Let the weeping and gnashing of teeth commence!
There's a part of me that enjoys games like these. It's the same part that makes you
play Ninja Gaiden BLACK or Halo on Legendary mode. But with these kinds of shmup’s
we're talking about an entirely different level of digital sadomasochism. While those
other games let you continue without penalty or give you numerous save points, these
shmup's laugh at you with little bits of spittle hitting your face while wipe out your hard
earn score. Some of these are a bit gentler offering you unlimited continues but the fact
remains, you start at the back of the line!
I'm by no means a shmup expert and my exposure them have been mainly through
MAME and an arcade stick but I've come to truly appreciate the genre and the skill it
takes to be good at games like these. There was always something about the "bullet
hell" shmup's that drew me in more than the other ones. To me it was a stylized way to
look at flight combat and gave me the same chills when I watched 2D fighters go at it.
This brings us to Trigger Heart Exelica; one of the few shmup’s that have graced the
360. Originally released in the Japanese arcade market in 2006 and later ported over to
the Dreamcast (both having the most excellent NAOMI hardware) it never hit our
shores. In fact the game was made after the production of the Dreamcast stopped and
the last game was made (Puyo Pop Fever). Just goes to show you the kind of love the
Let's get on with the review shall we?
Like with most vertical shmup’s, a lot of screen real estate isn’t used and the situation
becomes more apparent when you have a widescreen display. In order to remedy this
“problem”, Warashi included a special mode accessible through the options menu that
allows you to rotate the game either right or left to utilize that extra screen space.
Oddly, the menu’s themselves don’t seem to rotate along with the setting. My advice is
to adjust the screen orientation setting last to avoid any unnecessary neck cramping.
Another issue with this option is the view angle on a lot of LCD displays. Mine in
particular made it hard to play because the angle wasn’t that large. I had to keep my
head level with the plane of view otherwise the contrast would shift in and out which is
a lot more annoying that you think.
When you start the game asks you which character you’d like to use. One has a wider
spread of fire while the other as a much narrower line of fire. I guess it comes down to
your preference. While the wider shot covers more ground, it seems to send out less
shots per angle than the linear based fire.
The difficulty level in this game varies depending on the settings and how well you do.
Playing through it on easy to hard wasn’t that bad in the beginning levels but it begins
to ramp up on you if you’re not careful. One thing I noticed on the easy setting was the
ability to shoot down certain types of enemy fire so those of you new to this genre
might want to start there.
The other system for increasing difficulty, as far as I can tell, is the collection of these
gold little objects that determine the level of the V.B.A.S. (Variable Boss Attack System).
Basically this attempts to put you in that sweet spot while playing. I guess the logic
behind it is that if you are able to collect a lot of gold objects then you’re good enough
to fight harder boss battles. You can definitely see some influence from shmup’s like
Progear. Even the mechanism for sucking them into is the same.
Another game play aspect is the Anchor. You can fire it at various enemies with
different results. Hitting a boss or ground enemy will initiate something of a lock-on
system allowing you to concentrate your firepower on a single enemy (or any enemy
that get trapped in its wake). The most interesting situation is when you fire at flying
enemies. You have the option of either swinging them around and knocking into other
airborne crafts or using it as something of shield where you can get right up close to
them and knock them out of the sky.
So how does this game compare to something like Omega 5? To be honest I like this
game better and it has more to do with the controls and the orientation rather than the
content of the game. I’ve always had a preference for vertical shooters and the control
on Omega 5 are somewhat off-putting to me. It has that Geometry Wars kind of control
that seems to be so popular these days. I like the classic 2-3 button set up from the old
days. Maybe I'm becoming like that old guys who keep talking about the golden age. read