Sky Soldiers - SNK

Sky Soldiers

Reviewed by Mister Twister

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 the masses.

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 before.

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 :)~

In addition to the employment of a standard gun turret, which can be upgraded to double cannon status with a power-up gained by the annihilation of certain medium sized craft, you also have the choice between 4 very unique secondary weapon systems. They include: Missiles (80 rounds), Homing Rockets (60 rounds), Fire Ball (20 rounds), and a Buster (10 rounds). As to be expected - their respective severity is proportionate to their quantity. I usually opt for either the Missiles, or Homing Rockets however - just because it feels generally more reassuring with so many on board. For purely visual considerations - the ‘homers’ are by far and away the coolest to behold, following by the Missiles. But the Fire Ball does tend to ‘clean house’ in a hurry :)~

‘Weapons’ is spelled wrong in the pic, in case you haven’t noticed


Thanks for that review man! Lovely stuff. Time travel... an interesting thing to have in a shootie. Radiant Silvergun and Gekirindan both do the time travel thing too. It opens a lot of oppurtunities for original gameplay and graphical flair, and if it's done right, it can be very good fun. Sky Soldiers has that same execution that Silvergun and Gekirindan have, and the gameplay shines through it's obvious age. Lovely stuff. - Felix the Cat


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