This retooled space shoot-em-up preys on a participant's nostalgia of some manic conflict far in the past in an attempt to achieve contemporary glory. There is plenty of action, but it's a fight we've all won before.
Despite the hackneyed gimmicks found throughout, Stargunner is fun to play. There are three difficulty levels and 33 stages set in stellar, terrestrial, and aquatic arenas - with each stage lasting a few minutes. The bosses move in pre-programmed patterns. Some are difficult to beat without copious reloads of the game. The ability to restore a game at any time via the game's one-key save and load anywhere feature proves useful in such situations. The game's interface is nearly as simple as pumping quarters into an old Defender machine. Mouse, stick, and keyboard controls are all supported and configurable by a single keystroke.
The story is lifted right from the script of The Last Starfighter. You are an elite pilot from the planet Ytima. Your mission is to single-handedly destroy a virtually infinite number of Zilion warships and prevent certain invasion. Destroying enemy ships gains you power-ups and credits, both of which must be picked up in mid-air. The latter may be redeemed at the end of each stage for engines, weapons, smart bombs, and the like. While this adds an interesting twist, it is incongruent with the story. Why would a planet on the verge of destruction not equip its best pilots with the fastest ships and biggest guns? An arcade style plot sans the meaningless 3-D animation sequences would have worked better.
The game has a few quirks. Terry Gilliam-esque clouds fly behind Chopper Command helicopters in the terrestrial stages. I could have sworn I beat some of these bosses in the 1992 Turbo Grafx game Gate of Thunder. The not-quite techno soundtrack is uninspiring and the disjointed voices beg for deletion. "Spend more money" is squeaked out with annoying inflection while you're shopping in the equipment store. Another voice warns, "And now for something completely different," which can immediately be recognized by the entire English speaking portion of the galaxy as a blatant Monty Python reference.
The genre begs for something new and Stargunner fails to deliver. You probably already own several games almost exactly like Stargunner. Why buy another?