It’s been nearly five years since Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype arrived in the US for the PlayStation 3, but that isn’t stopping developer Eastasiasoft from bringing the game to the Vita. I liked it a lot back then, so let’s see how time and the move to the small screen have affected my enjoyment of it.
In terms of handling, X2 is buttery smooth as your ship glides around the constantly scrolling screen to mow down enemies, dodge incoming projectiles and scoop up rings and power ups. Its setup is smartly done, utilizing the face buttons for primary fire (you’ll be holding down “X” the vast majority of the time) and a pair of powerful attacks that build up as you fill your chain meter. You can also switch through your primary fire options with the shoulder buttons. There is no touch screen implementation.
Visually, the game’s colorful mix of 3D backgrounds and 2D sprites for ships and enemies looks even prettier on the Vita’s OLED screen. Its screen-filling tendencies can make it tougher to track objects, however, which seems counterintuitive since things are condensed, but upon firing up the PS3 version I definitely found it easier to use my peripheral vision for visual multitasking. Still, there’s no doubt it’s a pretty game. Conversely, music and voice acting are forgettable.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Soldner-X 2 is that it’s accessible to gamers of almost any skill level (even those that have struggled with side-scrolling shooters in the past) and yet highly challenging at the same time. That’s because beyond traditional difficulty settings, the game also has a dynamic ranking system in place that adjusts based on how well (or poorly) you’re playing. Keep getting hit? Look for the game to compensate by sending fewer enemies at you. Breezing through the level and killing everything in sight? Expect an onslaught.
There are seven levels in all, though only the first four are available from the beginning. To access the last three stages you’ll need to find several hidden keys. Each level contains five of them, though only four are required to move on. This built in treasure hunt all but ensures you’ll replay these levels at least a few times before unlocking the complete game and witnessing the true ending.
Beyond that you also have additional challenges, difficulty settings, weapons and a third ship you can unlock. Advancing gives you additional credits (read: continues) to use during gameplay. It’s all nicely set up and gives those that enjoy the core gameplay plenty of reasons to keep playing. Do keep in mind, though, that there’s less than an hour of truly original content in the main game, so if you get bored quickly with repetition that could be an issue.
If you can part with an extra $3 you’ll net the “Complete Bundle,” which includes The Last Chapter DLC consisting of three additional levels and more than a dozen new challenges. Granted, it feels a little odd not to just automatically bundle the DLC the way so many secondary editions do, but considering the asking price and the fact that it increases the level total to 10 it’s worth shelling the few extra bucks to enjoy all that the game has to offer.
Even though Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype is the same game it was five years ago, when we scored it a bit higher, some of its limitations felt more pronounced this time around — perhaps based on how much I played the original. That being said, if you’re looking for a quality shmup on your Vita then this should fit the bill nicely.