Stardust Vanguards, Zanrai Interactive’s 2015 pixel-anime one-to-four-player local co-op dueling game, pits piloted robots against each other in space and then throws pirates at them. Think of it as the ultimate Voltron game that never was. Its influences are legion and show through in the final product: the look of an anime space epic; waves of enemies as in Smash TV; the single-screen battle arenas, booming announcer, and post-match trophy system of Super Smash Bros.; Samurai Gunn’s attack-to-block ricochet mechanic; a musical score equal parts SNES bit-tune nostalgia and guitar anthem; the tension of a head-to-head StarCraft match; and the intense local multiplayer and pixel-perfect sprite-based graphics of the best SNES games. Whether you’re a newbie lost in space or a battle-hardened mecha warfare veteran, our tips and tricks will help you make the most of your Deathmatch experience.
Stardust Vanguards features four game modes: Deathmatch, Team Battles, Conquest (King of the Hill), and Space Ball Mode (soccer style capture the flag), as well as a wave-based single-player or co-op mode. Deathmatch is the only mode available to new players. A fix for this feature/issue can be found near the bottom of this post. If you are strictly a single-player gamer, do not expect a campaign on par with Towerfall’s Quest Mode. This game is about multiplayer.
In Deathmatches and Team Battles, Stardust Vanguards players should use the pre-fight countdown to study the arena’s layout. Arenas with open spaces encourage swordplay and running-and-gunning, whereas object-dense arenas provide opportunities for long-range sniping from cover and Reinforcement Point farming. (More on that later.) In arenas packed with solid obstacles, use walls and corners for cover and asteroids to trap your opponents. But don’t dodge into an asteroid as if it were just another wall and expect to fly away in one piece.
Since you only have a few shots in your gun per life, consider taking out isolated enemies with your sword and saving your gun for enemy swarms and pirate ambushes. Do not rely on just your sphere-block, sword attack, and dash to keep you alive.
When in doubt, spend some of the Reinforcement Points you’ve earned. Reinforcement Points are your currency for purchasing bigger and better units. Don’t worry about picking them out; the game selects each wave automatically, based on the number of RP units you have. With just one button to summon reinforcements, players should consider harvesting RP like souls in Dark Souls. As with souls in Namco’s masterpiece, the more RP you harvest, the more you have to lose if you’re slain. Once you’re killed, RP resets to zero.
Purchased with RP, your reinforcements can obliterate the enemy if you use them the right way. Players’ drone armies, like space pirate NPCs, exhibit strong pathfinding behavior. Learn NPCs’ attack patterns (rotational variations on move-shoot-move and point-tracking). Reinforcements’ AI is on the spectrum between the complex AI of Blizzard Entertainment’s Real-Time Strategy classics and the move-shoot-and-explode logarithmic simplicity of grunts in a Neo Geo shoot ‘em up. If there are no enemies on screen, they will wander off and your RP will have gone to waste. So treat reinforcements like a one-off special attack!
Behind the scenes, we find, perhaps unexpectedly, the Unity Engine powering this two-dimensional galactic fireworks show. What this means for players is simple: you will not find many physics bugs or collision-detection hiccups to exploit. In this contest, a winning strategy cannot rely on lucky glitches like the infamous “belly flop” bug from 1982’s Joust, the spiritual ancestor of all competitive multiplayer games set in single-screen arenas.
You should now be better equipped to fend off attack teams and pirates alike in Stardust Vanguards’ Deathmatch mode.
Now let’s talk about unlocking those other game modes.
If you plan to explore the Conquest and Space Ball Modes with friends, do yourself a favor before the guests arrive. Launch a game in one mode on one level. After the announcer’s countdown, pause the game and quit to the main menu. You will get a notice about a newly unlocked level. Now do this sequence again for each level in each game mode. It’ll take five minutes and save you the embarrassment of promising a game mode you couldn’t deliver.
This workaround’s method is not as elegant a solution as going into Notepad and editing a data or config file. That said, if such a file exists for Stardust Vanguards, it is either well-hidden among the wraith-like settings in a Windows AppData subfolder or encrypted — or both. Like blowing the dust out of an NES cartridge, the workaround is inelegant and ought to be unnecessary but it gets the job done.
That’s all for our guide to Stardust Vanguards. Stay tuned for more helpful articles on our favorite games.