Also available on Aleck 64
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 03/29/2020 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth is one of the later entries in the Star Soldier series of shmups, and this is a series that I’m quite a fan of. The NES port of Star Soldier was one of the first games I had growing up as a kid, so the series definitely has a special place in my heart. It’s unfortunate, then, that this N64 entry proved to be such a major disappointment for me.
Being developed by Hudson, you’d be forgiven for going into Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth as I did with pretty lofty expectations. I mean, Hudson is no small-time developer especially back in the 90s. They alone were reason enough to own a TurboGrafx-16 with games like Ys, Star Parodier, and Lords of Thunder to name a few. It’s kind of like playing Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, and Super Metroid before going to Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival. How could such an objectively talented and accomplished studio produce such a depressingly disappointing game?
While story is rarely a big driving force in arcade shmups, even by those standards, Vanishing Earth is okay at best. Some aliens launched an overwhelming attack on the Earth, and a small group of defenders has to fight them off. That’s it. That’s the story. I mean, yeah, that’s the basic story of like 75% of the shmups out there, and I’m probably a little overly cynical because of how meh the whole game is, but there’s legit nothing that sets it apart from the crowd. The audio is similarly forgettable. The music’s okay, and the robot voicing when the bosses approach is interesting, but again, this is the studio that gave us Lords of Thunder. My expectations were higher. The gameplay is slow and cumbersome. Your ship feels like it’s swimming through jelly, not flying through space. Your lasers do autofire if you hold the A button, but there’s a delay between when you press the button and when they start auto-firing. Because of that, I seriously played through the first three of the game’s seven levels smashing the A button repeatedly before I realized that I just had to hold it down for a couple of seconds to get it to start shooting more than once.
Pretty much the only aspect of the game that wasn’t a massive disappointment for me was the visuals. It didn’t blow my mind, but it does look pretty good for the Nintendo 64. The ships are all well modeled and animated, and the enemy attacks are usually pretty clear to see with the exception of a few awkwardly animated boss attacks. Unfortunately, impressive visuals aren’t enough to redeem its dime-a-dozen story, mediocre sound design, sluggish controls, and so-so presentation.
Unfortunately, almost all of Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth is a massive disappointment. The game looks quite nice, but that’s about as far as the compliments go. It’s a shame, too, because the Star Soldier series deserved better, and Hudson was capable of so much better. Every studio has its duds, and this was one hell of a dud for Hudson. If you have a Nintendo 64 emulator on your PC or an Everdrive 64 cartridge, it might be worth checking out if you’re a fan of Star Soldier like I am just to say that you experienced it, but don’t get your hopes up, and definitely don’t spend any money on this. It’s just not worth the letdown.