After the success of Super Star Soldier, Hudson Soft decided to give the 2D shooter genre another crack with Soldier Blade. Soldier Blade may not break any new ground in the overhead vertical shooter genre, but that doesn't mean it's not a whole lot of fun. Like its predecessor, Soldier Blade is an exciting 2D shooter that manages to get just about everything right. It's not too hard, it's not too repetitive, and there are plenty of cool looking bosses to take out. It may not hit all of the high notes that the previous games hit, but it's a worthy sequel to one of the system's best shooters.
While 2D shooters are notorious for being simple minded, they are also punishingly difficult for new players. They seem to revolve around the idea that you are able to memorize enemy patterns and don't mind starting over when you inevitably die. But that's not the case with Soldier Blade. This is a much less grueling experience, the type of shooter that just about anybody can get into. You won't have to memorize seven levels of enemy patterns or start over when you die, you can just have a good time blasting away bad guys and starting right where you left off when you die.
But just because the game is easier that doesn't mean that it's any less intense. Sure there will be some shooter fans who dismiss this game entirely because it's not R-Type hard, but what's the fun of making a game so difficult that almost nobody can beat your shooter? No matter where you come down on this debate, Soldier Blade is an exciting shooter that just about everybody should check out.
The game is split up into seven different levels, each with their own cool backgrounds, mini bosses and regular boss characters. This time around you get a little helper ship, not unlike the shadow characters you earn in Ninja Spirit. This ship shoots when you do, it is able to withstand enemy fire, and it gives you a powerful (and very useful) special attack that you can use when you get into a bad situation. This new shadow character really adds a lot to how you play the game and really makes this game feel different from the previous games in the series.
Also new is the weapon system. You have a choice between three different weapons, a laser-like weapon that shoots in three directions, your traditional bullets, and a weapon that shoots out blades. Each of these weapons can be upgraded by collecting more of that item, making all three of these shots quite effective. Best of all, you don't need to get rid of your weapons when you pick up a new one. When you pick up a different weapon it stores your last one, that way if you decide you don't want it you can use your special attack and get rid of it, allowing you to use one of the other weapons. You can store up to three weapons, which means that if you're having trouble with a boss you can just pull out three different special attacks to help you out. The weapons are plentiful in this game, so having adequate fire power shouldn't be a problem.
The controls are nice and simple, too. The ship is easy to navigate and it's clear which button does what. One of the things I liked about the control scheme was that it allowed for you to change the speed of your ship at a moment's notice, so you aren't always stuck on slow or fast (like some 2D shooters). Outside of that there is nothing remarkable about the controls, but they do a good job of complimenting this great game.
Also good are the graphics, which at the time were quite impressive. The background graphics are solid and diverse and the enemies are all pretty cool looking. I also like the art direction for the level bosses; they are all large spaceships that are a lot of fun to take down. I suppose one could complain that everything you're shooting at in this game appears to be spaceships and other flying objects, but I personally love where they are taking this space shooter, it feels more natural than a lot of the games that have you battling large alien creatures in the middle of space.
Soldier Blade does a good job of adding onto what was a great foundation. While this isn't as original as the previous games in the series, Soldier Blade is definitely one of the best shooters on the TurboGrafx-16. If you're the type of person who wants to love this genre but hates the grueling difficulty then this is a good place to start. Some hardcore fans may not enjoy the game's relatively easy game play, but I wouldn't mind more shooters to be like this little gem. It may be old, but the game play in this game is timeless.