Star Force Hands-On

Autofire's been enabled, but it looks like the rest of the game remains relatively unchanged.

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Space shooters have survived, as a genre, because they represent one of the purest forms of interaction a human can have with a control mechanism--be it a keyboard, a control pad, or a keypad. Tecmo's Star Force, originally on the NES, is due to hit the mobile control scheme this fall. Autofire's been enabled--though it sometimes does more harm than good--but it looks like the rest of the game remains relatively unchanged.

As in the original game, you and your ship are the only hope of a dying civilization. The malevolent planet Gordess has been murdering the inhabitants of the Almanac Dimension for 2,000 years. It's up to you to stop it, by shooting your way through 24 largely identical levels, each denoted by one of the letters of the Greek alphabet. That Star Force is too repetitive is a complaint many gamers had with the NES original. Those detractors will find fault with this version for the same reason.

Star Force is the same game NES veterans remember.
Star Force is the same game NES veterans remember.

As shooting is now handled by the autofire feature, your primary concern is avoiding the swarms of similar enemies that populate the screen. These creatures have a nasty habit of firing short bursts of bullets at you, and these projectiles are often hard to notice on a 176x220 screen. In some of the later levels, enemies will come from behind you, as well as from the front. This can be deadly, since, just like the original game, Star Force doesn't offer weapon upgrades. The only add-on you're eligible for is a ship attachment that, in the NES version, increased your fire rate. In the mobile build we saw, however, this item didn't noticeably improve firing speed, probably because of the game's use of autofire. In fact, since the attachment lengthens your ship, it's actually a liability.

At the end of each level, you'll battle a spherical creature that bears the letter of the stage you're about to finish on its hull. Each time, this little bugger will take only a few hits to kill--no more than the sub-boss who also appears in every level, with a great deal of fanfare. With changing text as one of the main differentiators between levels, it's easy to see Star Force as the successor to the ASCII-based games played on huge mainframe terminals.

In terms of audio and visuals, Star Force is very much the game you remember. The game's sprites have all been lovingly modeled after the originals but look a little sharper. The background music, which is a singular kind of interstellar ragtime, has also been faithfully re-created.

As Star Force is, for the most part, a straight port, it already has a clear audience. If you liked the original despite its repetitious nature, you'll likely have a positive experience with your mobile battles against the forces of Gordess. We'll let you know how the game turns out when it hits handsets this fall.

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