I’ve always enjoyed Starblade Alpha, Galaxian 3, and… any other primitive-looking 3D space shooter I’ve come across (oh! I suppose Star Fox fits the bill too!) so when I stumbled across this little treasure while having my monthly browse through Project EGG’s catalogue it was a no-brainer – I had to buy it and try it out for myself! Now at first I was a little worried that it’d feel a bit slow and sluggish – the mainstream PC-98 setups of 1993 were hardly polygon-pushing powerhouses like their rival the Sharp X68000 was – but thankfully the game not only runs well in its own right but also has a range of FPS settings from the admittedly choppy 10FPS to the it-was-probably-designed-around-this-speed 15FPS (which is no where near as bad as it sounds) to finally a full-on “no wait” mode that renders the game at the highest FPS your system will allow, which makes for an almost unplayable experience in certain places.
But that’s enough tech-lite talk, what about the game? Well as you may have gathered from the screenshots above as well as the mention of Starblade Alpha this is a linear first-person shooter, placing you in sole charge of an intergalactic crosshair and its mission to destroy pretty much any flat-shaded object it comes across. The game is controlled entirely with the mouse, your index finger worn thin from repeatedly stabbing the left button to fire your regular lasers (you can hold the button down instead, but this reduces your rate of fire) and your middle finger occasionally called into action to summon a screen-clearing bomb from your limited pool of three. The only other control to consider is that clicking both buttons together will skip cutscenes, which was really quite thoughtful of them considering I’m typing this over twenty years later and it’s still not an industry standard.
Now it’d be pretty boring if there really wasn’t anything more to the game than just clicking on things as they show up and then waiting to click some more, so it’s good to know that Solid Lancer’s got a few simple but effective tricks up its sleeve to keep things interesting. The biggest one, and the one that’ll keep you alive, is learning to prioritise targets. Some of these are obvious such as taking out incoming missiles before they reach you but others can involve picking out ship turrets or quickly destroying key targets before all hell breaks loose. Another thing to keep an eye out for are the blink-and-you’ll-miss them power up capsules that briefly appear in set places throughout the game; successfully shoot down one of these (it’s damned hard!) and you’ll be rewarded with either another precious bomb or a small refill of your ship’s shields.
But even those flourishes would get dull if you were ultimately just blasting away at a variety of grey wedges against a black sky until the credits rolled – and the Solid Lancer team have thought of that too. So while the game does start out in pretty typical surroundings, you soon find your way inside a giant mothership then winding through a rocky canyon to destroy a moon base before hurtling through the atmosphere of a nearby planet and navigating a city filled with enemies. There’s a really satisfying sense of spectacle on display here, whether you’re carefully destroying blast doors in the tight corridors of a giant ship or flying through a waterfall that frankly an old computer-exclusive game from nobody in particular has no business having. The only definite drawback Solid Lancer has is that both the sound and music are really very weak, a fact that is only highlighted by the polish and creativity on display throughout the rest of the game.
Fancy playing the game yourself? It’s available on Project EGG for a mere 500 yen - click!