A Good Portion Of Chips, Too

HIGH Figuring out a boss.

LOW Getting so close and still yet so far from Earth. 

WTF Dressing up a nuclear bomb.

I imagine it’s a bit lonely for mad scientists intent on nefarious machinations — there are few people likely to support insane schemes (except perhaps for anti-vaxxers) so it makes sense that one might create friends as a way to fill their social void.

Doctor Leopold, the nefarious genius of Fission Superstar X starts talking to a nuclear bomb he has nicknamed ‘Celine’ and concludes that she is a Superstar that must tour the solar system. He then creates a clone to fly the Celine on her tour. I mean, who wouldn’t under similar circumstances?

The result is a 2D side-scrolling shooter with roguelike elements and an art style that evokes the 16-bit era’s obsession with biomechanical design and a griminess reminiscent of classic shooters like Thunderforce and Zero Wing. Unlike those influences, Fission Superstar X is slower paced, with Celine’s ship feeling more like the USS Enterprise than an X-Wing, and I mean this in a good way.

The game is divided between selecting different routes that will speed the ship towards (or away) from the next planet on tour, and then shooting all enemies they encounter before hitting the next checkpoint. This requires keeping an eye on ammo, an energy meter that powers the guns and a rotatable shield, and dodging ongoing obstacles.

Destroying enemies generates boosts, ammo and cash. At the end of each shooting section, the player can then choose to level up, increase armor, repair or heal. Then they choose a new route that will usually start with buying a new crew member, a new weapon, or an upgrade for the ship, so maximizing cash is a must. A “tour” ends if the ship is destroyed, or if the player decides to detonate Celine after beating one of the planet’s bosses. All progress, crew members and gear are lost in either case.

The roguelike elements come in the form of semi-permanent DNA points that can be used to level up the next run’s new clone and new ships that have different weapons arrays and starting stats.

At first, I found Fission Superstar X inaccessible. The starting ship’s guns felt ineffective, I was sometimes flying too slow and would get caught by the galaxy police, or some of the bosses would just shred through my ship’s armor. I never had enough money to make meaningful upgrades early on, and my first session gave me the impression that the developers had permanently set the difficulty to Very Hard.

Then things started slotting into place.

I learned about enemy weakpoints, when to use my shield (that also doubles as a tractor beam for items), and I figured out how to avoid the space police if I wanted to. Each new boss would lay waste to me, but armed with new knowledge post-defeat, I would reconfigure my gun placements, choose different ones, or put my resources elsewhere. Even with scant equipment carrying over into each subsequent playthrough, I was levelling up my knowledge and revising my strategies for each new area. As a result, I found my opinion had turned around on just about everything.

Fission Superstar X has a classic 90s visual style to it, the gameplay is rewarding once a few tricks are figured out, and anyone looking for a solid, well-paced shooter with a little learning necessary for success should check it out. I guess Celine is a superstar after all.

[Editor’s Note: As of July 26, 2019, the game has been updated with the following tweaks.

Bug fixes: 
-tweaked some turret angles.
-Fixed an issue where players would lose control of their ships
-Fixed an instantaneous death bug

-4 new enemy variations
-6 new environment variations
– one new attack on a boss

-boosted 2 bosses ]

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Turbo Pelvis 3000 Inc and published by Turbo Pelvis 3000 Inc . It is currently available on PC, and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher code and reviewed on the XBO-X.Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Violence and Blood. The mid ’90s heavy metal vibe is strong in this with gory destruction of space creatures and blood spurts and splatters everywhere in a gratuitous cartoon manner. There is some cruelty to animals that younger kids might find disturbing.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is fully playable without sound.  Text size cannot be adjusted.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

AJ Small
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