Friday, March 9, 2012

Lumines and Super Stardust Delta Impressions

Click for full size w/ double the vertical and horizontal resolution.
Super Stardust Delta
Super Stardust Delta is the followup to one of my personal PSN favorites, Super Stardust HD. Super Stardust (of both varieties) is a twin-stick shooter like the immensely popular Geometry Wars but instead of being played in a bounded rectangular area it is instead played on a sphere, meaning that the player (and the enemies) cannot get trapped in a corner. Super Stardust HD featured three main weapons as well as a bomb and boost capability. Super Stardust Delta has brought that down to two main weapons and has added the Black Hole and the Missile Strike which are activated by touching either the touch screen or the rear touch panel.

One of my major problems with Super Stardust HD was the lackluster boss battles. When the bosses for the later levels were two of earlier bosses, you know you have a problem. SSD has really stepped up the boss battles to be interesting, fun, and different. Furthermore, reducing the number of weapons to two (Gold Melter and Ice Splitter; now called 'fire' and 'ice') was a great decision because Rock Crusher and Ice Splitter were basically the same thing. Ice Splitter just had a narrower spread and a longer range.
I haven't had a great opportunity yet to try out the new special weapons, Black Hole and Missile Strike, but I'm definitely finding an increased usefulness for boost, especially since it doesn't consume your special moves anymore.

The game also includes several minigames to play around with the features of the system. The first game I tried had waves of asteroids fall and in order to break them up, one must press on both the front and rear touch screen to squeeze them to pieces. This was a simple enough minigame and was fairly neat.

The second minigame had me using the front touch screen to move around a blue disc. The object was to avoid being hit with red enemies while killing the blue enemies. The large problem with this is that having my finger over the screen obscured my vision, which is all too critical for a game Super Stardust, especially when you are red/green colorblind. There are more minigames of varying quality, but the real fun is with the main game.

The music tracks are remixed versions of the Super Stardust HD tracks and that's a good thing. They've retained their high quality and addictiveness in the transition to the Vita. The game allows you to play each level individually or back-to-back in the main mode, it also has three difficulties and allows you to play the game in a "Pure" style, as in without the Missile Strike or the Black Hole abilities. All in all, Super Stardust Delta is a much better game than Super Stardust HD and any Vita owner who enjoyed the original or who just enjoys shooting things should definitely give this newer installment a try.

Note: I highly recommend going into the menu and remapping the controls so that the back touch screen doesn't do anything. You will thank me when you don't get hand cramps from trying to avoid touching the back screen. Normally this isn't a problem but since the action in the game lasts so long and is constant, it becomes quite the issue.
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Lumines: Electronic Symphony
Ah, Lumines. Lumines was the game that caused me to want an original PSP, and was the only game that I bought for it at launch. That little game and I have spent so much good time together. From the moment I started it and "Shinin'" by Mondo Grosso started playing I knew that I was in love. Fighting, making my way to the end so that I could hear "Lights" was a journey, and a difficult one at that. I've also enjoyed Lumines II and Lumines Supernova.

Lumines: Electronic Symphony is another entry in the Lumines stable of games . There are a few things that it does differently. To begin, the special chain block doesn't require the formation of a square to activate, it just needs an adjacent square of the same color. This makes it easier to use, but it will often be used at times when you're rather save it. There is also a new shuffle block that when it lands will randomize the color of each block that is connected to it. I haven't been in a 'late-game' situation yet where I've had too many block on the screen. However, I imagine that if I get into one, this block will greatly help me bring that down.

Another interesting addition to the game is the introduciton of avatar abilities. In the past, Lumines has allowed you to select an avatar to represent yourself. However, the avatar has been purely cosmetic. However, in this installment, each avatar has a special ability that can be used when it is charged up. The abilities charges depending upon your performance. The standard avatar ability makes the next piece have a chain in one of its blocks. I haven't actually played around with other avatars yet, but I definitely look forward to seeing what the other ones can do. Avatar abilities are activated by using the touch screen to tap the picture of your avatar and they differ between single- and multi-player modes, for balance.

The other important component to Lumines is the music. In past games, I've found that the best skins are the ones were based on licensed songs. Lumines: Electronic Symphony seems to have realized this and has included a wide assortment of licensed music to base skins on. As such, the music in L:ES is very good. It tends to be more in the foreground than in previous games, but I consider that a good thing. Past music in the games sometimes just felt like a collection of sound effects that were triggered by your actions. Now every song has a good driving theme supported by great effects.

Lumines: Electronic Symphony  is a great game that I wholeheartedly recommend if you own a PlayStation Vita.

If only this song were in it: