Review: Super StarDust Delta (PSV)
Title: Super StarDust Delta
Format: PlayStation Network Download (216 MB)
Release Date: February 22, 2012
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Original MSRP: $9.99 / DLC: $7.99 / Bundle $14.99
ESRB Rating: E
Super StarDust Delta is exclusive to the PlayStation Vita.
The bundle version was used for this review.
Super StarDust HD was one of the earliest and best received PlayStation Network games released for the PlayStation 3. Across it’s lifetime, it received three DLC packs, added stereoscopic 3D support, and became the first game to add in trophy support. Nearly five years after its release, Housemarque is back with a sequel for Sony’s brand new platform: the PlayStation Vita. The new sequel brings back many of the game modes from it’s bigger screen brother, while adding on a plethora of touch and gyro based mini games and modes designed from the ground up for the Vita. With online leader boards that inspire competition, numerous modes, and addictive gameplay, Super StarDust Delta is the premier downloadable PlayStation Network title for the Vita.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 256 of the podcast.
Like many other downloadable twin-stick shooters, Super StarDust Delta relies heavily on two analog sticks to simultaneously control your ship and fire your weapons. Thanks to the Vita’s dual analog sticks, Delta plays like an absolute dream on the handheld. The player uses the left analog stick to maneuver the ship, while the right stick controls the direction of fire. Unlike previous iterations of the game, Delta reduces the number of shot types from three to just two, eliminating the rock crusher from the PS3 version. The ship also has boosting powers, shields, bombs, black holes, and missiles, allowing the player to destroy enemy waves in many different ways. The result is a focused and more refined weapon upgrade system, allowing the player to develop upgrades faster and more efficiently. If you’re a StarDust veteran, you will feel right at home with Delta.
Included in the base game are only two modes: arcade and planet. With arcade mode, you play through all five of the planets sequentially in order to unlock higher difficulty modes and mini-games. Planet mode allows you to choose a specific planet that you have played on and play though that, in order to compete for a high score. In addition to the two base modes, five mini-games are included: Crush, Disc Slide, Orbit Bomber, Rock & Roll, and Trucker. Each of these games add a unique spin to Delta, allowing touch screen, gyro, and other Vita features to take precedence. The games are adapted to use the unique features of the Vita, and they work very well. Though they may come off as small side parts of the game, many of these mini-games have kept me coming back for more.
The DLC for Delta adds four more modes to the base game: Endless, Bomber, Impact, and Twin-Gun. Endless plays just like it sounds; the player fights through randomly generated attack waves and lasts as long as they can. Bomber removes all weapons except bombs from the player. Impact only allows you to boost through enemies. The standout mode here is Twin-Gun, using both analog sticks to aim two different weapons. With the left analog stick now being used for weapons, movement is put on the gyroscope inside the Vita, forcing the player to adapt to a new control style. The DLC adds a lot to the base game, and to be honest, the base game feels incomplete without the DLC installed. Take my advice: buy the bundle up front in order to save the money.
What Super StarDust Delta succeeds at is its addictive gameplay. Menus load quickly, games are smooth and quick, and friend’s high scores are always presented next to each game mode. The game requires little to no explanation, making it extremely easy to pick up. What starts off as “just one more level” can easily turn into hours of score chasing, trophy hunting, and mini-game playing. By being a PlayStation Network Download, Delta is always available from your memory card, making it really easy to jump in and play. Everything about this game oozes polish, and on top of all that, it’s just downright fun.
Super StarDust HD on the PS3 was no slacker when it came to visuals. It ran at full 1080P and 60 FPS (when not in 3D mode, 3D bumps it down to 720P / 60 FPS), making it one of the best looking downloadable games for the system. Super StarDust Delta lives up to the pedigree of the StarDust name; this is one fantastic looking game on the Vita. The game’s frame rate is rock solid, and it looks almost identical to it’s big console brother. Yes, it doesn’t look exactly the same, but it’s extremely impressive for a handheld. Colors pop on the OLED screen, and there is no ghosting or screen-tearing. There are no graphical hiccups or slowdowns at all, making the visuals of this game absolutely rock solid. Each planet looks unique, making arcade mode a visual treat to play through. It’s a shame that all of the mini-games use the same planet. It makes it hard to discern the visual style from one mini-game to the next.
The real star of the audio in Super StarDust Delta is the soundtrack. Not content with just giving players one soundtrack, developer Housemarque decided to throw in four unique soundtracks: Delta, Orchestral, Arcade, and Retro. The standard Delta one stands out in my book, but each of the soundtracks are well composed enough to make their inclusion worth while. One of the unique features of the game involves how you unlock the soundtrack. Rather than just unlocking them through game progress, players unlock new tracks through the Vita’s near functionality. By picking up tracks left by other players, you can unlock additional songs for each of the soundtracks. The somewhat random element to unlocking the soundtracks can be frustrating, but its a nice little touch. Players also have the ability to use any soundtrack that they want for the game, thanks to the Vita’s built-in music player. Other than the soundtrack, the rest of the game is up to par. Explosions sound great, bullets fire at a rapid pace, and the atmosphere of space and alien ships is conveyed well. There’s nothing here that will blow you away, but what is here is fantastic.
There is no online multiplayer for this title, but the game does include leaderboards for every planet, mini-game, mode, and difficulty. These leaderboards are constantly updated, giving players ample motivation to compete for the next high score.
Overall, Super StarDust Delta is a worthy successor to the PS3 port. Yes, more features could have been added, but that would be nitpicking. The game handles like a dream, has more modes than ever (with the included DLC), plays great music, integrates well with the PlayStation Network, and takes advantage of just about every new feature on the PlayStation Vita. At $15 for the bundle, this game is an absolute steal, and will become the staple of many PlayStation Vita owners’ libraries.
* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.