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A few years ago, I picked up a NES title called Starship Hector. The fact of the matter is, I'd never heard of this game, and knew nothing about it. Of course, it was loose without box or manual, so I had no clue to even the genre. Why, then, did I buy it? Very simply, it was only $2 and I was curious.
The object of my curiosity was the cover art. After all, I really didn't have anything else to go on. Certainly, NES box art was often less than representational, but I couldn't help wondering about the buff dude in an action pose jumping past ancient ruins and a "futuristic" grid pattern. Most interesting was the fact that this fellow had retained an anime style in an era where games tended to new (and often horrible) box art drawn in a Western style for US release. I'm sure most Bitmob readers are aware of the infamous Mega Man 1 box, for example. Who, then, was this man, and what sort of game did he star in?
Upon getting the game home, I fired it up, and found it to be a fairly enjoyable shooter. Aside from featuring both air and ground targets, like Xevious, it also switches between vertical and horizontal stages. Cool stuff. However, it unfortunately has another common feature with most early shooters: a complete lack of story sequences.
So, seeing no trace of the man who was presumably piloting Starship Hector in the game itself, the next step was to look for information on the Internet. As it happens, my good friend and yours, Kurt Kalata had talked about the game on his awesome site, Hardcore Gaming 101. As I learned, the game was part of the Star Soldier series, and this mystery man had previously appeared on the Japanese Star Soldier box. Making him, I would suppose, the eponymous Star Soldier.
However, while interesting, the article regarded the games themselves and not their story. I still knew almost nothing about this Star Soldier, aside from the fact that he seemed to be composed of equal parts Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star, Shinobu from Dancougar, and generic 80s sci-fi anime costume design. Further searching returned much less useful results. Mostly, I was given the "cheat" that once I beat the game, I could play again with a different sprite for my ship. Or offered a copy of the game for sale, which I obviously don't need at this point. Several sites had completely bare-bones information; little more than the publisher and date of release. A reviewer at GameFAQs states that our pilot is the last survivor of the human race, desperately beating back the aliens that wiped out humanity. Another completely random corner of the Internet claims that the Starship Hector travels through time, waging a battle with its evil enemies throughout the ages. And further, I found nothing.
Yes, nothing. Not even the Star Soldier's name. Pondering what information I had, I wondered: is our man really the only survivor of a fifth World War in the far future, as the GameFAQs reviewer says? Is he instead chasing his opponent through eras with advanced technology, as suggested by a lone product description? Or, are both true and he's trying to undo his sad history? Surely, the truth would reveal something of our hero's personality. Perhaps he's a weary soldier, driven by anger to fight on toward a hollow victory. Perhaps he's a righteous hero, striking down evil wherever he finds it. Or, perhaps he's the last hope of mankind, grasping at a desperate chance to avert the annihilation of everything he held dear.
Revisiting the topic prior to this post, I was at last able to find a transcription of the English manual. It contends that the game takes place in "Star Year" 2038, after World War IV (not V) has destroyed humanity. Returning from a deep space exploration mission, the Hector finds itself facing a ruined Earth, "inhabited by gruesome Bio-Mechanical Creatures." Rather cryptically, it also states that this Earth "is now ancient Earth" without any further clarification. Does it mean that the planet has regressed to an ancient state? Has the eponymous starship, in fact, gone back in time? The latter seems likely, as the manual goes on to attribute each stage to various historical and legendary empires, such as the Mayan, Egyptian, Atlantis and even Mu (amusingly translated as "Moo").
Thus, barring more exhaustive research, our answer seems to be that our hero is traveling through the past in order to prevent his enemies from rewriting the future. Bleak though it may be, with the destruction of humanity and all, it's certainly better than mankind being wiped out in the earliest days of civilization. At least, that's my conclusion.