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Page 1:
Star Force
Star Soldier
Starship Hector / Hector '87
Blazing Lazers / Gunhed

Page 2:
Super Star Soldier
Final Soldier
Soldier Blade
Star Parodier

Page 3:
Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth
Star Soldier (2003)
Star Soldier R

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by Kurt Kalata - 2004/2005

Hudson has become little more than a shell owned by Konami, but back in the day, they were quite a force to be reckoned with, one of the primary driving forces behind the TurboGrafx-16. From 1985 to 1992, they ran a nationwide (in Japan) gaming tournament called the "Hudson All-Japan Caravan Festival", where players could compete and test their skills with each other. Each year, they'd have a new game to challenge their legions of fans - and given that they were quite popular back in the day, the genre of choice was the vertically scrolling shooter. From this came Hudson's early shoot-em-ups: Star Force, Star Soldier and Starship Hector.

While these titles were pretty lame in comparison to the NES' better shooters, the quality drastically improved with Blazing Lazers, the first 16-bit title. Designed by Compile, it had a lot in common with the Zanac and Aleste series, featuring blazingly fast gameplay and an arsenal of cool weaponry. Hudson went on to develop their own sequels, continuing the name of the early Star Soldier series - Super Star Soldier, Final Soldier and Soldier Blade.

The years of the Caravan and their games:
1985 - Star Force
1986 - Star Soldier
1987 - Hector '87 / Starship Hector
1988 - Power League (unrelated baseball game)
1989 - Gunhed / Blazing Lazers
1990 - Super Star Soldier
1991 - Final Soldier
1992 - Soldier Blade

The PC Engine games actually had seperate versions released for the tournaments, with specialized rules for competetive play. The object was simply to score as many points as possible in a limited amount of time. Even after ending the event, Hudson continued to put 2- and 5-minute "Caravan" modes into their games, as an ode to times past.

The world of the Star Soldier games is typical shooter fare - outer space bad guys, here known as the Zeograd empire, with lots of giant flying mecha to fight. The earlier games have a rather brutal difficulty level, as meeting your death will often send you back to the beginning of the given stage. The 16-bit Star Soldier games actually possess very little to distinguish one from another. Other than the changes in the weaponry system in each game, the games look and feel almost exactly the same, with mostly cliched environments and uninspired levels. The only thing that really stands out are the amazing soundtracks, as there's a lot of really good music between these shooters. Still, in spite of the fact that they all tend to blend together, they're very solid games that are plenty of fun.

The goofy Super CD game Star Parodier marked the end of the 16-bit Star Soldier games. Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth appeared on the Nintendo 64 and Hudson developed a remake of the original Star Soldier for the GameCube, PlayStation 2 and PSP in Japan, but for the most part, the glory years are long gone. However, with the advent of the Wii Virtual Console, these games have all been re-released, and introduced a new audience to overhead shooters, resulting in a special time attack game called Star Solder R.

Star Soldier (NES)

Super Star Soldier (TurboGrafx-16)


Star Force (スターフォース) - Arcade, NES, SG-1000, MSX, X68000, Super Famicom, Xbox, Wii (1985)

Arcade Flyer

NES Cover

SG-1000 Cover

Famicom Cover

While Star Force isn't technically part of the Star Soldier series - it was developed and distributed in the arcades by Tehkan (the original name of Tecmo) - it's still linked to the series due to its use in the Caravan events and Hudson took care of publishing the home ports in Japan. Star Force broke onto the scene, first in the arcades, then later to home systems like the NES and Sega's SG-1000 (the precursor to the Master System) and computers like the MSX and Sharp X68000. By today's standards, it's a fairly barebones shooter, only barely advancing beyond Galaga. The dual layer background does look pretty cool for an early game, and there's a lot of extraneous stuff to shoot in order to get bonus points. But otherwise, this whole bit feels a bit too archaic. It was later released on the Tecmo arcade collection for the Xbox.

Without Hudson, Tecmo went ahead and created two more Star Force games: Super Star Force and Final Star Force, released only in the arcades. Sadly, they're just the usual generic shooter, and they're pretty bad compared to the 16-bit Star Soldier games.

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Star Force (Arcade)

Star Force (Arcade)


Star Soldier (スターソルジャー) - NES, MSX, Super Famicom, Game Boy Advance, Wii, 3DS, Mobile (1986)

American NES Cover

Japanese Famicom Cover

Even though Star Soldier technically birthed the series, it's easy to see how it was inspired by Star Force - it has similar visuals and similar levels. The game starts off in what appear to be some kind of outer space construction site, although it moves to Each level is filled with tiles carved with insignias of stars skulls, dragons and other creatures for some reason, most of which seem to be based off the four Chinese gods. These blocks give you points, and is one of the keys to getting high scores. And, for the first time, you can finally power up your weapons, introducing the famous multi-direction cannon that became the staple for the rest of the series. There's also a unique mechanic where you can fly underneath certain parts of the scenery. You can't be killed, but you can't attack either. It's an interesting idea, but it leads to confusion more than anything else. There are only two boss types - a ship called a Star Brain, and an even bigger ship called the Super Star Brain. You need to kill them within a time limit, or you need to restart the level It's hard to differentiate the stages since that look almost identical, although each ends with two orbs that appear to be gigantic creepy eyes. Although the game was very popular in Japan - it was one of the first notable overhead shooters, after all - it didn't quite catch on elsewhere.

When Nintendo re-released their Famicom edition Gameboy SP in 2004, they re-released a handful of older games to go along with it, and one of those games was Star Soldier. It's pretty much just an emulator running the ROM, so it's pretty much a perfect portable version of the exact same game. It was also released on one of Hudson's own Famicom compilations, dubbed Hudson Best Collection Vol. 5.

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Star Soldier (NES)

Star Soldier (NES)



Starship Hector / Hector '87 (ヘクター'87) - NES, Super Famicom (1988)

American NES Cover

Japanese Famicom Cover

Starship Hector is actually a lot different from any of the other shooters in the series, and easily the best of the 8-bit games. The fact that it's not always set in outer space - instead, you'll fly over terrain like Incan temples - is enough to give it more character. Controlling a ship that looks suspiciously like a certain Enterprise, there are two weapons at your disposal: a regular gun, and a ground shot. Keeping track of enemies on two planes is what really makes this game reasonably fun. Though you have a shield - you can regenerate it by shooting little devil statues on the ground, which shoot out power pellets - it's still very easy to get killed, and you're still sent back to the beginning of the stage. There's even some horizontal levels in here too.

One might say that Hector is barely related to the series, although Hudson used the same blue haired anime guy on the cover as they did on the Famicom version of Star Soldier. It also introduced the 2 and 5 minute gameplay modes found in the later games.

Hudson actually released all three of the 8-bit games - Star Force, Hector '87 and Star Soldier - on a Super Famicom cart in 1995, dubbed the Caravan Shooting Collection. They're almost exact replications of each of the games, lacking any real enhancements other than slightly upgraded down.

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  • Toshinori Oyama

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  • Megutor Okumura
  • Toshiyuki Takatsu

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Starship Hector (NES)

Caravan Shooting Collection (Super Famicom)



Blazing Lazers / Gunhed (ガンヘッド) - TurboGrafx-16, PSP, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U (1989)

American Cover

Japanese Cover

While commonly placed alongside Hudson's Star Soldier series of games, Blazing Lazers was actually made by Compile, and it has the same feel as all of their other games. While there are only four primary weapons, there are a few subsystem power-ups - you can choose between extra shields, homing missiles, options or strengthening your main weapon to the highest level. The catch is, you can only have one of these active at the same time, forcing you to prioritize based on what kind of power you think you'll need. You can also select your speed by hitting the Select button. While the game nastily sends you back to checkpoints when you die, you can take a few hits from enemies, as long as you've got a powered-up weapon. There's also some interesting locales that take you away from the usual space backgrounds and into biological settings (a la Life Force) and ancient landscapes (complete with moais from Gradius.) While the American title might have one too many "Z"s to be taken seriously, Blazing Lazers does in fact have one of the most bitching guns in any shooter. Dubbed "Field Thunder", it has many different power levels where your electric beams slither up in the screen in incredibly cool looking patterns. At any rate, it's a top-notch shooter, and a bit better than most of the Star Soldier sequels that this game inspired. There is also a tournament version of this game called Gunhed Taikai, which was released in extremely limited quantities.

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  • Mikio Ueyama
  • Tadayuki Kawada
  • Masamitsu Niitani

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Blazing Lazers (NES)

Blazing Lazers (NES)



<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Star Force
Star Soldier
Starship Hector / Hector '87
Blazing Lazers / Gunhed

Page 2:
Super Star Soldier
Final Soldier
Soldier Blade
Star Parodier

Page 3:
Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth
Star Soldier (2003)
Star Soldier R

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index