Soldner-X 2: The Last Chapter
In my review six months ago for SideQuest Studios’ Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype, I decided that any fan of side-scrolling shoot-‘em-ups (i.e. – shmups) would do well to add the game to their PSN collection. Featuring sharp, colorful visuals, a hypnotic soundtrack and well-tuned gameplay enhanced by an excellent, dynamically-changing difficulty system, the game was a shinning nugget of goodness in an otherwise largely ho-hum surge of summer PSN titles. Well, Final Prototype fans, I have good news. The Last Chapter, SideQuest’s recent DLC level and add-on pack, takes everything great about the original and polishes it. This is one of those extremely rare add-on packages that actually outstrips the original, which is especially impressive considering the overall excellence of Final Prototype.
The biggest selling point of this add-on is clearly the three fantastic new levels. While Final Prototype’s last level was a bit of a letdown, The Last Chapter gives the game a second chance to end on a high note, and boy does it capitalize emphatically. The new levels here are varied, gorgeous, trippy and unique (one stage has you circling a gigantic mothership, whittling away on its defenses), with even more crazy and mesmerizing projectile patterns and quirky, yet awesome, organic-looking enemies. I said in my Final Prototype review that the game was nearly one of the best shmups to be released in the last few generations. Well, with the addition of these amazing new levels, I can say that Söldner-X 2, the entire package considered, is the best shmup I’ve played in half a decade or so.
Of course, the stellar new levels aren’t the only reason The Last Chapter is worth your hard-earned cash. New Challenges (all of which are fun, varied, and extremely satisfying when cleared), unlockables and other goodies will keep you playing long after the D’aarg have been eradicated from the galaxy. A handful of great new music tracks by Rafael Dyll have also been added – all of which are captivating, compositionally striking, and easily some of his best work yet. A beefier, more satisfying ending sequence has been thrown in as well, though it is still riddled with sci-fi clichés and will most likely fail to leave any kind of lasting impression.
All in all, The Last Chapter is quite easily summed up: it’s an even more refined chunk of an already great gem of a shmup. If you enjoyed Final Prototype – get this add-on. If you never had a chance to play the original – get the whole package. Few downloadable PSN titles have the high level of polish and playability found in SideQuest’s shmup titles, and The Last Chapter represents the best of what the developer has produced to date.