When discussing the classics hidden within the ever-increasing depths of the PlayStation Network, one of the first names on the list is Housemarque’s Super Stardust HD. The gorgeous, twin-stick shooter is, or at least should be, a staple of everyone’s gaming catalog, showcasing some of the most deliciously stunning graphics infused with a defined art style, a mightily engrossing “one-more-time” philosophy and gameplay that, in its genre, is second-to-none.
Fitting then, that such a title should make its way to the palm of your hands in the form of the PlayStation Vita. Whilst it’s by no means a simple port, the familiarity of the franchise is unmissable in Super Stardust Delta. It controls, looks and plays just like its PlayStation 3 brethren, which is exactly what fans of the series would’ve hoped for. Rather than being a hard-and-fast migration from platform-to-platform, Delta has undergone a few changes to both suit the new hardware, and a slightly different play style. It’s hard to argue that it has been slightly trimmed, however, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The trio of weapons has been reduced to a duo, with the ‘fire’ and ‘ice’ guns the remaining choices. Not that it’s a problem though, consider it more a consolidation and tightening of the games mechanics than the stripping of content, as in all fairness that’s exactly what it feels like. Removing the necessity to cycle through weapons at an alarming rate is dispelled and a more focused and tactical scenario is what is left.
Essentially replacing the lack of content in the form of primary weapons come in the form of the Special Attacks. No longer just the deadly and often life-saving bomb – which still makes an appearance – an additional two attacks are included amongst the same pool of Special Attack numbers. Therefore, it doesn’t matter which of the attacks you use, as each will eat up your available stock; so whether you want to fire off a radial burst of missiles or perhaps a tiny but deadly black hole is entirely up to you.
As previously mentioned, the constant cycling between weapons would be detrimental to your chances of survival in Delta for it is as fast and frantic as ever. Whether it’s obliterating asteroids, weaving amongst debris, or putting an end to your enemy, you’ll always be on the move. There is little to no difference between attack and defence as you dodge attacks whilst firing to clear a path to escape on onrushing horde of enemies.
With the ‘fire’ weapon spewing a snake-esque stream of devastation to destroy any of your more maroon inclined foes, and the ‘ice’ weapon firing a barrage of frosty blue bullets to take out the cooler creatures and rocks, weapon choice is key to ensuring a swift and efficient elimination of your target from your sight. Using the wrong one renders your attacks far weaker and can be the difference between life, which you have in a limited supply, and death. Boost is essentially the same as in HD, although it begins with a slow-motion effect before hitting top gear and shooting you through whatever was in your way.
There are two play style modes: Delta and Pure. The former including the use of touch, motion and button controls – in addition to the new black hole, missiles and slo-mo boost features, with the latter implementing a more classic approach – with just button controls and no new features.
The Delta play style obviously eludes to the use of some of Vita’s motion controls. By tilting the device you can peak around the spherical arena to grant a new perspective, or shaking the device activates a bomb. Whilst both are implemented well, given the high-octane pace that Delta is played at they can often interfere with gameplay and can easily distract your hardened focus. Thankfully though, all of the controls are highly customisable so you can have the setup best suited for you.
There is a distinct lack of options when it comes to the modes though. The primary Arcade mode runs through the five planets – which each have five stages – as you battle through the landing asteroids and defeating all enemies that dare to cross your path, all in the name of achieving a high score. At the end of each planet there’s the obligatory boss battle, which thankfully are all wonderfully designed and work brilliantly in the context of the mechanics. Alternatively, the Planets mode allows you to tackle just a single planet (proving it’s been beaten already) with the goal once again being achieving a high score. Leaderboards are present and help add that addictive aspect that Stardust has always excelled at.
Other than that, there’s a few mini-games which attempt to utilise the different controls that the Vita has. Whether that’s crushing rocks using both the rear touch pad and the front touch screen or using the gyroscopic controls to target waves of enemies, the mini-games are exactly that, and whilst they provide brief entertainment, they don’t offer anything in terms of prolonged enjoyment.
Although it does seemingly skimp on the game modes somewhat, more are purchasable in the form of DLC which does allow the spreading of costs, and given the basic cost, it’s a cracking price for such a superb game. With a gorgeous appearance, cracking soundtrack, and gameplay that is nearly unmatched, Super Stardust Delta is an ideal title for any PlayStation Vita owner. It’s gameplay suits both quick spurts of game time as well as prolonged sessions, whilst making sufficient use of the Vita’s inputs, to complete a thoroughly enjoyable and well valued experience.