When Super Stardust HD hit the PS3, I always admired it from a distance. Shiny graphics and fast gameplay always were the apparent attraction for this series, but I never could quite get into it (and I even got it from Sony for free). I knew it was good, but it couldn’t keep me coming back. Now that the franchise has hit the Vita, I thought things might shake out better on the go. A smaller screen is sublime for a game such as this, or that was my hunch at least. For once, I was right; Super Stardust Delta is a superb game for the Vita.
So what is Super Stardust Delta? Multiple people have made it clear that it looks like Geometry Wars on a 3D plane, which is a fair assumption. It’s a dual-stick shooter at its heart, coated in a near epileptic paint job and sent into space.
Out of Delta‘s modes, Arcade is the one to dig the deepest into. What serves as essentially a campaign mode, it pits you against planet after planet in hopes of getting a high score after each round is done. Each planet gets progressively more difficult and rewards your skill. A multiplier keeps your score high and lends out power ups for players that stay alive for longer periods of time.
Score hunting serves as a big reason to do well. Even though my friends don’t have scores to compare to, I still found myself eager to overcome my own personal achievements with each successive run. I got progressively better and increasingly competitive, both of which fueled me to carry on.
But that’s not to say the whole thing was meta; I loved actually playing Super Stardust Delta. Movement and shooting are silky smooth on the Vita’s awesome sticks and buttons always work as intended. Death is never the game’s fault. You died because you got overwhelmed, which is a sign of fantastic controls.
The PS3 version had good controls, but Delta is a tad easier than SSHD, but I found that to be a big reason of why I was more attracted to it. Don’t confuse it for being easy (because it isn’t), but the challenge felt more welcoming. SSD gives you enough power ups and bonuses to feel powerful, but pits a lot against you as a fair checks and balances system. The reliable boost move along with all of the specials work as intended and serve as good tools in your arsenal.
However, you may need to switch some controls around for optimal enjoyment. Buttons and sticks function fantastically, but the touch screen might need to reassigned. By default, the front and back touch screens regulate missiles and black holes, but they probably shouldn’t have been put there. Accidental gestures can set these specials off unexpectedly, draining resources and just being a pain. A problem like this is easily remedied, but the touch screen shouldn’t have been the default method of interaction.
The minigames do not share the same luxury. After conquering each planet, a new minigame unlocks on the main menu. All of these utilize the Vita’s functions in unique ways, but none of them are actually fun. Ranging from mundane to flat out stupid, none are capable of being precise enough or fun enough to become more than distractions. They can be actively ignored in favor of the game’s main mode, but it’s a shame they appear to be just tossed in there to show off some new specs.
If there is any spec to be shown off, it would have to be the actual screen. Delta really shines bright with colorful, attractive graphics that are sure to bring anyone in, if at least for eye candy. Extra points are awarded for the vast amounts of purple and orange, but the blues and reds are appreciated as well. A game this pretty never slows down, making a strong showcase of the system’s technical power.
I was having trouble picking a time to review Super Stardust Delta, mainly because it doesn’t end. However, it struck me that Delta doesn’t actually end and that’s the great part. It is quintessentially a portable game through and through and it is cheap enough ($10) and small enough (208 megabytes) to make a great fit on any Vita. Even though it is available on other services, I’d easily pick this version over any other platform.
+Beautiful, smooth game
+Good game to keep coming back to
+Hectic, challenging, and fun main mode
-Motion control minigames aren’t much fun
Final Score: 9/10