To my delight, the shoot 'em ups keep on coming so here's Star Hunter DX which will surely scratch your itch for old-school challenge.
Star Hunter DX is a horizontal shoot 'em up that stars the former space pirate and now bounty hunter Luna Starr who's on a mission of revenge after her former crew betrayed her. I thoroughly enjoyed this lone wolf premise as keeping it in mind as you blast through stages actually makes the gameplay more exciting. That being said, you are eventually joined by your loyal maintenance robot Cat-99 and a cool guy named Edgar after unlocking them. Thankfully, each character plays distinctly with Luna being well-balanced, Cat-99 being for beginners with its rapid homing shot, and Edgar being for advanced players with his powerful laser stream that slows him down a lot. It's great to see this much personality poured into a shmup and the bosses have their own personalities, too, via brief dialogue scenes.
Playing Star Hunter DX is intuitive as each character has 2 very different shots as well as a bomb attack that's recharged by grazing past projectiles which reminds me of the recently released Risk System. On top of that, you can enter bullet time mode once its gauge is sufficiently charged which slows enemies and their projectiles down thus making things a lot easier to deal with. You can also earn a healthy score boost while in this mode by destroying enemies which converts their onscreen projectiles into gold cubes. Throw in a score multiplier, weapon power-ups, and little astronaut fellows to rescue and you're left with a fully-featured shoot 'em up.
On a presentational level, I found the character artwork in Star Hunter DX to be quite lovely and it adds a lot of personality to the game world. Also, the eye-popping neon visuals complete with tons of pink projectiles will get burned into your retinas while playing which is always a plus in my books. On the other hand, the stages themselves aren't all that memorable as the primary differences are their background art and enemy types. You'll eventually reach segments with obstacles to fly around but it still doesn't feel like enough. Although they're enjoyable and challenging, the bosses are also kind of generic with each one looking strikingly similar to the rest.
When it comes to content, Star Hunter DX simply contains 6 stages that are rather short. These can either be completed in the arcade-style campaign via 3 difficulty settings or individually in practice mode. There are leaderboards as well so you can try to outdo your previous efforts but they're not online which is kind of a bummer. The only other piece of content is a list of achievements to unlock as you play but that's not really substantial and feels more tacked-on than anything. Of course, I wish there was much, much more.
Star Hunter DX is an excellent shoot 'em up at its core with a motivating premise and thoroughly challenging gameplay. The fact that it's lacking in the content department makes me hope that a more fleshed-out sequel will arrive down the road.
- + Tight and challenging shoot 'em up gameplay with rewarding mechanics
- + Features 3 unique characters to play as
- + Great character art and neon visuals
- - Stages and bosses aren't all that memorable
- - Campaign only has 6 short levels to master
- - Could use more modes and online rankings