Review | 9/16/2016 at 3:00 PM

Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax Co-Op Review

Fly right and shoot stuff

Developer Dreamloop Games has released a major update to Stardust Galaxy Warriors, now called Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax, and we decided to take this new version for a little co-op test spin.

Games that feature couch co-op are a dying breed. I may sound like an old timer yelling at kids to get off his lawn, but couch co-op used to be the norm, not the exception. Even in the previous generation of consoles, cooperative multiplayer on one console was easy to find. Now, even previously stalwart couch co-op game series have abandoned it (looking at you, Halo). It’s a shame, really, as there really is nothing like enjoying a game together with people you are in the same room with.

Thankfully, as we have seen traditional publishers and AAA titles abandon couch co-op, the indie gaming scene is expanding, and rectifying the problem. Dreamloop is one of these indie developer that values single-system cooperation. They have created Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax, a game that features a type of couch co-op which is as rare as a unicorn these days: four player!

Shoot’em ups, or shmups, have a long and storied history in video gaming. Stardust Galaxy Warriors is firmly entrenched in the “fly right and shoot stuff” style. (This phrase is bandied about often in the campaign’s delightfully corny and self-aware dialogue.) Players can choose from one of five different mechanical robots to fly around in, using dozens of different combinations of weapons to destroy hordes of lesser enemies before encountering giant bosses with enormous health bars. It’s a simple formula, and hardly innovative, but it works very well.

Stardust Galaxy Warriors greatest strength comes from the customization of the mechs. The five mechs all fulfill different roles, ranging from a “glass cannon” artillery to a slow, tanky melee beat stick. There are a slew of weapons to choose from, and each mech can use two at a time. All of the weapons are unlocked from the beginning, there’s no grinding to get something that better suits your style. I was pleased with the variety of the weapons; they all feel unique, as well. Your strategies will differ depending on what you are packing. On top of all this, in the campaign, you earn credits which can be spent to upgrade your mech in all manner of ways. It’s a customizers dream, and also adds to the replayability as you want to try out different builds to see how they work.

The meat of Stardust Galaxy Warriors is the campaign. The campaign consists of ten levels, each with multiple stages. The levels are pretty much what you would expect. Sometimes you are in outer space, others flying through a planet’s atmosphere, and one level takes place underwater. In between each stage, dialog boxes explain the narrative. There are pop culture references everywhere, and the game never takes itself too seriously, which is good, as I don’t know anyone who plays shmups for the story.

There are all manner of dials and settings you can play around with, altering the game as you see fit. When I played through the campaign with my sons, we went with the default settings in Normal difficulty. There are eight (!) more difficulty levels, and further customization within each. You can increase the frequency of power up drops, adjust enemy speed, toughness, and many more. I can’t think of many other games that allow such control over the gameplay; it is a toolbox that modders will love tinkering around in. Once the campaign is complete, Stardust Galaxy Warriors still has more to offer. There is a Gauntlet mode, where you fly endlessly through a series of themed levels to see how far you can get. Maybe the theme is dodging bullets, maybe you are taking on a series of boss fights, that sort of thing. There’s not as much customization here, as there are no upgrades like the campaign has, but these are still fun, and can be done in four player co-op as well.

Speaking of the co-op: how is it? Quite good, really. Four players teaming up is a great number, as we pointed out earlier, but it goes beyond that as well. When players run out of shields, they can be resurrected by other players. Just fly over, jam a button, and your buddy is back and right in the thick of it with you. There are also elements of cover one another’s weaknesses, as in an RPG. Get a bruiser up front with a flamethrower, taking down the armor of the boss, while the damage dealers stay safe in the back and zap it into oblivion. One mech can even mark a target to increase damage, functioning as a party-wide buff.

I really enjoyed playing Stardust Galaxy Warriors. It looks good, plays great, and is definite throwback to a simpler, sweeter time when filling a living room with friends and playing a video game together was the norm. The soundtrack is particularly great, as well, and makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable. Any fan of shoot’em ups, whether casual or hardcore, will find something to like here. I’d even recommend it to shmup newbies, purely on the strength of the four player couch co-op. It’s definitely worth a look!

The Co-Optimus Co-Op Review of Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax is based on the Xbox One version of the game. A code was provided by the developer for review purposes.