Who loves shoot-'em-ups? We do! In fact, we love them so much that this review of Hudson Soft's latest XBLA offering Omega Five is largely irrelevant; sure, we'd love for you to read, argue over the score, maybe even offer a counterpoint in the comments. Yes, we would appreciate that. But what we'd love even more (and by "we", I mean "just me") is if you'd just buy the freggin' thing so we can ensure a steady stream of shmups.
Geometry Wars opened a door that had been shut tight for US audiences for many years, a door leading to a magical world of high scores, crushing defeats and skill-based gameplay. This year we have plenty of shmups to look forward to as a result of the wildly popular downloadable content schemes available on every major console, Omega Five first among them. So how did the game fare with two of our most scholarly shmup afficionados, Topher and Mike Ferry? Hit that jump to find out. And then go buy the game, so we can have more shmups.
Omega Five (XBLA)
If you were to ask any true shmup fan where to go for a healthy selection of worthwhile shooter experiences, Live Arcade would surely not be his answer. Given the service's fairly decent variety of genres and titles, anything akin to the arcade shooters of the mid-90s was not to be found before last week. At the very least, Omega Five has served as a way to begin patching a void in the XBLA library that's been empty for far too long. It's because of this fact that I find it somewhat more challenging to judge the game than I normally would. Even if I hated it, it's certainly a welcome addition to the library it joins, and a long overdue step in the right direction -- luckily for the good people at Natsume, however, it's not half bad.
Omega Five is exactly what we all expected it to be: a fun, addictive shoot-'em-up that takes a lot of the cooler aspects of the games which inspired it, rolls them up into a solid little ball, and polishes that ball to a very attractive shine. It's exactly what it should be. What I'm not sure of is whether the game is everything it attempts to be.
This is all fine and good, and still affords you an opportunity for some friendly competition with your buddy list, but I have to wonder why they couldn't just post our real scores, or why they bothered to incorporate a multiplier system if our final result will have a cap on it. The combination of those two things makes it feel a little too much like hand-holding for me. It's almost as if you could cruise through the level using almost no firepower and end up with the same score you'd get if you took the time and effort to destroy everything on the screen. It's the sort of overly-forgiving, soccer mom-ish, "anyone can do it" mentality that has infected video games in recent years, and something I personally feel has no place in a shmup.
Remember the old days? The days you spent with your childhood buddies huddled around the NES trying to beat Gradius for the tenth time that week and ultimately resorting to using "The Code" when you got frustrated? Yeah, me neither. But, thankfully, those classic shmup memories ("shmupories", if you will) have finally found their way to XBLA in the form of the much anticiapted Omega Five.
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