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PS3 Fanboy interview: Zafro, the Stardust superstar

One game has caused the entire PS Fanboy team a lot of lost sleep: Super Stardust HD. This PSN downloadable title is far more addictive than any of us could have possibly guessed ... and although we're trying to beat each other's top scores, none of us can even match the incredible scores of the people at the very top of the Rankings. Zafro is one of those leaders, and we took some time to talk to him about mastering Stardust.

How did you first find out about Super Stardust HD? What made it so appealing?
My first impression of Super Stardust HD was from the trailer made available through the PlayStation Store. What stuck with me the most was the music, but the game looked great fun as well. The appeal to me is that I am a fan of shooters, such as Gradius, R-Type, Ikaruga, etc. I always keep my eyes open for games like this, so Stardust appealed to me greatly. Although not exactly the same style, a top down fast-paced shooter will almost always win me over.

What's your current high score? How long did it take for you to get that score?
My current high score is 833 357 770, which is only about 13 million points higher than the 2nd place score. [Editor's note: This interview took place before E3. Zafro has dropped down to third place.] This current score I achieved earlier today, so it's been less than two weeks since the game's release. Sometimes I play twice a day, sometimes I don't play at all, so on average I'd say I play the game once a day. To estimate, I'd say I spent about a week playing once a day to achieve my current score.

Did getting such a high score come to you naturally? Or, is it something you have to practice for?
I think getting the high score comes naturally, but also involves practice. For instance, every time I play I do better, and that's because of practice. But finishing the game six times and reaching Beyond Suicidial difficulty twice is due to natural talent I think. If that wasn't true, then there would probably be a lot more players with a few hundred million points. Everyone has their own skill level, and everyone can do better, but some people just naturally start out better. I've been a gamer my whole life, so in a way you could say that is practice. I've had more than enough practice gaming, so I bring those talents to Stardust when I play.

What are some tactics you use? How can the average player get better at the game?
As I've said to some players who have contacted me, there are a few things I like to keep in mind when playing. First of all, don't get killed. Losing the score multiplier will guarantee you won't be getting a very high score. It's pretty obvious, and easier said than done. When I play I typically don't die until Elite difficulty, which is the third loop. For my current high score, my first death was at the final planet on Elite. Another big thing to keep in mind is to not rely on bombs. Bombs give you a bonus, so having a surplus of them, combined with the score multiplier, means the points will just roll in. I'll usually get around 70 to 80 bombs before I have to start using them more steadily, but then I still try to keep the bomb counter around 70.

With regard to tactics, there are a few things I always try to do. Most important is to have a shield. A shield is a free life that lets you keep your multiplier when hit. So if there is an extra ship token and I have no shield, I'll let the token degrade to a shield. I always try to power up weapons about the same as well. For instance, I'll initially grab a bunch of Rock Crusher for the first planet. Usually I get it around 61% before focusing on the Gold Melter. I get that around the same level, but I always try to have Ice Splitter as close to 100% as possible by the third planet. The Ice Splitter is only effective when powered up fully, so without it ice will cause many deaths, especially on the harder difficulties. Something I learned the hard way.

Also, the boost is a life saver and using it recklessly will result in death. Having a boost ready to go helps eliminate the need for bombs. Occasionally I will boost through tokens to get a bonus, but I only do it when I know I can get away with it. I eliminate as much risk as possible while playing. I also try not to think too much while playing, and focus only on my ship. Taking your eye off the ship and looking for a power-up or something will just increase the chance of getting killed by a tiny asteroid or a similar unnoticeable object. And before I forget, it's good to know the rotation of the weapons. Being able to switch immediately to the desired weapon is important, since you don't exactly get a lot of time to react.

Like most anything in life, I'd say the average player can get better simply with practice. Just keep playing the game and you will keep getting better. Keep certain things in mind while playing and stay focused. I essentially
detailed everything I do while I play, so I guarantee the more you play, the higher your score will get. And maybe the most important thing of all is to play with the USB cord connected. This eliminates any wrongful deaths due to controller malfunctions.

If you could make a sequel, what would you add?
I've never thought about a sequel, probably because it's been such a short time and so far I've been having a great time with the game. But one thing that comes to mind is the multiplayer. I think the co-op function is just bad. Sharing the screen ruins the experience. A sequel should have split-screen or online capabilities. It would be much more fun having a friend or two play alongside me without hindering me. My biggest gripe with the game is the boss recycling, so in a sequel I would definitely have all unique bosses. But Super Stardust HD has a great, winning formula. I'm not so sure it really needs to have a sequel, it just needs to be tweaked in a few places.

We'd like to thank Zafro for the fantastic interview. Hopefully, we'll be able to match your score ... one of these days.

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Reader Comments

(Page 1)

1. How the f**k does he do so well? His tips are 'dont die', and 'collect 70 bombs'.

WHAT??? That doesnt help me!

Posted at 5:45PM on Jul 19th 2007 by russ

2. I suck so hard at this game. How do these guys do it. Oh Yeah...first b*^^ches.

Posted at 5:51PM on Jul 19th 2007 by phalphan

3. Oh Yeah...3rd b*^8ches.

Posted at 5:52PM on Jul 19th 2007 by phalphan

4. I just bought the game last night because the guys at 1up said it was like geometry wars and from my early experience with the game I can say that I will never reach 883 million points.

Posted at 6:21PM on Jul 19th 2007 by BlackBeltJones

5. Hmmmm,,,

Maybe I should give this game a try?

Posted at 6:33PM on Jul 19th 2007 by Andy

6. Seriously for those that have not tried this game it is one of the most addicting games I've ever played... and I've been gaming since the age of 2 (I'm 23...and yes ladies and gentleman I just realized I've hit rock bottom) Anyway this truly is worth every penny. I'm actually very proud to hold spot # 13 on nemia.

Posted at 7:20PM on Jul 19th 2007 by Chris Lawrance

7. i had a million and something points....

and was ranked number 21,000 something

Posted at 7:29PM on Jul 19th 2007 by Justin

8. How do you know what % your weapons are powered up to?

Also, how do you switch from "Near" to "Far". I know its possible because I did it once but for the life of me I can't remember how now.

Posted at 10:59PM on Jul 19th 2007 by GRT

9. I love this game. I own all three of the new systems and have not played anything but this for the last week. On the second planet I'am number one with a little over 16,000,000 (darkwaternights).

Posted at 12:06AM on Jul 20th 2007 by david

10. I have only 35ish million points but I only play when I am bored of playing Oblivion (PC VERSION)

Posted at 3:53AM on Jul 20th 2007 by Lee Banfield

11. I was hoping he might mention if he plays in the 'near' or 'far' mode (it's changed in the options screen off of the main menu, GRT - also, when you switch to a different weapon, the new weapon's percentage is shown in the overlay text).

It's great that he mentions the music; it's one of the best aspects of the game and I love it. Classic tracks in the vein of SkyShark or 1942.

This game has really sparked my PS3 up, lately it had become a 'folding' monster...

He mentions something that is really unacceptable - the bluetooth cutting out on the sixaxis... I know it's probably been beaten to death on forums and in discussions the world over, but is this something that can be fixed with an update? Or is it an uncorrectable side effect of choosing bluetooth as the system for console/controller communication? I mean... Controller cutting out? It's like a bad joke: Sony's bid for the premier video game system, with faulty control! The one time I was able to get 16 million and beyond, the controller died and sent me straight toward my death...

Is there an R-Type game available for the PS3? I can't find my old PS1 R-Type disc, and it's super expensive on eBay!

Posted at 3:58AM on Jul 20th 2007 by ill trooper

12. well i just made my PB of 63 million last night after hopping on the PS3 for a "quick game" - took over an hour before i was through. this game is excellent, from the music and the explosions to the physics and increasing difficulty

Posted at 4:13AM on Jul 20th 2007 by LS

13. GRT: your weapon power is displayed whenever you select it. The NEAR and FAR are options which you get by hitting the START button during a game, or choose before starting.

Posted at 12:30PM on Jul 20th 2007 by Derek

14. @ill trooper
I think he's talking about the occasional mishap of the controller moving on it's own from the connectivity if it's connected by USB that won't happen b/c it's wired. I've had this problem less then a dozen times since getting the console at launch

Posted at 2:34PM on Jul 20th 2007 by Kxpuc

15. Because someone wanted to know, I always play using the "Near" setting. I tried the "Far" setting, but I find it too distracting as there is just too much happening on screen. In general it's probably easier for me to see when everything is bigger.

Posted at 4:08PM on Jul 20th 2007 by Zafro

16. His strategy is a old school gamer strategy.. for instance in lumines you keep the blocks down to 1 or 2 lines high, then by the time you reach the later levels and the game speeds up you're starting low rather than starting with the blocks 5 or 6 levels high. Saving bombs up to 70 is a great tip because it forces you to initially rely on your skill, and as the game gets harder it actually gets easier because you're over stocked with bombs.. I didn't know that you could save so many...

Posted at 8:16PM on Jul 20th 2007 by Thomaticus (Thomas)

17. Zafro is so awesome you guys. I'm so glad someone posted an interview with Zafro, my hero.

Posted at 2:14AM on Jul 21st 2007 by knickf2j

18. Zafro, i'm sure i'm not the only one here who'd love to see some stardust carnage posted to youtube...


Posted at 6:23PM on Jul 21st 2007 by brett

19. brett, that'd be a few hour long video.. don't think i'd want to watch that

Posted at 3:16AM on Jul 22nd 2007 by dart

20. Getting to around 900 million points takes around six hours, so yeah, that would be one long YouTube video. So the guys that currently have upward of 1 billion points are probably putting in a good seven hours of gameplay. They might even be putting in a full work day! Not sure about you, but I don't always have the time to commit seven or eight hours to gaming. That, coupled with Ninja Gaiden Sigma, is why my score hasn't changed in a while.

Posted at 2:28AM on Jul 24th 2007 by Zafro

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