Housemarque have been developing Stardust games nearly their entire life. Although the original was developed by another team, Super Stardust came to the PC in 1995 thanks to that Finnish developer. After then nothing was heard from the game until Super Stardust HD tore up the PS3 via the PSN Store in 2007. After Super Stardust Portable came and showed that the PSP could do a decent job of taking across the home console experience into the portable domain, it seems that Super Stardust Delta on the PS Vita has a long legacy to live up to, and thankfully it manages to handle such pressure with ease.
Thanks to the power that is contained within the Vita’s sleek and simple looks, and thanks to its addition of a second thumbstick, Super Stardust Delta feels more like an evolution of its console counterpart than a reduction of it for a portable console. Whilst HD offered up some team play co-op and extra games via an expansion, as well as an addictive arcade or planet by planet mode, Delta offers the same (bar team play) and a lot more. If you opt for the download which comes with the DLC included, you’ll be looking at six main game modes and five mini-game modes as well as online leaderboards; it’s a portable PSN title just packed with features to keep you busy.
Arcade works just like you would expect it to and Planets is a single level at a time. For those not in the know, you’ll work though planets each with five different waves of asteroids and enemies to tackle and a boss at the end of each one. One stick deals with piloting, whilst the other deals with shooting, its intuitive, addictive, and very simple to pick up and play. Unlike HD though you only have two different guns to switch between, but other than that the gameplay model is largely the same; that is unless you choose the ‘Delta’ mode of play when you start up.
In Delta mode you’ll find that the Vita’s features have become a fair bit more prominent, and at first they feel very weird to use but after a couple of levels it all melts into second nature. The first thing you’ll notice is the motion controls, now you can shift your view of the planet and surroundings by tilting the Vita; it’s a great feature and honestly makes the game feel ’3D’ because you appear to be looking through a window and out onto the action contained within. Delta mode also brings in two new weapons via the front and rear touchscreen: black holes, and missiles. Missiles fire outwards in all directions from your craft, which is wonderful for taking out encroaching circles of enemies, and is immensely more powerful than bombs as they fly across the entirety of the planets surface until they hit something. The black hole is a different beast altogether, this formidable piece of equipment literally sucks everything in the vicinity into oblivion, its beautiful to watch and even better to see the planet wiped of everything. The beauty of both these devastating weapons is their absolute ease of use, and whilst playing without them is entirely possible, you’ll wonder why they weren’t included initially. If you go for ‘Pure’ mode it’s practically like playing HD but on the go.
If the standard modes don’t take your fancy then alternative modes like ‘Bomber’, ‘Impact’ and ‘Twin-Gun’ can occupy your time by offering up some more restrictive rules into the mix. Bomber allows destruction by bombs only, Impact requires you to boost your way to victory, and Twin-Gun throws the interesting idea of both sticks shooting whilst tilting the Vita moves. Whilst these game modes offer new ways to play, the mini-games provide interesting distractions from all the asteroid shooting carnage. ‘Crush’ sees you physically obliterating asteroids by squeezing the screen and thus crushing the asteroids between your thumbs; it’s an interesting an fun mode but often unresponsive due to not having your finger and thumb lined up accurately enough to squish the asteroid. ‘Disc Slide’ sees you flinging a blue razor disc around and destroying all the blue enemies whilst avoiding the ever growing hoards of red enemies. ‘Orbit Bomber’ has you defending a space station from enemies by using the motion controls to fire cannons destroying incoming threats. ‘Roll & Rock’ has you tilting a rock around in an attempt to collect green crystals and avoid enemies, and finally ‘Trucker’ wants you to tow green rocks into one another to grab the crystals inside. As mentioned before, they are interesting but really are nothing more than side amusements to the main game.
Thanks to the Vita’s brilliant OLED screen, visually the game is indistinguishable from HD on the PS3. It looks gorgeous, and moves as fluidly and has literally no framerate issues even when the action becomes intense. The bright green of the special asteroids stand out wonderfully, and the grid you play on hovers over the planet below and gives a real sense of depth. Your ship may not be customisable like it was in HD but it still looks spectacular, with it zipping in and around enemies and asteroids effortlessly, and always being easy to identify as it stays in the centre of the screen. The most visually impressive aspect though has to be all the detritus that comes off the asteroids; they explode with vigour and stream out debris everywhere for you to avoid and destroy. It’s so impressive but it’s also something you take completely for granted as its impressive visuals quickly become accepted as the action comes to the forefront.
Like many of the other PS Vita launch titles, Super Stardust Delta shows that the Vita is more than your usual handheld, its really just a PS3 on the go. Thanks to it’s extra stick, Delta feels like a deserving successor to HD, whereas Portable felt like a stripping down of the Stardust series. Again like many of the other Vita launch titles, it brilliantly mixes the addictive and long lasting nature of a console game, but also caters for bite-size play sessions with its alternative modes and mini-games. If you’re a Super Stardust fan then this is a must buy title; if you want a game that really brings that home console flavour but on the move then you need this title; if you haven’t a clue what Super Stardust is, and have no idea what game you should pick up for your Vita, then this is a perfect tile to introduce you to both the Vita and the series.
Final Score: 4/5