Soldiers of Fortune is the Super Nintendo port of the overhead shooter for PC titled the Chaos Engine. Its a great version of the game even if its on a home console. Its every bit as stiff and challenging as the Chaos Engine.
When you play, you’ll immediately take note that you will always have a comrade with you. If you’re alone, the computer will control the second character. Its a nice feature to balance out the fact that two guns are better than one. A good thing about the computer controlled partner is that if you ever leave them behind, they just spawn into your screen.
After that, you’re taken to a character select screen, where you have six to chose from. Each character has their own weapon, alternate weapon and stats. Some have better guns at the cost of speed. Others are quick, but have lower health. To balance it out, each character has a price since they are indeed soldiers of fortune. Its all a nice trade off and it warrants multiple play throughs just to test out the characters. Once you’ve selected the two characters, its on to the game.
Each of the four levels is broken up into three missions and each is more difficult than the previous. A change in levels means a change in scenery, you go from a forest to the workshops and beyond. These levels weave and wind down paths with a few secrets here and there. Some missions start to become labyrinths of doors and pathways. Is that a bad thing? Only you can judge, but it gets to the point where you need to pay attention to a crack in a pipe, to shoot it in order to progress.
If you’re used to games like Commando and Ikari Warriors, this is the next step. A game that lets you backtrack and you’ll need to when you shoot switches to open up new areas. Its more a kin to an gun oriented version of Zelda: A Link to the Past. There’s exploration, but there is no open world.
You will collect coins as cash, power ups for special weapons and keys to unlock gates as you travel on the ground, scale staircases and walk on cliffs. Its a short sense of height, but the cliffs, waterways and trees are just there to make things interesting by restricting your movement. I say the keys open up gates, because they make all sorts of obstacles disappear such as trees. Yes getting keys removes trees. If that’s odd, there’s one level where you touch a phone and it opens doors.
Your characters feel stiff and there is eight directional shooting to make up for the shortcoming, however the enemies have bullets that shoot at you. Dodging bullets is cumbersome, but you’ll need to do it, because this is a difficult game. You begin the game with a minimal amount of health that is easy to deplete.
As you progress, the game will get easier, but only because between after every two missions you can spend your collected cash on special weapons and upgrades for your characters. You can only upgrade to your character’s maximum. That is a way to prevent all six characters from becoming the same stats wise. There are even extra lives to purchase, because when your ally is out of lives, you’re on your own.
Enemies spawn out of holes in the wall that will just open up, so you need to be either on your toes or just remember the levels. Since its difficult to dodge, its easier to use your memory. You can always fall back and bottleneck enemies too. The enemies consist of mutants and monsters. A few of them just feel out of place such as a giant hand and what I can only describe as a yellow roulette wheel. There are a few mundane foes like turrets and hazards, but everything else is out of the ordinary.
There are no bosses and in a way I see it as a good thing because of how tough it is to dodge. You need to shoot everything dead before it has the chance to shoot at you. Even if they shoot it turns into an issue of do you dodge or shoot again to kill and take a hit. There is no time for both. It would have been easier if the control scheme allowed you to run in one direction and fire in another.
Every special weapon feels different. There’s a Molotov cocktail that unleashes a circle of fire, dynamite destroys enemies and a lot of others, including a med kit. As mentioned before, every mercenary has their own, but you can find icons out and about that will automatically use them. You have a set limit of how many of your special weapons you can use, and there are plenty to be found or purchased. You can also find health and a shield that lasts a few seconds.
Because this is the SNES version, you have the option to enter a password rather than a save feature. While battery saving is much easier, passwords do allow you to cheat and get further using other people’s codes.
The music is nice and soothing, but there are a few tracks that sound like a beat designed to a siren. With that being said, there’s nothing memorable in terms of the music, its all about the digitized voices! Hearing the narrator say “special power” was something to behold back in the day.
With Soldiers of Fortune being so stiff and difficult, I can understand how people would shy away from this game in favor of one that is more fun and easier to control. I have always enjoyed it no matter how tough it is and I think others will appreciate for that as well as the upgrades and the selection of characters.