Super Stardust Delta ReviewKyle Stepp
When I was but a young man taking my first steps into high school, something amazing happened. SEGA, whose ass had been thoroughly kicked in the 32-bit era, released the Sega Dreamcast, and it was astounding. A few years later, my father (whose job included him traveling around a lot) brought home a strange Japanese shmup called Ikaruga. Its color-switching mechanics and poignant visuals made the game feel almost like poetry in motion. It was artistic, patterned, and beautiful, even if the game itself fails to hold up today.
Super Stardust Delta tries to capture that same level of poignancy, but fails to grasp it. Similar to Ikaruga, it features a weapon-switching mechanic that has you alternating between two colors. However, the similarity ends there. Where Ikaruga kept you on your toes by making you choose between matching the enemy's color to defend yourself, or using the opposite color for enhanced offense, Super Stardust Delta is content with simply telling you to match the enemy's color or go home.
You see, the main gameplay feature in Super Stardust Delta is its ability to switch between Fire and Ice shots. While Fire is a shorter-ranged attack, it has better coverage in its short area. Ice, on the other hand, is a typical spread-gun type with much longer range. Red enemies can, for the most part, only be damaged by Fire, while blue enemies prefer to be blasted by Ice. Switching colors is quick and can be done with the press of a button, but as someone who gre up playing Ikaruga and always wanting to use the opposite color of the enemy I was facing, the whole "match your color with that of the enemy" method is jarring, as if the game is telling you to fight fire with fire.
Luckily, though, Super Stardust Delta is less concerned about playing like an Ikaruga clone and more about pretending to be Geometry Wars in which you fight hundreds of multicolored asteroids that mostly just sit there instead of geometrical shapes. Granted, after the first stage, you fight more varied opponents, but it seems strange that the variety you face--with the sole exception of the end-of-stage bosses--lack the thoughtful charm that the simple Geometry Wars foes held.
Indeed, when I'm playing a game like Super Stardust Delta, I'm often reminded of how I'd rather be playing something else. Twinstick shooters have been incredibly popular with this past generation of consoles, seemingly beginning with the aforementioned Geometry Wars, but have now become a bit of a nuisance. Unfortunately, Super Stardust Delta doesn't really bring enough new concepts to the table, even with its poorly implemented alternate gameplay modes (some of which must be purchased with DLC... Of course.) At only $9.99, the price may be right, but Super Stardust Delta is an ultimately forgettable game that reminds me how much more fun I'd be having if I were playing Ikaruga or Geometry Wars instead. That's not the sign of a good game; it's the sign of mediocrity.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.