Thursday, January 18, 2024

Solar Striker (Game Boy, 1990)


Basically the Space Megaforce of the Game Boy, this is a vertical shoot 'em up that plays very well for the system it inhabits. It's yet another game from the Game Boy Player's Guide, which I'm pretty close to playing / covering everything from at this point. Also, little-known factoid: This game was directly produced by Gunpei Yokoi and developed by a Nintendo studio. You don't see many Nintendo space shooters flying around.

Gunpei Yokoi? More like Gunplay Yokoi, am I right? I'll show myself out.

Player's Guide coverage. This being a Nintendo developed game explains why it got primo space in this book, despite being a fairly unassuming game. Also, check out how cool they made the game look.

Worth noting is how the stages start out in space, then arrive on the planet and converge on the enemy base. Most shooters start on Earth and then go out into space, not the other way around.

And here it is! Solar Striker! There's...not too much to it. You fire these piddly tic tac shaped bullets and fly around.

We get our first glimpse of the villains of the game: Flies. Yes, giant flies are invading.

...or maybe you're the aggressor and the stages are in reverse because you're attacking their planet? Well, the news says they're the bad guys, so I'm doing my part!

First boss. Big Core, this ain't, and it fires spread shots in sets of 3.

If you get a couple of weapon powerup capsules, you get a double bullet. Get a couple more and it becomes a triple bullet, seen here. Get a couple more capsules from there, and...

The final shot upgrade is a double plasma shot. Funnily enough Super Metroid does this same thing: Most people's upgrade path is getting a triple shot with the Spazer, then a much stronger double shot with the Plasma+Wave.

And well...that's it for powerups in this game. If you get hit, you lose a life and downgrade one level of weapon. At least you stay right where you are though. Lose all your lives and it's back to the beginning, which is a trope that I'm so glad is dead in the modern era. Luckily this is only six levels, and about a half hour of gameplay tops, so getting to the end on one set of lives is very doable. Gives that half hour some longevity at least, could see people taking quite a few hours to down this game the first time.

Second boss is some sort of dreadnought fighter that's way bigger and badder than your ship. The main thing with this fight is that it likes to move down to the bottom of the screen and hover around there to fire at you from behind, which the first boss never figured out how to do. This makes it more like a dogfight.

Stage 3 is "City". Whose City? Swerve's City?

No, not Swerve's, not sure if this is Earth or like, the alien planet or something. This definitely looks like Earth though.

This is where the difficulty begins to noticeably tick upwards, with enemies taking more than one hit and being more numerous. The key with this game is to hold onto the double plasma shot as long as you can. In any case, here's the third boss, some sort of tank-dozer that shoots fast straight lasers.

There are a few recurring minibosses in this game, like this quad-pod where each section has its own HP and can be destroyed separately. This game really could have used some smart bombs or any other powerup besides weapon increases. It's the Space Megaforce of the Game Boy, but it's like a proto-proto-Proto Space Megaforce.

The stage four boss is the toughest one yet, and absolutely rains shots across the screen that fly in all kinds of erratic patterns. As a kid, I know I could have gotten this far, but I guarantee this thing would have ended me. It's straight-up unfair.

The good news is that every boss in this game has a "safe zone" somewhere onscreen where it can't hit you, and if you fight a boss long enough they'll fly off and leave you alone. So if you know the safe zones (the guide helps a lot here) you can camp out and wait for the boss to leave. In this case the safe zone was on the right side of the area. This boss was so bad that I had to do that. Easily the nastiest fight in this entire game.

After that nightmare, Stage 5 and 6 are breezes. Kind of an interesting miniboss here, it's four gun pods that separate from each other and fly back together again, all firing independently (and with their own individual HP, so you can take out one of the middle ones and they'll have issues re-forming).

5th boss is another rain of bullet hell type boss, but at least it doesn't move and its shots aren't erratic. I actually won this one!

Stage 6 is very short and has you fighting all the minibosses again, like this pod thing and the quad-gun. Get past all of them (they're all pretty easy) and it's on to...

...the Fly King! Not to worry, it's one of the easier fights in the game. Pretty cool design for a boss, I remember seeing this in the guide.

There's a safe spot here too and it's slightly off-center so you can attack from there, as if the fight wasn't easy enough. The difficulty of this game is pretty weird with the big spikes being the satellite boss and the wall of cannons.

With the universe saved from the Fly Army or whatever, our hero blasts off from the alien base.

The mothership for my fighter is pretty bad-ass. Too bad we couldn't play as this thing. Looks like it should be housing a bunch of Colonial Marines.

And uh...that's it for this one. Another brief shooter. Takes like 20 minutes if you don't die. Not a lot to this one, but it plays well and Gunpei Yokoi was behind it. That's enough for it to be worth noting.

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