Starblade (スターブレード Sutā Burēdo?) is a 3D rail shooter arcade game developed and released by Namco in 1991; it runs on Namco System 21 “Polyginizer” hardware, and is believed to be the inspiration for Nintendo’s 1993 rail shooter Star Fox. The player controls the FX-01 GeoSword starfighter, and must venture towards the mechanical planet “Red Eye” and destroy both the core and the enemy flagship, “Commander”. The game would later be ported to both the Sega CD and Panasonic 3DO in 1994, with a PlayStation port titled StarBlade Alpha being released in 1995. The game would later be included in the Namco Arcade compilation for iOS in 2013. In 2011, the game was retconned for Bandai Namco’s “United Galaxy Space Force” universe.
The player uses the 360-degree flight yoke to shoot down incoming enemy craft and projectiles; as with other rail shooters, the player cannot directly control the GeoSword, as the craft will automatically move on its own. The first mission is to destroy the mechanized planet “Red Eye” and its power reactor codenamed “OCTOPUS”, whilst the second mission is to destroy the enemy structure “ICEBERG” as well as Enemy Flagship “Commander”. The GeoSword has a life meter located towards the bottom left of the screen, which will deplete should any enemy projectiles or debris hit the craft; and once that meter is empty, the game will be over.
The arcade cabinet featured a domed projector screen, giving the illusion of a 3D environment, as well as a seat that would rumble should the player be hit by enemy projectiles.
Ports and re-releasesEdit
StarBlade was ported to both the Panasonic 3DO and Sega CD in 1994; due to system limitations, the Sega CD version featured wire-frame graphics as opposed to 3D polygons, while the Panasonic 3DO version is very akin to the arcade game, with an extra option to show textured polygons. The game was later ported to the PlayStation a year later in 1995, retitled StarBlade Alpha; this version, much like the 3DO release, also had an option to view textured polygons. StarBlade was also the loading screen minigame in Tekken 5, and was even an unlockable game in the “Arcade History” section. A port for mobile phones was also developed. The game was later ported to iOS in 2013 as part of the Namco Arcade application (which was later removed from the App Store in 2015).
A sequel game, StarBlade: Operation Blue Planet, was in development in 2001; it ran on Namco System 246 hardware, and utilized Namco’s cancelled “O.R.B.S” (Over Reality Booster System) arcade cabinet, featuring a domed projector screen and a retractable seat. While the game was shown at the 2001 AOU expo in Japan, the game was never officially released. Much like the original, the game was retconned for Bandai Namco’s “United Galaxy Space Force” universe in 2011.