Remember the old school NES shooter Gradius from the NES days? It was a pretty cool retro shooter where you could utilize power-ups based upon your choices – rather than dealing with what was automatically handed to you – while shooting enemies like crazy. Well, Otomedius Excellent, Konami’s oft-delayed anime shooter for Xbox 360, is heavily inspired by that game, using a similar power-up system as you control barely-dressed cyber ladies, shooting everything in sight. It’s definitely inspired, but a few setbacks keep it from reaching Gradius’ legendary status.
In the game, you battle against enemies for some unexplained reason, using scantily clad ladies that fight just for the sake of fighting. They use all sorts of shooting attacks, which you can modify by selecting your key power-ups from icons left behind by destroyed enemies. The freedom of choice is always a good one, as you can opt for the all-powerful laser over the somewhat dinky double shot cannon. What’s more, you can select from various loadouts, if you prefer ground-based missiles to, say, typical bombs.
But with the good comes the bad. If you should die in Otomedius Excellent – and you will – you lose everything. Icons aren’t left behind to pick up with your next life. Instead, you start back at a mid-point of the level with the bare basics. This can be extremely frustrating, especially in later stages of the game when the difficulty scale stacks up against you. You could try the old “up up down down left right left right B A start” code to see what it gets you, but it only serves so much of a benefit.
Konami’s got the old-school shooter design down pat with Otomedius, as the anime graphics can be cute at times, and the level layouts interesting. However, the frame rate chokes up quite often, a bit perplexing considering that the Xbox 360 can handle behemoths like Modern Warfare 3 and Gears of War 3 without breaking a sweat. Also, it’s too easy to lose track of particular bullets that fly in from behind, resulting in a cheap death. Keep an eye open.
The music’s not bad. Some classic tunes from the old-school Konami days come back into play here, along with a few new tunes that, well, seem average at best. Hey, I’ll take a little familiarity over none at all, thanks.
But it’s the gameplay that will probably attract fans the most. It is classic Gradius for the most part, and even with its drawbacks, there’s some appeal to be found here. But still, I think anyone would agree with me that Gradius V would be the better tribute title here, rather than an anime-like shooter with very little story behind it. Where’s the remaster of that game when we need it? Practically everything else in Treasure’s developmental library has found a release, why not that one?
Otomedius does have a few extras. The upgrade system is definitely a plus for fans, and multiplayer is pretty cool, with up to three players taking part in the shooting shenanigans. The only downside? You can’t continue once you’re dead. That’s kinda stupid.
This game is sold in both a standard edition ($30) and a special collector’s edition ($50) that comes with a special pillowcase, art book and soundtrack. We’re not sure who would use the pillowcase out of sound mind, but, hey, we’re in an industry where people consider Catherine’s boxer shorts and pizza box as collectibles.
For shooter fans, Otomedius Excellent is a pretty good recommendation, as the classic Gradius style is intact and the features will keep you busy. But more could’ve been done with the game’s design, as well as its difficulty and continue options. Excellent? Not really. Okay? We can live with that…even though Otomedius OK should a bit stupid. Like a phone plan or something.