Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

For a sequel to a ’80s shoot-em-up that began as a hack of Galaxian, Platinum Games is an odd choice. Nichibitsu introduced a ‘docking’ system that would power up the craft after four alien attack waves in Moon Cresta, the first game to do so. At the time, it was a groundbreaking concept that was well-received by arcade goers.

Most of Platinum’s design elements, such as enemies, bosses, and bullet spreads, come from Terra Cresta, the sequel released in 1985. The transition to vertical-scrolling gameplay in Terra Cresta was a welcome one, as it gave players the ability to collect ship add-ons to boost their firepower and then organise those parts into formations for better weapon coverage. There were also ground-based foes to take out, some of which, like the dinosaurs, have made their way into Sol Cresta in full force.

The first thing that strikes you about Sol Cresta is that it looks like a mash-up of late-’90s freeware renders strewn across a computer screen. A masterpiece of incoherence, its backgrounds and HUD periphery are a mess. In a game where you must take out both air and ground targets at the same time, it can be difficult to keep an eye on the dangers and nearly impossible to tell apart obstacles you can fly over from those you can crash into at first glance. Although it doesn’t have a huge impact on gameplay, it’s strange that Platinum couldn’t do more to improve the frame rate, even when docked.

Nichibitsu Introduced a ‘Docking’ System

Scanline filtering was thought to improve the game’s visuals, but in a colossal blunder, it actually makes the game unplayable at all of the intensities offered. Vaseline-smeared CRT monitors with failing tubes can lead to blurry images, making it difficult to see fine details.

If there’s one area in which Sol Cresta truly shines, it’s in the realm of audio. An excellent blend of chords and score bonus ditties perfectly captures their inspirations in the soundtrack…. As a composer, Yuzo Koshiro must have had a better understanding of the game’s brief than the visuals department.

Aesthetic appeal isn’t everything, and Sol Cresta is a game that plays just as well as it appears to look. After you get used to its system and focus on what it has to offer in terms of shooting action adventures, the horror of thinking you had fired up some random indie mobile phone port fades away.

Review of Sol Cresta – 3rd of 5

When it comes to docking and formations, the series’ ideas have evolved greatly. To put it another way, you can now put together any number of different combinations of three separate ships that are connected by sci-fi electrical wire. Placing different ships at the top of the stack, with their attacks clearly delineated by red, blue, and yellow, allows you to change your strategy. A wide variety of weapons are now at your disposal, ranging from chargeable lasers and powerful drill bits to spread shots and homing missiles. The game’s economy is interesting, but it doesn’t do much to get you used to specific formations with a specific purpose at the outset. It’s easy to forget about these moves in the midst of a fight, and it’s even more difficult to put them to use.

There’s less fumbling around when you understand the fundamentals of the game. Icons with pattern formations that allow you to lock your craft into powerful three-pronged arrangements are the game’s main device. Drag the craft into the same pattern when you collect the downward triangle icon, for example. It’s possible to transform into a fiery Phoenix (a Terra Cresta nod) for a period of time if you get all the formation icons in the stage. Because of a programming error the Phoenix is almost always killed when flying at a boss, despite the fact that this is the only weapon that can be used against them.

By Adam

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