Stardust Vanguards – What We Think
Dallas, Texas-based Zanrai Interactive’s Stardust Vanguards joins a recent surge of “couch multiplayer” games, like Crawl, Mount Your Friends and Starwhal: Just the Tip that involve local competitive or co-op play in fast-paced scenarios geared for much banter between players. Sluggish controls, however, keep this game from standing out in a crowded field.
Stardust Vanguard shares obvious themes from classic Gundam anime, complete with players piloting beam sword-wielding robot armor and able to summon and command armies of reinforcements, but at its core, it’s a simple arena versus game; the action in co-op mode is the same as versus mode, except that you fight together with a friend against NPC ships.
Each player is equipped with several abilities: Dash, Sword Strike, Bullet, and a Shield. Your Dash can be used repeatedly, but burns out for a crippling amount of time if you overuse it. The only indication that it’s overheating is a spark effect that fades over time, but I rather liked this, as it’s a nice visual cue that is not a HUD element.
The sword is directional and swings in a decent-sized arc. When fighting NPCs, though, it’s better used to deflect bullets like a Jedi master. Bullets fire in a very short burst, making for a fair support attack, but the amount of ammo you have per life limits its usefulness. If you’re playing co-op, it refills with every wave, but it’s far less useful, as you’ll only be able to take down one or two ships out of dozens with your ammo stock.
Finally, the Shield technique protects you for exactly three seconds. The ability to call in help from allied NPCs is also welcome plus.
Rehashing Dashing and Slashing
Getting into a match proper is when things start to feel a bit stiff; the delay coming out of a dash into slashing with the sword makes the game feel unresponsive. It’s not a delay from dashing to slashing, either, but a delay in button input even registering. Similarly, the steps between activating your shields, dropping out of them and then beginning your attack don’t flow into one another.
It’s a jarring feeling, and the frustration of pressing buttons but not getting the response that you expect is highly off-putting. I feel like it could be an easy fix, but until it’s addressed, the overall pacing in the action is just off.
To add to the annoyances, the game kicks you back the main title screen at the end of each match. There are so many screens to pass through before starting another round, it makes it hard to stay interested. A more streamlined path into another game would help greatly.
For the purposes of this review, I must admit my ability to play the multi-player was a bit limited, as I could only call in one local friend with whom to play. I did get a fair amount of time on the solo wave survival as well as the co-op survival modes, and for versus play, I managed some one-on-one action.
In the end, I could not get my friend to play the game with me for longer than an hour. It’s definitely OK in short bursts, but too many nit-picky things drag the experience down. With more solid controls, it could be a better game, but as it is now it’s simply too average to really rival the competition.
Watch the official Stardust Vanguards trailer below: