Old fashioned shoot-'em-ups are a lot like jazz. Once a driving force of pop culture, both are now savoured only by a dwindling number of dedicated purists who grumble at how the bovine mainstream masses are incapable of appreciating the off-kilter appeal of their chosen obsession. In years gone by games like Xevious and R-Type were legitimate blockbusters, accessible to anyone who had a pocketful of change. Today's vertical and horizontal shooters are obscure, chasing the remaining faithful, wallowing in their hardcore status and pulling scary faces at any normal folk who happen to glance in their direction.
Which brings us to Triggerheart Exelica, which pulls a very scary face indeed. Released into Japanese arcades in 2006, it holds the honour of being one of those games still being ported to the Dreamcast - and the Dreamcast alone - many years after SEGA's white brick of loveliness was supposed to have rolled over and died. Much like Rez, that other Dreamcast shooter that tore its way back into our timeline via Xbox Live Arcade, Triggerheart is a game of short length but deceptive depth. There are just five stages, all of which can be blasted through in less time than it takes to enjoy an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba - a feat that can be achieved even by novice players, thanks to unlimited continues. Such generosity only lures you into a false sense of security though. The goal, as with all games of this ilk, is not completion but perfection. Playing through all five stages using no continues should be your goal. Most, of course, won't even come close.
So what does Triggerheart offer to make it stand out from the pack? Not story, that's for sure. There's some hastily translated and incoherent manga guff surrounding the action - something to do with pink-haired space chicks screeching at each other - but the only reason to pay attention is to enjoy sparkling dialogue captions such as the immortal "You did well to get this far...but I am fed up of your face."