Follow the bouncing… well, guess.
Otomedius Excellent is a horizontal shooter in the retro vein, complete with a few million bullets on the screen all at once and flood after flood of crazy aggressive spacecraft (and lava-craft, and cave-craft… you get the gist).
Ripped off of Based on the classic Gradius franchise, OE is designed from the ground up to punish players. It's really that simple; in the old days, games were made to be dominated by hours of memorization and quick reflexes, and Gradius was one of the best.
Controlling the flying girls is easy with either the D-pad or analog stick (but really, stick to the pad) in any of the three modes: Story, Multiplay, or Score Attack. Seven characters—eight with DLC—to choose from and a customizable power-up structure for each, and each has a batch of power-ups special to them. Depending on your play style, there's a character to fit the bill. The three modes are all essentially the same, so perfecting the stages is the goal instead of unlocking more than just achievements.
While I appreciate a difficult game, when it feels simply overwhelming I start to get irritated. And with many classic shooters, that tends to be the problem. The sheer number of bullets (and how fast they fly) can be the difference between a skill-based fight and a "why do I feel so damn slow and everything else is so damn fast" shower of enemy fire. When it's done well, it's a true blast to play. When it's done like some segments of this game, it feels cheap and forced. Watching the replays of high-level players only reinforces this; they found ways to avoid getting hit (the "?" option allows for a few hits without losing a life), but even they are still hit an obscene number of times in a given round, no matter the difficulty, simply because the hit box for every craft looks and feels huge and lumbering.
Even with the cheap hits, this is obviously a skill-based experience. And if you're into that kind of challenge, this has an extra feature that's right up your alley: replays. As I type this paragraph, the video of the top Score Attack high-scorer is playing on my screen, and I can see every move that's earned them that "how the hell…?" number. It's damn impressive to see the technique of the upper-echelon, and if you want to get better at a game like this, that's how to do it; patterns are the norm, so get used to it (if you're not already).
And damn is this excessive fan service. Skimpy skirts, crazy cleavage, numerous references to classic Konami franchises (the most awesome of which is Castlevania, watch out!) and your choice of eight different bare-all heroes? There might be better ways to please hardcore fans, but innocent sex and nostalgia are what Konami is banking on to sell this very Japanese gaming flashback. But hey, if you're in the mood for some gun-toting magical girl action, this fits the bill better than nearly anything else out on the market. It's not really the prettiest thing on the market, but with as much stuff on screen at once, the slowdown is surprisingly minimal and everything comes through clearly… with the exception of some bullets that can be lost in the hubbub of the background on occasion.
If you're looking for a crazy-action shooter to throw you back to the most hardcore of skill levels and reaction times, I would definitely recommend the recent Deathsmiles and the infamous (and downloadable) Ikaruga over this, but Otomedius Excellent is up there. As obnoxious as it can be, sometimes that's just what I need: a swift kick to the gaming groin. If you think games like Mega Man 9 and 10 are tough, you have no idea just how dead you can be in a game. Get ready to have your butt kicked like no twelve-year-old (with way too much cleavage) ever has before.
Unless you're into that sort of thing. I don't judge.
Review copy provided by publisher.