Till (star)dust do us part.
Super Stardust HD was the first game on the PlayStation 3 to feature trophy support. For that reason alone, it’ll always have a place in the hearts of the PlayStation community. But aside from that, it’s also one of the best twin-stick shooters available on PSN, even all these years later. A PSP version was far less successful, due to using the face buttons (*shudder*) as a replacement for the second analog stick. Thankfully, with the Vita's second teensy-weensy analog stick, the third time is a charm for Super Stardust Delta.
But that’s really not all that the Vita version of the game has to offer. Touch and tilt features have been ineffectively forced into other Vita launch titles, so I couldn’t help but approach the new Delta mode with caution.
Using Sixaxis motion-sensing to peak around the screen is distracting at first, but infinitely helpful as you get used to it. The key is to locate a neutral screen position and keep it locked tight until you want a better view of incoming asteroids or enemies. When you do, it can be a saving grace, keeping you from crashing. It’s also helpful for keeping watch for any important power-ups.
For touch features, there isn’t anything innovative that has been added. What is there, though, is convenient, and the added abilities accessed by touching on the rear panel or OLED screen serve as a much-needed increase to your ship’s overall arsenal. The rear touch panel summons a black hole that gathers all forms of matter to the center of the hole, allowing you to blast away and decimate whatever’s been sucked in. Tapping the front screen initiates a circular-expanding barrage of missiles. If you’re feeling surrounded, this is your out.
In previous versions of the game, you had three primary weapons: Rock Crusher, Ice, and Flame. For Super Stardust Delta, Rock Crusher is gone, leaving you two main options for attack. It may sound like this is a step backward, but having just the two gives everything a red vs. blue element to it. Blue enemies and icy asteroids need a chillier weapon, whereas anything red is melted away with ease using flame. Both weapon forms can be used on the opposing colors as well, albeit much less effectively. Doing so gives you more direction, which is a plus, as there’s so much action on-screen at any given time that it’s difficult to focus on cycling through to a third weapon.
EMP bombs are here once again, activated by a quick jerk motion away or toward you with the Vita. Boost is there, but not much has changed other than the fact you can find power-ups that extend the length of the boost. Shield makes a return as well. Stock up on those whenever possible for the highest of high scores and leaving your mark on the global leaderboards.
If the added touch and tilt features aren’t your thing, you can still play through the entire game in a normal arcade mode. Additionally, there are a few mini-games that come with the full game. One uses only tilt to pilot the ship, while another more interesting mode, Crush mode, has you pinching asteroids on-screen using your index finger on the rear of the Vita and your thumb on the front screen to destroy them. You won’t spend the bulk of your time in any of these mini-games, but the addition is welcomed.
There are more mini-games too, added via DLC. This is unfortunate, as the DLC includes the series-staple Bomber mode. Super Stardust Delta is also sold as a bundle with the full game and DLC, but truthfully, they should have just raised the price and included the DLC in the full game. The DLC feels like it’s too much a part of the game that should be there in the first place.
As a complete package, with or without DLC, Super Stardust Delta is a game that could potentially eat up a lot of your time. It’s addictive, and the gameplay is so fluid and crisp you’ll want to keep playing. The action on-screen is intense, and the addition of some new weapons and Vita-specific features make this the best Stardust ever. Consequently, it’s also one of the better launch games, digital or retail, and worth picking up if you’re even remotely interested. And boy-oh-boy, do the colors, explosions, and leftover stardust trails look pretty on the Vita’s OLED screen. It's mesmerizing.