While we all wait with baited breath for the imminent release of Ikaruga on XBLA another interesting Naomi 2D vertical shooter has arrived to grace our large noisy boxes - Triggerheart Exelica. Following its arcade release it was ported to the Dreamcast and was one of the last official GD Roms for the system before Sega finally killed the format. Now we have it here, for a mere 800 points, on Xbox Live Arcade. Improved HD graphics and remixed sound complete with the usual Xbox Live offerings of achievement points and online leaderboards. Sounds good eh - read on.
Fairly standard level set up here - 5 stages, mid boss style enemies half way through each stage and then a MF sized mechanical beast to finish the stage. Control of your Triggerheart is via the D pad or analogue stick, with A for normal fire, R or L for bomb and B for well, onto that later. Now after your first couple of credits I would expect you to think that you might have just wasted your money but don't lose heart. If you are a true shooter fan the game is actually a lot deeper and involved than perhaps the rather bland and generic characters and enemies might suggest as this bullet hell shooter throws a new mechanic into the mix.
This my friends is where the B button comes into play. For holding the B button will allow you to latch onto an enemy and following a pre-defined period you effectively take control of said enemy and gain the ability to launch them up the screen into their waiting buddies. Score multipliers and golden coins reign as your reward and this anchor technique can also be used to clear some of the impossible looking bullet patterns; absolutely essential once onto stage 3 and beyond. The golden coins left behind by all destroyed enemies count towards your score and also gain you access to the 'True Endings' of the game and additional sections of boss battles. They slowly make their way to the bottom of the screen before disappearing forever and the longer they are on the screen, the higher their value, and the higher their value, yes, you guessed it, the higher your score. To 'suck' up the coins simply release the normal fire button and voila, the coins are yours. Die and you will lose some and this is where there is a nice, almost hidden risk / reward strategy. Because while you are trying to keep the coins on the screen for as long as possible you could be getting shot. But also when you do briefly let go and subsequently depress the shot button to get your hard earned coins that you are going to be in a position to dispatch of the next batch of enemies before getting into major strife. Now bear in mind that it is possible to finish the first stage with less than 1milllion points and the first extra life is only rewarded at 50million - I think it is obvious that this game is for serious points wh*res.
One thing to mention while we are the subject of leaderboards - and this is the most disappointing thing about the whole experience. The online leaderboard can only be accessed using the default settings of 3 lives and 2 bombs. Not too bad so far, but chuck in the fact that only the top 100 scores in the world can be displayed on the leaderboard plus you can't even compare your friends scores to yours, unless you are both uber-players of course and fall within the Top 100, then we have a scoring records system that has completely missed the point of online and Live in general. As we all know there is nothing better than having a quick credit and beating a friend's score for them to enjoy the defeat next time they look and this has been totally missed out. I can only hope that we get a patch to sort this out.
As with all bullet hell shooters, the first stage starts sedate enough but by the time you reach the first boss, your eyes will be screaming for you to blink and should a wandering thought enter your head this will almost certainly end in instant death. Because to be any good at this genre you mustn't blink and you mustn't think - something that my weathered brain is not that great at coping with and you can just about guarantee that the person sat at the top of the online leaderboard is not only Japanese but has also been living on mineral water for the best part of his life and has absolutely no concept of what absinthe is. I digress.
So in short. Yes there are some lovely bullet patterns to dodge, yes there are screen filling bosses with multiple forms and yes it's hard as nails. Not brilliant, but certainly not rubbish either and at the time of reading this review, if they have sorted the leaderboard issues you can slap another half a point onto the score below.
7 / 10