Star Force: NES
So let’s see. You’ve beaten Life Force and you’re tired of R-Type. You even trudged the hard path through all of Blazing Lazers. What next? Proclaim yourself shooter god? If you want to, go ahead, but you should sit back down and try Star Force for the Nintendo Entertainment System. ‘Star what,’ you say? Oh, that game with the cool box art that actually matches what’s going on in the game? The game that has made me feel old recently?
Originally an arcade game, Star Force was released for the NES in the United States 1987. It’s a rather difficult top-down type shooter set in the very distant future year of 2010(!) You portray ‘FINAL STAR’, a space patroller who has taken on the mission of destroying the evil living planet Gordess which has crossed over from the Dimension Almanac. Gordess is a plundering and murdering planet. As planets go, it’s presumably bad. Much better than Pluto which couldn’t even hold onto its planet status. 24 stages, or areas, of top down, not-quite-bullet-hell-but-almost-stages await you, each named after a letter of the Greek alphabet. Every area culminates in a boss with a letter on it. ‘A boss’ and so on. You are armed with one weapon: the ‘star beam gun’, which is a double pea shooter. There are no bombs, special attacks, special weapons, invulnerably, speed ups, or multiple continues, for that matter in this game. Occasionally you’ll stumble on another smaller ship that ‘connects’ to yours, giving you a rapid auto fire capability. Your skillz, yes, skillz, with a’z’, or lack thereof, are all that you’ll really have to complete this game. Points are accumulated by shooting things and collecting little lettered squares as they appear on screen. Some people play this game for points (which stop just short of 10 million), while others play for the end screen. The game begins to repeat after level 25, but not before an ending screen is displayed.
Star Force has some decent graphics, with the levels consisting of floating rock platforms and space station surfaces against a space background. The game rarely loads up with enemies to the point of slowing down. The FINAL STAR ship looks like it was ripped from Galaga. Each main boss has a huge letter on it. WTF? There aren’t many frills or pieces of eye candy (but I do enjoy the faces on the various ground structures), but this game is a ‘shooter for shooterphiles’, not a shooter for the masses, and whatever charm it has is in its simplicity and increasingly difficult progression.
The music is great in Star Force, and is really an unappreciated gem as far as NES themes go. But man, that ‘ting-ting-ting’ sound of your beam gun bouncing off various ground structures and enemies needs to go. At first I wasn’t even sure if that noise was ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It’s good, for the record. The stock explosion sound can stay. Typical of other shooters, there’s no ‘moving around’ sound, just a bullet noise. While the FINAL STAR moves around quickly, I do wish there was a speed boost for the ship somewhere hidden, since as the levels progress the ship feels almost sluggish compared to the enemies and their assorted weaponry.
Star Force has made me realize my gaming skills aren’t what they were. Sure. I can breeze through my old standbys, like the first stage of MegaMania in one pass, or Metal Man on Mega Man 2 without dying. Give me a ‘new’ shooter and I’ll probably have to sit, focus, and learn it more than I had to in the past. I’m not sure if it’s because this particular game is that punishing (probably), or if maybe my reflexes are just starting to dull. No, it must be this game is hard, right? It’s a almost forgotten shooter for the NES, and it’s worthy of a Fair Shake. Hopefully, it doesn’t make you feel old.