Yikes! I can’t believe my eyes here
- do I see an 80’s manic shooter, hybridized with elements of retro-gaming
simply no longer seen these days? Well - you would not be mistaken
in echoing those very thoughts. I must concede - this shmup really
stunned my senses for being so far ahead of its time, in many ways
- yet did not forget what made aerial shooters so captivating to
So, just why exactly was it an early example of what was to follow
in the 90’s era? Well - very simply put - on-screen frenzy baby!
I mean - here I was, planning to partake in perhaps a leisurely/relaxing/short
little game to pass the time in between my surfing addiction ;)~
That was my first mistake :) For little did I know how intense AND
lengthy this jewel was. Wow - be prepared to invest a solid 45 minutes
at a minimum - perhaps longer. There’s no way I could do justice
in relaying to you how fast and furious it becomes. Additionally
- the on-screen bullet count was quite high for a 13 year old vertical
scroller. This really hung my jaw open, without question.
Before I discuss the pros and cons - I shall briefly describe its
essence & story-line.
You are an ace pilot sent to do battle in several 20th century wars
throughout the globe - from the advent of the very first biplane,
up until the future itself. These conflicts include locations such
as Germany, France, Great Britain, Vietnam, Russia, and Outer Space.
And only ‘air enemy’ is encountered, and can be fired upon/destroyed.
Unlike many in this category - it is simply devoid of all ground
targets. So no tanks, buildings, water vessels, radar stations etc
to destroy are included. Now here’s the ‘Twist’ ;) - you do not
start out in one early time period and sequentially advance through
the various eras. Oh no. Since the fighter craft possesses the sophisticated
technology of time-warping, you shift back and forth (seemingly
at random) through the decades, battling it out in steps to finally
complete any specific conflict, and destroy the boss. This, I must
say, is rather unique - and I’ve never encountered this feature
So, let’s start with the pluses shall we? By far and away, the most
exceptional feature to Sky Soldiers - is the unbelievable variety
of warplanes present. Nothing could possibly supplant it in this
regard. I mean, whoever was responsible for selecting & designing
these aircraft, really did their homework here. And I was shocked
silly at the sheer beauty of it all. It’s definitely a vintage warplane
aficionado’s dream come true. This is clearly is crowning glory
- and about the only other game I have seen that even approaches
it, is 19xx in that regard. (which contains a similar overall theme
btw) But Sky Soldiers offers much more than even this one, not to
mention more depth/quantity of levels included.
Secondly - the sheer volume of bosses present is awe-inspiring.
SNK sure knows how to scare the bajeezus out of ya ;)~ These suckers
are monstrous in size - and are merciless, but not by any means
impossible. The whole trick to conquering them, is to take out their
several ‘targets’ located strategically on each one. Simply firing
away at any spot on these ‘megaplanes’ is pointless. The shots must
be carefully aimed in order to find their ‘spot’. That’s what the
whole challenge is - and I have to admit - it works very, very well
in contributing to the ‘fun factor’.
Thirdly - another bonus is the gorgeous scenery present in the background.
The artistry is brilliant - and pays wonderful homage to the 2D
concept. I always marvel at the ridiculous & painstaking amount
of work that goes into such a feat. Respect is easily given, when
one experiences this visual delight for themselves.
And the final plus, would have to be the ‘coolness’ of your secondary
weapon. Nope - no super duper megabomb blast involved here - which
would clean out the entire screen - and for which you’d only have
perhaps 1-3 in your arsenal. What they have done - is provide a
choice of 4 different secondary weapon systems with a moderate quantity
of rounds - depending upon the strength of the one selected (anywhere
from 10 - 80). Also - this game gives you the option to choose the
one desired - after completion of each stage. I will more fully
describe their characteristics in the screenshots section.
And now - onto the somewhat minor, minus points involved. I must
say - that the music could have been much more intense, bad-ass,
and ‘catchy’ sounding. I adore shmups with memorable tunes - and
this one was really lacking in that regard. Its melodies were far
too tame in my humble opinion, felt a little out of place, and simply
didn’t suit the mania present here. Not that the tunes were irritating
or distracting in any way - but it just didn’t fit right. One could
easily shove them into a ‘cute-em-up’ quite successfully. So I’ll
have to demerit 10% in my overall score for that shortcoming.
Its second deficiency involves the speed of your ship. Just a touch
too slow/sluggish for the craziness involved. A minor speed-up would
have done wonders to add enhancement of game-play here. It’s not
a glaring issue - as say Gradius/Nemesis would be - lol - but it
does become noticeable, especially in some levels where the enemy
bullet speed is ridiculous on the best of days ;)~
And finally, the game-ending was pretty mediocre here, to my chagrin.
I mean, doing all that work just to see a very brief conclusion,
was a tad aggravating. The very little it did show, was cool though
(see screenshots). Unfortunately there simply wasn’t enough of it.
But I cannot be overly harsh - since many shmups of that time period
just never paid much careful attention to the fact. And to this
day - I am at a loss to explain it. Not enough credence in the gaming
industry was paid to that magical moment when victory occurs. Hey,
for the amount of cash needed to do battle of this magnitude - I
wanna see one hell of a fireworks show afterwards :)~
So all things considered - I’d still greatly recommend this treasure
by SNK. It isn’t perfect, but the many pluses easily outweigh the
few minuses. I’m extremely delighted to have had the opportunity
to review Sky Soldiers - and anyone who doesn’t give it a go, is
missing out on something special here. Two thumbs up all the way