If you've ever heard a longtime video game player complain about how games these days are far too easy in general, chances are this is the type of person who would have appreciated Super Star Soldier around the time it hit the TurboGrafx-16 back in 1991. Developed by Hudson, a developer best known for its Bomberman series, Super Star Soldier was a fairly impressive but conventional shoot-'em-up in its day. Looking back on it now, the game still offers a pure and punishing level of challenge as only an arcade-style shoot-'em-up can. It's woefully inappropriate for anyone discouraged by the idea of having to meticulously memorize enemy patterns or use razor-sharp reflexes to avoid near-constant hailstorms of enemy bullets. But if all that sounds like fun, do check it out.
Almost all shoot-'em-ups boil down to you piloting a lone spacecraft against an entire enemy armada that's got unlimited firepower and nothing to do but try to gun you and all your extra lives down. Super Star Soldier doesn't so much as bother to give you a reason for all the madness; instead, it thrusts you right into the first of a number of difficult stages as soon as you start the game. This is a prototypical vertical-scrolling shoot-'em-up. The object is not to die as you collect multiple power-ups to increase your power and raise your defenses. Stages throw considerable variety at you because you'll be contending with ground-based targets, as well as flying enemies coming from every which way. Stages have sub-bosses, as well as main bosses, which force you to concentrate fire on their weak points while avoiding their fast, deadly attacks. Unfortunately, Super Star Soldier does not support two-player simultaneous play like many other, similar games.
Super Star Soldier's best and worst trait alike is its extreme level of difficulty. Your power-ups can protect you from an instantaneous death, but for the most part, one brush with an enemy or a bullet and you explode. This is typical, but what's unusually strange and sadistic about Super Star Soldier is how, unless you find this one rare power-up, you'll have to start over from the beginning of the stage after you die. Yet if you do have the power-up, a replacement ship flies in from offscreen as soon as you die that lets you fight on against, say, that tough boss you were fighting. It's a strange combination of two schools of thought about the shoot-'em-up afterlife.
Super Star Soldier does a good job of constantly feeding you different power-ups that make you feel good about your ship when you're all souped-up. However, the look of the game doesn't distinguish itself in any way; it would take a pretty hardcore shoot-'em-up fan to be able to pick Super Star Soldier out of a lineup just from looking at screenshots. The audio is nothing special either. The controls are solid, though the larger D pad on the Classic Controller makes ace maneuvering easier than with the Wii Remote. Also, like other TurboGrafx games on the Virtual Console, this one looks a bit blurry when running in progressive scan, but the emulation quality is fine otherwise. Ultimately, if you miss playing teeth-gnashingly hard games like this, or would like to experience one, Super Star Soldier is a decent option for your 600 Wii points.