Stardust Vanguards is a 1-4 player local duel/co-op game made by indie developers Zanrai Interactive. Stardust Vanguards has a charming 16 bit art style set in space. It’s one of the first things you’ll notice when you start the game along with its retro video game inspired synth music. Overall the visuals and especially music were highly enjoyable and impressive considering the entire game was devolped by only two people (which made for a hilariously short credit screen).
Stardust Vanguards offers two main game types, verses and cooperative. Stardust Vanguards is a relatively small game only taking up a mere 242MB on your hard drive, it doesn’t have much to offer as far as a campaign and depends on addictive gameplay to bring you back for more. It’s game modes include cooperative, king of the hill, capture the flag (named “Spaceball”), and my personal favorites good ole’ death match and team deathmatch. Mechanics are seemingly easy to get down. You’ve got three methods of attack, and two methods of defense. For attacking you’re equipped with a sword, a laser gun, and reinforcements (which we’ll get into in a second). You only have a limited amount of gun ammo so use it wisely! After each wave (or anytime you die) your ammo will be replenished. Using your sword you can not only kill your opponent in one blow, but you can also deflect any gun fire from players or NPCs. You also have a shield to utilize, only 3 seconds of it to be exact, but like your ammo it will replenish after every round or death.
Turning your shield on is as easy as pressing square. Forgetting to press square again to turn your shield off can be fatal when trying to reuse it, a mistake I made quite a few times, those 3 seconds go by fast. Your last means of attacking is calling for reinforcements. You use your reinforcements by gaining RP, you gain RP by either killing an enemy or simply staying alive long enough. RP does reset when you die so if you aren’t gaining enough RP to call in for help you should probably stay back from the action for a while. There are different tiers of backup you can receive depending on how much RP you save. The first tier sends out a handful of fighter ships, the second sends out more, and third sends out not only small fighter ships but larger commander ships which are harder to destroy.
Now that we’ve touched upon reinforcements I can explain to you how insane it gets during versus matches! If two or more players call for reinforcements at once you can expect hell to unleash. With as many as 20 or more hardly distinguishable NPC ships flying around the panic starts to set in. This can be extremely fun or extremely frustrating depending on who you ask. Personally I thought it was fun, adding to the chaos and fast paced nature of the game. One of my opponents on the other hand hated it so much he opted out of using them, knowing that if someone else released their reinforcements at the same time he wouldn’t be able to quickly tell whose was whose potentially wasting precious bullets.
Cooperative mode is allowed one or four players. In coop mode you will choose from four difficulties, the last being endurance which you must prove your worthy to unlock. Stardust Vanguards cooperative mode is about as close are you’re going to get to a campagne. Destroying waves of enemies throughout 12 arenas is fun but repetitive. One element I enjoyed was how each arena had its own “wildcard” feature. Some maps had destructive meteorites, others were full of blockades that made flying difficult, and one in particular rotated the entire time. Spaceball (capture the flag) and Conquest (king of the hill) were nice variants of verses mode. Spaceball being a soccer type capture the flag mode, and Conquest requiring you to hold down a specific spot on the map to win.
Overall, repeatability is very high IF you regularly have friends over to play with. Stardust Vanguards is one of the few four player local duel games on the PlayStation Network Store. If you enjoyed playing Towerfall Ascension and want a game with a little more depth to it, or if you haven’t and want something to spank and trash talk your friends to whilst in the same room; this is defiantly one to check out. If you’re more of an online gamer or play for the story you should probably pass this one up.
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