are, the higher your rank is. Your efficiency rank determines the amount of enemies and bullets on screen. This is no gimmick, you will feel the difference. If you want more action on screen, play better and you’ll get it. This is a great setup for veterans and beginners. Nobody will ever feel left out.

When you first play Söldner-X 2 only four of the seven levels are unlocked. In order to actually finish the game you will need to find keys hidden throughout each level. Your first playthrough might take about 45 minutes but this number quickly increases. Keys can be difficult to find since the requirements vary. Some keys can always be found by destroying certain enemies or obstacles, while others will appear based on rank or random chance. Despite this, hunting for keys is a lot easier this time and not tedious.

pew pew pew!

The gameplay has  changed quite significantly but it’s still familiar. The first thing you’ll notice is that there are multiple ships to pilot. The Bullfighter and Starfighter not only look different, but they have unique weapons as well. As with the first game, you can upgrade your weapons with powerups that float around the screen. This time, however, you will never feel underpowered. If you lose all your lives and use a continue you will be given tons of powerups. The amount you receive depends on the level. The further you are in the game, the more powerups you will get. It’s pretty balanced, but you still won’t be as strong as you were before the game over.

There’s a good variety of powerups this time. Aside from the shockwave bomb there’s an all new limit attack. If you need to quickly wipe out all of the enemies on the screen, that’s the attack you’ll need to use. Perhaps the most fun powerup is the chaser. Similar to the “Bits” from R-type, these helpful mini-ships will provide extra firepower automatically (they won’t take damage for you though). You can have up to four chasers equipped at once but they only follow you for a short amount of time. It’s a shame we don’t get to use those powerup more often.

The chain system from the original has been completely revamped. Instead of using your weapons and switching at the right moment, you just need to the collect rings that spawn from enemies. There is a chain energy bar that increases after every ring you obtain. Completing the meter will release a powerup. It’s similar to the idea used in the first game but the execution is so much better. There’s also a chain timer that decreases as you fire your weapons. The timer fills up after collecting rings and if you stop shooting the timer pauses. It all works very well.

Stop! He's already dead!

Söldner-X 2 rewards gamers that continuously play the game. As you find the secret keys and kill tons of enemies, your player level increases. There are 15 levels in total and you’ll receive more credits (continues) as a gift. The majority of your time will be spent in the all new Challenge Mode. Some of the challenges are simple, such as completing the first three stages without dying, but others are ridiculously difficult. Completing a challenge has various rewards. Sometimes you’ll receive a trophy, additional credits, new weapons, and there’s even a third ship that can be unlocked.

The Challenge Mode is really easy to use. If your mission is to clear the fourth level without missing any enemies, you will be warped to that level. Once you finish or fail the challenge, that’s it. You don’t need to play through the entire game or scroll through numerous menu screens. It’s very convenient, although a retry option after you fail would have been nice. Some of the challenges lock the efficiency rating and these are the most fun and frustrating. If you can’t achieve an ‘S’ rank on your own, be sure to attempt the challenge. Prepare yourself for a quick death.

You'd expect a lot of cheap deaths here, but that's not the case.

Söldner-X 2 is a constant stream of eye candy. It’s pretty awesome. Explosions look phenomenal, enemies vary in design, and the backgrounds in each level are unique and interesting. Whether you’re in an ice cave, outer space, or flying through a destroyed city, everything looks amazing.The graphics are a huge improvement over the original. This game never skips a beat even with all the destruction.

It’s not all about the visuals either. The soundtrack in this game is very good. There is never a dull moment and the tracks are really catchy. If you thought Shatter had great music, you’ll definitely enjoy what Söldner-X 2 has to offer. Nothing beats dodging bullets while listening adrenaline pumping tunes.

Sadly, not everything is overwhelmingly positive. Even though the two-player co-op mode returns, it’s still an offline only affair. This is extremely disappointing. As you would expect, there is an online leaderboard. Ever wondered how certain players got those really high scores? Wonder no more. You can watch a replay of their playthrough whenever you want. There is no privacy as long as they are on the leaderboard . It’s a bit annoying that you can’t fast forward or skip through levels. Yup, you’re forced to watch the entire playthrough.

Some bullet patterns are simple to figure out, but hitting the enemy at the same time is not as easy as it looks.

So what’s the verdict?

Söldner-X 2 is a huge improvement over the original. The level design is better, you’ll never feel like you’ve been cheaped, and the dynamic difficulty settings work. Even though there are only seven levels in the game, you will keep coming back for more. Why? Because it’s fun, rewarding, challenging, and there are so many unlockables. This is a great shmup that deserves your support. It’s just that awesome.

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