We’ve reviewed Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype before. It came out in 2015 but was itself a port of the original 2010 PS3 release. As with the Vita version, this combines the original PS3 game and its DLC but, slightly protracted history aside, the game is a 2D shoot ’em up, very much in the classic arcade tradition of games like R-Type and Gradius.
Reviewing it now is slightly odd as this the same game that we reviewed before. The levels are the same, the ships are the same. We’re not quite sure what makes this game definitive as all it seems to add is a gallery mode for those of you who want to look at still images for some mad reason. But rather than point you at the Vita review, let’s go over it again.
So, yes. This is a shoot ’em up. You fly your ship towards the right of the screen, destroying enemies that drift in. They’ll either try to shoot or crash into you and your defence is basically a good offence, which is to say that you need to blast them out of the play area before they can bring any harm to you. That is, of course, the basic formula for these things so what makes Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype different?
Well firstly, the game gets the basics right. The controls are responsive and intuitive, you put out formidable firepower which is balanced out by how many enemies there are and the game offers a clever scoring system and plenty of upgrades. That’s all you really need from a shoot ’em up and Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype gets that stuff right for the most part but, as we’ve said before, there is also some complexity which is a blessing and a curse.
When you first play through the main campaign, you’ll likely play four stages and then the game ends relatively abruptly. To unlock the next stage, you have to pick up four keys from every stage before it. That’s a bit of a faff for two reasons, firstly they aren’t always apparent and easy to find and, more importantly, some are linked to your in-game ranking. We’ll get back to that. But anyway, that means you end up playing and replaying the game quite a few times. Each level is quite long too and so it can feel a bit repetitive.
There are ultimately ten levels, seven from the main game and the three DLC levels that are now included. Once you beat level 7, the remaining levels unlock as you reach them. And with each level being between five and ten minutes long, there’s quite a bit of game here. We prefer our shoot ’em ups to err on the shorter side of things but Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype isn’t too long, although it can drag a little.
The ranking system is quite clever. By destroying enemies, avoiding damage and keeping your chain combo going (which you do by regularly picking up rings that enemies drop) you can increase your ranking from a lowly G all the way to S. As your rank improves, the game gets a little more difficult. Enemies become more aggressive and will start shooting a bit more frequently. It’s not a bad system but it is one that will cater to the hardcore shoot ’em up fans rather than normal people like you and I. Some keys only appear at a B ranking and then can have a percentage chance of spawning, so you’ll end up playing this over and over trying to find them all.
Along with the various levels of difficulty settings, this does mean that Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype has a challenge to suit most players. Very casual shoot ’em players may find the later stages to be pretty taxing though, even on the easiest setting and boss battles can be a little bit lengthy and arduous. The game also offers a heap of challenge modes that require you to play various stages again but under different conditions, asking you to keep a high rank, destroy a set number of enemies and other tasks that also increase the game’s replayability.
This all means that Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype offers a lot of value for money and people looking to master it will have weeks worth of work ahead of them. We’re already quite addicted, losing hours to some of the challenges and generally wishing we had better thumbs.
Thankfully, the game is still a joy to play. The action is constant and satisfying and speaks to us as fans of arcade shooters. Sure, there’s probably a bit too much going on with all that comboing and the game’s ludicrous amount of power-ups, of which very few really do much to benefit you meaningfully, but the core action is great and this aided by the game’s graphics which get a hi-def touch up and benefit from a solid 60FPS framerate.
While the levels themselves are a little bit devoid of character, they all look great and the bosses are suitably massive and imposing. And of much of the screen is full of your firepower which at least makes you feel a little badass.
This is pretty much exactly what we said before though. This is the same game that we reviewed before but we actually prefer it on PS4. Sure, the game looked great on the Vita’s delightful OLED screen but it looks damn nice on a 50 inch 4K television too. Indeed this is still one of the best looking shoot ’em ups on the PS4, with only Resogun and a few others outshining it. That speaks to what a good game this was ten years ago and how a good shoot ’em up is something of a timeless thing. But in this age of faux 8-bit, pixel art laziness, any game with presentation like this will always get props. The music, sound effects and voice acted lines are all good too and give the game the feeling that plenty of work and pride were put into it.
So while it can drag a bit and requires you to play it over and over (at least if you want its elusive platinum) we’re suckers for a good shoot ’em up and this is in fact a very good shoot ’em up. We originally gave the Vita version a 7 but we’re really digging into the game on PS4 because it is better suited to the big screen and we’re now beating challenges that we struggled with so we’re looking at a 8 instead but either way this is a very good shoot ’em up.