One of my fondest gaming memories of the NES era was a side-scroller shooter called Life Force. Ever since that day when I first popped that cartridge into my system, I’ve always had an affinity for really good side-scrollers like that. While at the Bomberman Live event Hudson held, they gave us an extremely early peak at their next XBLA title called Omega Five, and already it is looking like something to keep your eyes on. Besides, what other game lets you have a samurai flying on a hoverboard and having his dog attack people?
Much like Life Force and other R-Type and Gradius games, Omega Five is a side-scrolling flying shooter, where you’ll be dodging and dipping around, dodging enemy fire while you move into position for your own attacks to bring down the metal monstrosities. Unlike those games, however, your characters aren’t confined to ships, but are rather very humanistic and float along through the levels.
Info is all preliminary based on the early build we saw and played, but as of the moment the game is to feature three initial characters, with an unlockable one also being in the mix, opening up after you seemingly beat the game or at least do so on a higher level. Right now the characters include a woman with a grappling hook device that hovers in space around her, a samurai looking fellow on a board who uses his dog to target enemies, and another guy who shoots with a giant cannon that spurts all kinds of liquid goo. Each character presented their own play styles and weaponry, thus making it so everyone could find a character they liked. The most popular character seemed to be the samurai, for the sheer gimmick of attacking enemies with your sword while you had your dog go out to target enemies, so you could then throw shurikens at them. Another favorite was the guy with the cannon, as the animation of the various liquid goos shooting out was really fluid and nice.
The graphics and animation were really great looking, especially considering that the game has a more zoomed in feel, as your character and those of the enemies take up a good portion of the screen, leaving you little room that is wasted with empty nothingness. The lack of dead space may make the game harder, but it’s hard to argue it wasn’t pretty to look at.
The enemies for the level we got to experience were mostly pure robotic inventions, but it was the way they were utilized that really spiced the game up. Of course, like many other side-scrollers, enemies came from the right side and onto the screen as usual, but more impressive were the ones who showed up in the background as nothing more than animated parts of the scenery, and then seamlessly blended into the actual foreground and ceased being art and started being actual enemies. Honestly, when these enemies fly in from the background and hit the foreground, it is seamless as there is no pop or anything to shown they have breached that wall. Another neat trick was a massive boss type enemy, who emerged from the background in much the same way, but then surprised us by jumping in from the left side of the screen. The enemy attacks included lots of bullets coming at us from all angles, while the giant boss-esque character also liked to use this ice ray of sorts, which you need to blast through or else risk getting hurt by.
Each character has their own weaponry, but they also have unique skills, such as the guy with the cannon having a shield they are able to trigger to conserve damage. By dispatching enemies, little purple triangles would float away from enemies, which we were then able to grab to power our abilities. It remains to be seen all the abilities there are, but they should come in handy with the daunting task of taking all the enemies out. The controls are going to be tweaked some it seem, as it was pretty difficult to get used to the left thumbstick control, as it was on a more pivot based system rather than the usual point right to go right system. If the game incorporated a much more manageable dual thumbstick shooting system like a Robotron or Geometry Wars, for example, it would seem like the ultimate package.
Besides the lovely graphics and animation effects, the sound work was a topic of conversation, because though while many of the voice work grunts had a layer of cheese and B-movie quality to them, with the visual direction of the characters (hello, samurai wielding a dog!) it worked amazingly well and added to the overall fun of the experience, and when Hudson mentioned things will be tweaked and worked on before it goes onto Xbox Live Arcade, everyone in attendance at the event seemed unanimous that the B-movie sound work added to the experience and should be left alone.
Hudson seems on a role with Xbox Live Arcade games, because first they have Bomberman Live coming out, which was an absolute blast to play, and they look to be following it soon up with the equally interesting and engaging Omega Five. Keep it up Hudson, and maybe the Xbox Live Arcade will be turned around and changed for good.