From the Finish team, Housemarque, Super Stardust Delta is presented as a direct sequel to Super Stardust HD on the PS3 and it’s restricted cousin on the PSP, Super Stardust Portable. The product line, however, is far more venerable. The ancestor of the game is, of course, Asteroids – Atari’s 1979 arcade cabinet that used a vector display.
Asteroid’s core gameplay of shooting asteroids to break them down to smaller asteroids, then debris, then space dust formed the backbone of Stardust for the original Commodore Amiga machines. A graphically enhanced sequel, Super Stardust, on the Amiga 1200 and CD32 included special tunnel sections between main arenas, as with it’s predecessor. Unfortunately the tunnel “warp” sections didn’t make it to the 2007 PS3 Super Stardust HD sequel, fourteen years after the initial Stardust release. Dual analogue controls did make it one of the early hits of the Playstation Store, the necessary omission of which severely damaged the playability of the PSP version.
On PS Vita however, everything that was right in the PS3 version is present and further refinements (even the removal of an oft-ignored weapon option) enhance the experience further with the special talents of the host hardware.
In essence, you pilot a star-fighter craft, usually by the use of the left analogue stick. The activate craft weapon is fired by moving the right analogue in the direction you wish to unleash your hail of death. Weapon change from the fire to the ice weapon is achieved with the right shoulder button whilst an often necessary and rechargeable boost charge which takes out almost all in the crafts path can be activated sparingly with the left shoulder. Touch the screen to unleash missiles (only three sets so don’t get trigger happy), and you can always have a quick shake to let off a smart bomb, as long as you still hold one. Tilting the PS Vita alters your view of the planet you are operating over to allow sight of more of the play-field, which fortunately you can reset with the triangle button. If you have got yourself into a particularly sticky situation, with a touch of the back touch panel, which like Stephen Hawking hunting in a Go Compare ad, activates a black hole briefly to get rid of the annoying screen blight (along with one of your missile shots).
Tootling off around seemingly doomed planets, you take out the asteroids of various compositions threatening to rain down destruction, as well as various enemy craft and creatures. All the while you are building up a good old fashioned bonus multiplier by avoiding repeated death as you collect power ups, usually presented initially as apparently Kryptonite asteroids glowing bright green on your screen. In “proper” traditional game style you also face off against an end of level guardian at the end of each planet.
The standard (usually £7.99) version of Super Stardust Delta presents you with two main game modes – Arcade (where you start and the beginning and work your way through the planets) and Planet (just do the one planet). However grab the first DLC pack that launched on Vita release day, the “Advanced Starfighter Pack”, for only £2.39 (though the game and this pack were bundled at £7.99 at the time of writing) and you also get Bomber (only weapons are the bombs), Endless (wave after wave of endurance test), Impact (boost only) and Twin Gun (the analogue sticks activate a weapon each and ship movement is via motion – tilting the machine.
Oh but there’s more – there are mini game modes to unlock starting with Crush, where you pinch asteroids out of existence by the use of the touch screen and rear touch panel together. Disc Slide allows you to flick a blue disc to take out the screen full of bad sprites, avoid the red enemies which destroy you on touch. Orbit Bomber gives you the control of orbital cannons with the Vita’s motion controls, while in Rock and Roll you literally roll a space rock around the planetary orbit collecting green bonus tokens. The final mini mode is Trucker where those larger green lumps of Kryptonite are towed in by tractor beam one at a time.
Okay, now the graphics probably won’t utterly astound you but are gorgeous in the right way, not to distract you, at least too much, from what you are doing. The soundtrack is equally fitting, and gives you options from Delta, Orchestral, and Arcade to a Retro set of tracks that channel the Amiga games form the 1990’s. Of course not everything is available to start with, and you can unlock further tracks through Near interactions.
The gameplay is incredibly easy to pick up, even without the initial guidance at the beginning of the first planet, “Alena”, and will keep you coming back. It is old school arcade shooting distilled to its near pure form with modern day hand held twists that only the Vita can provide, but you’ll be hooked before you know it, and as a result may well sport reaction times that may aid you elsewhere.
For this kind of outlay there really is no excuse not to own this, my favourite of the series thus far, if you have any interest in space based arcade shoot ’em ups (yeah yeah I know, old terminology!).
One thing I do wonder though… what on Earth will they do with this franchise for PS4?
At A Glance
- Title: Super Stardust Delta
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Local Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 222Mb