Handheld Chronicles #2-Solar Striker

It’s just after midnight here for me, and I guess, before I get started I just wanted to apologize for the lack of activity from me in recent days and even weeks. Many of you know the reasons, but to those who I don’t I just want to say this. I’ve had moments in my life, since my father passed in late April, where I honestly question why I do this for all of you, or even why I have any involvement in anything retro. This isn’t due to anything but my own insecurities and lack of confidence in what I do. With this is a stress from my “normal” job that just hasn’t let go and in turn it has manifested itself into the things I truly do love, like this, and running a video game store, to the point where it is hard for me to distinguish between what I love and what I feel obligated to do. My hope is in time to find a new job, a much better job, and with it the freedom and confidence to know I have a purpose here, just like anyone else. I will try my best to be more consistent and I pray you have the patience and faith in me to know it will happen.

Today on The Handheld Chronicles we will be looking at Solar Striker, both its historical links to the origins of the Gameboy as well as whether or not it was a good representation of what the Gameboy was capable of early in the handheld’s lifetime. Once again we journey to the land of shmups with Solar Striker!

You’re welcome, Hickman.

Sound: 7
The fact that this was a very early title for the Gameboy plays two different roles when reviewing this game. On one hand you have a solid representation of what the future would hold for the Gameboy, albeit humble at first glance. At the same time, there’s a distinct lack of punch in this title when comparing it to later Gameboy titles and this is apparent in the soundtrack alone. This isn’t to say the music present is bad, far from it, but there’s a lack of variety and difference to set the tracks apart from each other as a whole. The tracks do get better as you progress through the levels, but in comparison to other shmups of the time, let’s face it, this stuff is pretty pathetic. Yes, one can be lenient in the sense that this was an early title in the Gameboy arsenal, but with the guy responsible for the Gameboy behind the helm, you’d think he’d want to make a better first impression. The sound effects are your standard shmup fare as well.

Graphics: 6
One of the sure signs that later Gameboy titles had developers that knew how to fully utilize the technology was that the graphics became more and more defined, which is great a challenge considering the tight quarters developers were working with. In comparison, Solar Striker has bland graphics that look like you could literally split them up within your mind, almost count each pixel, and while Solar Striker follows the cliché motif of shmups having bigger and bigger bosses as you progress through, even those were nothing so special to distinguish them from the earlier bosses which were way too basic for my taste. The levels themselves weren’t much to look at either. I almost feel bad being this harsh.

Gameplay: 6
This is a classic, well done shmup in the basic sense of things. It has everything you’d come to expect in a title in this genre. The problem is the lack of variety and the fact that even though this was made for the Gameboy, it is way too short even for someone to play on the go. What you are left with, as you enjoy another short and completely unrewarding ending is a game that mixes a style of Galaga and Gradius while not paying satisfactory homage to either. Solar Striker tries its best to be a solid mix of the two, a cousin perhaps, but the one you usually stay away from at family gatherings because chances are they tell the same stories over and over again that they really weren’t present for at all.

Yep. Just like that.

Overall: 6
If only to this writer, Solar Striker seems more like a guinea pig or trial run for shumps on the Gameboy, a footnote in the handheld’s history that collectors will love to have in their collection but as far as looking at it in relation to other titles of the time in the same genre and what you truly have is a poor man’s Galaga/Gradius hybrid without enough content to keep a gamer on the go entertained. Solar Striker is a decent rainy day game, but I can imagine that when a fan of the Gameboy stares at a stack of titles Solar Striker won’t be one of the first ones they play.

So what’s the talk of the town these days? Star Wars, of course! We take a look at the Gameboy entry next time on the Handheld Chronicles!

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