Final Star: Developed and published by Dynamic Voltage Games, Final Star is a challenging horizontal shooter (or shmup, for the intimate) that old-school players will love! It tells the story of the fight for the last remaining star on the galaxy. When all civilizations managed to find their coexistence in its vicinity, the star armada was responsible to secure their protection. But everything changed when the Manakroid arrived: they decimated the armada and subdued the planets and civilizations around the star, imposing a new regime. As one of the only survivors of the fleet, you will team up with General Aldis and Captain Jana who, aided by mercenaries, will help you prepare for a counterstrike to free the subdued planets and eliminate the Manakroid menace from the galaxy! But don’t expect any aid from the Force, even though it’s with you, my dear player. Here only your skill and reflexes will save you. Now pilot… prepare to take off!
What is Good?
- Gameplay: The gameplay is where shooters must shine and Final Star does not disappoint. From the (ugly) mission select menu, you can choose to do a history mission or do some side missions to accumulate cash and scraps before heading to more difficult main missions (I highly recommend you do so). There is some variation in missions like surviving for as long as you can or escorting someone to an extraction point, but in most of the stages you must survive until the end of a stage and fight a (usually) giant boss. Your craft is equipped with a regular shot (that differs in visuals according to what ship you are using) and two satellites that fly at your side. Using the right analog stick, you can change the position of the satellites from your side to the front of your ship, granting more concentrated shots, what’s really useful to take down stronger enemies. Just remember that it drastically slows down your ship, so you better use it with caution. There’s also a laser very useful to annul enemy fire (and I always forget to use it). Just wish it could be used in diagonal too, not only straight ahead.
- Your arsenal: From the beginning, you have three different ships available to fight against the Manakroid fleet: Hydra, an all-around with lower defense, Gemini, the slowest but more resistant ship, and Lynx, smaller with the greatest rate of fire. My first pick was Hydra, but later I realized Lynx was best suited for my playstyle. Each ship has a different status combination between attack, fire rate, speed and defense. But once you start upgrading your ships, you can supply your weakness and optimize their qualities according to your playstyle.
- Upgrade system: At the end of each mission, you receive a random upgrade (up to three in the later missions) for one status of one of your ships (or one upgrade for ship in random combinations). If you don’t like the combination of upgrade vs ship you see, (visible before entering a mission) you can use the X button to shuffle things for a new combination. Besides the status upgrades you receive after completing each mission, you can also use the scrap you collect to increase your ship’s armor and energy or the gold you collect to buy new weapons and static abilities for your fleet. And don’t worry if you can’t fully upgrade your favorite ship in just one run: after you finish the game, you can start a new run with all the upgrades previously acquired.
- Sound: Dynamic Voltage played safe in this area. All your pews, zaps and bangs are present, though they are a little shy for a shooter (and please don’t come with jokes about sound does not propagate in space). But the same can’t be said about the music. Final Star presents some very interesting compositions, with one in special sung by Cordey, a very charismatic robot that works for the mercenaries and could win any Britain’s Got Talent edition easily!
- Randomized upgrades: Although the upgrade system is pretty interesting, the randomness involved in it bothered me. I think it would be better if I could select what status and what ship I’m upgrading, instead of counting with Lady Luck to get a useful combination.
- Minigames: Final Star presents two minigames, for you to relax between one and another mission. One reminds me of the (very) old Columns, for Mega Drive/Genesis, while the other is a simplified version of the game (like an Atari version of the game). The good part: you can stash a good number of upgrades and some gold & scrap while playing them. The bad part: they totally take your focus out of the game.
- Visuals: So, let’s talk about graphics. Be while flying close to the surface of a planet or up in the sky, surrounded by stars, the beautiful and diverse backgrounds of stages (with few exceptions) provide pleasant sightseeing. But these very interesting and well-designed scenarios contrast with an ugly mission select menu (that happens to be the interior of your spaceship). The few characters of the story (which only appears in small text windows while in the mission select menu and in pre-determined missions) have an odd appearance you will barely be able to see or understand, since their pictures are so small on the screen (says a guy who plays no far than 3 meters of a 52′ screen). Your spaceships and enemy spaceships are well designed and contain some interesting models, though I still think bosses lack a punch. The visual effects of explosions are ok as well as enemy shots. In some stages though, enemy shots are obfuscated by the scenario, dealing some unfair hits on you.
What is Bad?
- Tell me more about the story: The game tells you its story through some dialog between characters in the missions select menu. And if you pass the cursor over the ship where Cap. Jana is, she will tell more about the story: the war, its consequences and so. Unfortunately, I only discovered it when I was very advanced in the game. So, like me, there’s a big chance you may lose a lot of interesting information related to the story of the game. Not the best way to tell it in my opinion.
Final Star [Score: 71/100]
With good concepts and solid gameplay, Final Star delivers a challenging and funny shmup that old and new players can easily enjoy. It plays safely in some aspects in which it could have shown more boldness. The randomness element of its upgrade system may look like a let-down, but it creates a distinct identity between games of the genre. But enough talking, pilot! Prepare your spaceship for the mission of your life! The universe depends on you!