Game title: Triggerheart Exelica
Genre: Vertical Scrolling Shooter
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
ESRB Rating: E10
Release date: February 27, 2008
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Unlike in the US, Dreamcast games were still being made in Japan as late as early 2009. Most of these “post-Dreamcast" era games were arcade shooter game (It was easier to port arcade games to Dreamcast because it has a similar architecture to the Naomi arcade board). Fortunately, if they have a Xbox 360 or a Wii, the American fans who do not own a Japanese Dreamcast can play most of those games for a fraction of the cost of the Dreamcast version. Those games cost around 70$ to 80$ when they came out on the Dreamcast, which is pretty expensive for Dreamcast games. The game was also ported to the Playstation 2 recently with additional features for those of us who owns a Japanese Playstation 2.
Gameplay – 8.5
This game is a vertical shooter similar to games such as Xevious and TwinBee, which means that your character is situated at the bottom of the screen and you have to shoot the enemies that come from the top of the screen. Every enemy that you destroy will drop some kind of yellow chip that adds to your level’s score (a large blue number on the top left of the screen. Let’s call it blue score from now on). That score will add up to the total score at the end of the level. You also have a limited amount of bombs at your disposal when things start to get hectic. When you use a bomb, your character becomes invincible for the duration and all the enemies on the screen suffer major damage. What sets this game apart from the rest is the anchor attack. You can basically capture an enemy when you hit it with the anchor (There is a percentage that appears once you hit an enemy with the anchor and the enemy will be captured once it reaches 100%. The process usually takes less than one second for the average enemies and longer for larger ones). The anchor, then, pulls the prey toward your character. By holding the anchor button, you can keep the captured enemy spinning around your character like a shield, and you can also swing it towards another enemy or release it like a projectile. By killing a lot of enemies with that projectile, you will receive more yellow chips which, in turn, give you a higher score at the end of the level and the ability to unlock different forms of the stages boss.
The game’s beauty is when you start hunting for high scores. High scores are awarded to the players who manage to unlock every forms of each level’s boss. Each boss has multiple forms (usually four to five), and each form is harder than the previous. They also give more points. You get to unlock them by achieving a high blue score, by collecting as many yellow chips as you can without getting hit. Each time you get hit, not only do you lose one life, but you also lose a percentage of the blue score, which will almost guarantee that you will not get the boss' last form.
You have the choice between two characters in this game, Exelica or Crueltear. Both play almost the same way except that ones bullets are more spread out than the other. Only a page of simple information is given for each of the characters. Pretty much the only reason to choose one over the other is for the achievements.
The achievements in this game are really good. They are very challenging and actually test your skill instead of your patience. They also added an alternated ending to give players more goals to aim for.
Graphics – 7.0
The graphics are decent for a Dreamcast game. Nothing was modified when it was ported to the Xbox Live Arcade. The background was kept simple to avoid blending in with the bullets and enemies (One of the things I hated the most in Contra: Shattered Soldier). There is not much to complain about, especially when it only costs 800 points. Here is a screenshot of the game as an example. The character is capturing an enormous enemy plane on the right hand side of the screen.
Sound - 8.5
The music fits really well with the game, in my opinion. You have different background music for each of the stages and one for the boss. The characters’ voice overs are also pretty good, for the few word that they shout out (They decide to keep everything in Japanese).
Story – 2.0
Story is never a huge part of a shooter. Very often, the story is there to justify the character's purpose in the game. Usually, they involve Earth being invaded by aliens, and the invasions sole survivor becomes humanity last hope. This one is, more or less, similar. In it, the two characters (Exelica and Crueltear) got sucked into a portal during a war in another part of the Milky Way Galaxy, and they found themselves on Earth. Their sworn enemy is planning on building a base on Earth, and Earth’s defense force is no match to them. Now, Exelica and Crueltear becomes Earthss only hope.
Replay Value – 9.0
Replay value is important in shooter game, considering that most of them can be completed within one hour. Aiming for high scores will keep you playing this game for hours and hours. The game also offers three difficulty setting that improves the replay value. The achievements and the alternated ending also add on the replay value.
Final thoughts -
This is one Xbox Live Arcade game that shooter fans should not miss. For 800 points, it’s a steal. The game itself is also pretty difficult, but they added infinite continues to give a chance to new players to familiarize themselves with the game and each of the levels. It offers a great experience and good replay value if you are willing to dig deeper inside the game. Otherwise, it’s just another arcade shooter with impossible achievements.
Gameplay - 8.5
Great gameplay, the “anchor system” sets this game apart from others.
Graphics – 7.0
It served its purpose
Sound - 8.5
Story – 2.0
Replay value – 9.0
The achievements and the alternated ending will keep you playing this game over and over.