There sure are a lot of shoot 'em ups coming out lately. Stardust Galaxy Warriors emphasizes cooperative gameplay in its wacky world but does it do enough to stand out in such a crowded genre?
Believe it or not, Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax can be played simultaneously with up to four local players. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any shmup that allows you to do that. So, if you have three friends who share your love of the genre then don't even bother reading the rest of this review. Trust me; it's good, so just buy it. What makes it so good? For starters, the gameplay is spot-on with action-packed stages, satisfying power-ups, and a rewarding character progression system. Playing through the ten stage campaign while earning both temporary and permanent power-ups in order to tear through hordes of enemies is just awesome. Throw in a few crazy bosses and you're looking at one enjoyable campaign that's even more fun with a few pals at your side. Watching out for each other's backs and helping your buddies get back on their feet whenever they're incapacitated adds a layer of comradery that's hard to find in the genre.
The visuals and sound make the action all the more exciting. You'll find yourself soaring through space, above a water-filled paradise, within an eerie alien habitat, and through a high-tech robot factory. I was worried at first with the generic space stages, but once I reached stage three, I thought: "Now, that's what I'm talking about!" Each environment offers a distinct atmosphere that's usually full of explosive action which is amplified by the arcade-style electronic music. The sound effects are fantastic as well but the only voice you hear is an occasional announcer. I wish each character had a voice because there are some genuinely entertaining exchanges.
One of the best aspects of Stardust Galaxy Warriors is that you can customize the gameplay rules to suit your tastes. The only downside to this is that some trophies/achievements aren't earnable on certain settings but that's expected. Anyway, tinkering with options such as enemy and player attributes, friendly fire, revive rules, and power-up behaviour can drastically alter the way the game is played. For example, you can turn an otherwise cooperative experience into one where each player is fending for themselves. This implementation is handled intuitively yet there's enough depth that the gameplay remains fresh as you experiment with the rule sets.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors is undeniably a great game but it does have a few downsides. My biggest complaint is that although the campaign is lengthy and a ton of fun, there aren't that many stand-out moments. Besides a few memorable boss battles, most of the campaign is spent in similar situations with equally plain bosses. Also, you'd expect a shoot 'em up to have online leaderboards yet there are none to be found here. After getting an awesome score in Gauntlet mode, I wanted to show off but couldn't find the leaderboards anywhere. That leads me to my next point. Besides the campaign and a survival mode where you can tackle each of the ten stages plus a bonus winter-themed one, there isn't much content. There are a handful of extra challenges but you definitely won't spend hours taking them on. All of this being said, simply playing through the campaign again with different rules is fun enough on its own.
Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax goes above and beyond when it comes to crazy shoot 'em up action. In short, any genre fan who's looking for a game to play with like-minded chums should definitely check it out.
- + Tight cooperative shoot 'em up gameplay with rewarding power-ups and progression
- + Fantastic graphics and sound
- + Customizable rules keep things fresh
- - Campaign occasionally feels flat due to very few stand-out moments
- - No leaderboards is a missed opportunity
- - Could use a few more modes