Saturday, 12 July 2014

GROW - Soulstar - Sega/Mega CD

Review by Clint Thornton (aka ThoRn)

Released:    1994
Developer:  Core Design
Publisher:    Victor Interactive Software (JP & NA)
                    Core Design (EU)
Designer:     Guy Miller
Platform:      Sega / Mega CD
Genre:          Shoot 'em up
Players:       1 and 2 player co-op
Type:            CD-ROM

Mode 7 on the SNES was revolutionary for the time.  It gave us a feeling of perspective, depth and an all round introduction in to a world of 3D.  It was one of the big features that gave Nintendo the edge over Sega's Genesis.  But when the Sega CD came along and you hooked that single speed CD drive monster to the struggling Genesis, it became a rotating and scaling powerhouse.  

You want proof, let's play some 'Soul Star'........

"The Myrkoids - killers of worlds - descend upon unsuspecting star systems, sucking them dry and draining every planet of its internal energies. They leave nothing in their savage wake but empty husks drifting lifelessly in space.  Following the destruction of his home system, Bryk Hammelt, the last of a noble race of warriors known as the Cryo-commandos, sets out in his great starship, the Treaghon, to hunt down the merciless Myrkoids.  For eons he has followed, and they have always eluded him. Until now. Now he'll face this ancient enemy in a battle for the soul of a star ..." (Extracts from in-game intro)

The best way to describe Soulstar is Star Fox in sprites.  Throughout the game you pilot 3 different vehicles; Your Strike Craft, a Turbo Copter that is used for land & water and a Mech (known as a Strike Walker).  The game makes use of both 'on rail' shooter game play (when piloting the Strike Craft) as well as having full 360 degree rotational movement (Turbo Copter & Strike Walker levels).  The game does a great job of giving each level it's own unique feel with each environment having it's own specific color palette and soundtrack.  Being a typically straight forward shooter, it can sometimes feel a little repetitive.  But Core design did as much as they could to eliminate this problem by giving you multiple vehicles to use, stunning backgrounds to feast your eyes on and immersing you in to an entirely different environment each level so each proceeding stage didn't feel like the last.

Before each level starts you will given a set of instructions by the main frame computer on how to go about and complete your objective.  I found this to be extremely useful as the brief is very clear and concise and really helps you develop an in-depth understanding of what is required for each stage.  It might not seem like much these days, but back in 1994 if you had a game on a console with CD quality speech instead of text explaining the objectives, you would have been blown away.

There is also 2 player co-op play which enables player 1 to pilot the ship and gives player 2 complete control of the weapons system.

Soulstar truly stands out in the visuals department with amazing colors and a field of depth I am still yet to find in any other sprite based game.  Although the Sega CD did push the color palette out to 64 colors on screen that still falls severely short of its SNES rival, but you wouldn't know it when looking at all the bright and vibrant colors during the missions.  The scaling in this game is unbelievable; from the asteroids flying straight at you about to shatter your TV screen to the massive landmarks you first see as a small distant object that scale almost seamlessly until you are facing a giant cavern opening (you'll know what I'm talking about when you get there!).

The Sega CD is known for producing some great CD quality audio and this game is no exception.  With 18 epic orchestral soundtracks you will be in for a treat.  This soundtrack is something you could very easy put on your MP3 player and listen to on the go.  The sound effects have also been well looked after, everything from the hydraulic sound of your mech walking, to the explosion of your enemies.

The controls are fairly responsive but at first might feel a little 'floaty' and 'slippery'.  It might take a few levels to really understand how to maneuver your craft but when you do get the hang of it, you will be dodging asteroids, enemies and incoming fire like a true Space combat pilot.

The best way to sum up this game up is 'GO AND PLAY IT!"  It's a must for all Sega/Mega CD enthusiasts and truly shows off the power of  the console.  If you are a fan of Sega's 'Super Scaler' technology used in the 80's (and early 90's) for games such as 'Space Harrier', 'Thunder Blade' & 'AB Cop' you will feel right at home when playing 'Soulstar'.  

As for obtaining this game for your collection and playing enjoyment, It's not hard to find and won't break the bank so go and get 'SOULSTAR'...NOW!


  1. You really sell this title well. I will definitely try to pick it up for my Sega CD when I get back from holiday.

    The soundtrack is often one of the biggest selling points when it comes to Sega CD titles. Take a look at Lords of Thunder if you're into some metal :-)

    Great review Clint.

  2. Wow never seen this game before, and a Core game to boot...cranking it up now...