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Otomedius Excellent Review

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On 12/03/2011 at 03:15 PM by Jason Ross

No lions, tigers, or bears here, but we're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Those who enjoy Gradius-style shooters will like Otomedius Extreme. Those looking to try a Gradius-style shooter for the first time would do well to start with this one. Everyone else interested in shoot-em-ups on the 360 should probably look for something else.

Imagine a world where schools are secretly facilities to train kids to become fighter pilots. There is an underground spy at the school masquerading as a science professor. The fate of the world is at hand! Does any of this matter? Oh no it doesn't. Skimpy clothes on teenage anime girls, bullets, bullets, and more bullets, along with several boss fights define Otomedius Excellent.

Otome, which means “Maiden” in Japanese, and Gradius mashed into one forms the portmanteau of “Otomedius,” a game which promises Gradius-style shoot-'em-up gaming with lots of scantily clad anime girls. It's a simple concept, and the game is relatively simple in its execution as well. Each playable character in the game pilots a different ship, with a twist: there isn't really a cockpit; in most cases the girl kind of rests in-between the wings of each ship. Regardless, the ship and the girl act as one, with a circular hitbox that encompasses the point where the girl and the ship intersect. Since this point isn't really the center of the ship, it can make determining the hitbox in real-time a little more difficult than normal.

My favorite idea represented in Otomedius Excellent has little to do with graphics or aesthetics. Each character in the game represents a game or franchise in Konami's shoot-'em-up past. Some elements of a character's weapons or appearance can signify this, but this is ultimately displayed within the gameplay. The main character represents the Vic Viper from Gradius, another is based on TwinBee, a third on Salamander. All together, there are eight unique characters who play the same at a glance, but most offer a fairly decent amount of substance on their own. Players familiar with Gradius will likely recall “Options,” which are essentially familiars that fly around each ship, imitating the flight pattern of the ship to help out. Most ships have their own type of options, and each type can radically alter how one must approach success (read: Not dying while killing the bigger, badder boss ships) throughout Otomedius Excellent.

In the end though, success against a boss typically comes down to shooting down the boss's core. While cores generally look like large orbs, they're often deep within a boss, and successful shots can only be fired once several barriers have been shot down that guard a narrow opening to each core. While Otomedius Excellent has dozens of weapons, some are great at shooting down the dozen or so enemy ships that can appear on screen during a stage, while others are more effective at shooting down cores. At the beginning of the game when choosing a character, players are asked to assign a few weapons to their ships, and this choice is of vast importance to player success throughout the game. Pick the wrong weapon, and it could be practically impossible to destroy a boss before the boss literally gets bored and leaves. The right one, on the other hand, can allow skilled players a chance to escalate higher and higher on online leaderboards.

Still, this type of versatility represents an issue with the game, one that Gradius games tend to share: a steep learning curve. In order to determine the effectiveness of a weapon against a boss, players will have to be able to reach the boss with either enough power-ups to purchase the weapon for use on the boss, or reach the boss with the weapon. For someone skilled at shoot-'em-ups, this isn't a huge problem, but considering how many bosses there are and the number of vastly different weapons, finding the one that fits a playstyle just right can become a chore. Without a trial type of option for quick experimentation, Otomedius Excellent's diverse weapon options can become a little bit overbearing. In this way, the game does little to invite new players to experience what it has to offer.

Likewise, Otomedius Excellent could be marred by its risque theme. Aside from a little bit of random dialogue and some bosses that are represented by their own typically equally unclothed girls that appear on screen with their names, the characters and plot of Otomedius Excellent really have little impact on the core of the game. The wacky plot involving “Bacterians,” a “Dark Force,” and time travel has little bearing on the gameplay. I have to admit that if I didn't receive Otomedius Excellent as a review title, I would be embarrassed to admit I had played it. For me, this seems like a problem. For younger gamers, it absolutely is. For older ones, it might not be an issue at all. Regardless, I have to say the theme, while fun at times, is another definite barrier to entry for Otomedius Excellent.

Simultaneous multiplayer helps to break down a few of those barriers. Available both online and offline, Otomedius experts can take friends flying as wingmates. Interestingly enough, in multiplayer, only the first player has lives. Up to three total people can play, and player two and three can die as many times as they can until player one loses all of his stock and sees a game over. Playing the game with Chris actually worked out well: I would generally stay in the back, dodging bullets and killing things, and he'd die endlessly. Slowly, he grew a little bit better at the game. This mode isn't a bad way to introduce a friend to the genre, but because of the cumulative power-up system of Gradius titles, even with infinite lives, dying repeatedly can be absolutely frustrating at times.

I mentioned the leaderboards a little bit above, but it's important to note that players can also include a replay when they make a high score. The best players can actually be watched, and it's possible to pick up on new strategies and weapon combinations from observing the top replays. Unfortunately, considering how long a high-scoring replay can be, inevitably these replays are subject to corruption of some sort, and sooner or later, a few stages, if not all of them, will wind up desynced, rendering their entertainment value and usefulness moot. Fortunately, each stage seems to be saved separately, so if a video desyncs, most of it can still be salvaged by just skipping to the replay of the next level. Those wishing to challenge the leaderboards will likely want to skip most replays of the early stages as well: The score attack mode loops after the seventh level, and each round from 1-99 grows progressively more difficult!

I have a hard time recommending a Gradius title. I've never been fond of the series, and I don't particularly enjoy the element of resource management required to power up that is characteristic to the franchise. The ecchi anime theme doesn't necessarily help this game out, either. Still, it's hard not to find the variety within the game exceptional, and the potential behind 99 different loops is a little mind-boggling. With the multiplayer aspects, as well as the ease of access to replays, I have to admit this particular Gradius-styled title seems a lot more approachable than similar games I've played in the past. Despite this, I definitely feel like other games in the shoot-'em-up genre are more polished and more enjoyable on the whole. To that extent, I have to recommend this game only to those who are fans of Gradius, Otomedius G, Parodius, and Konami's shooters in general. I think there are too many better options out there, particularly on the 360, to settle for Otomedius Excellent.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/03/2011 at 07:49 PM

Options like Ikaruga.

Anyway, what did you guys think of Deathsmiles?

Jason Ross Senior Editor

12/03/2011 at 08:46 PM

I haven't played it yet, I've been more partial to most Treasure games, like how you mentioned Ikaruga. I checked out a quick video, and I have to say it looks a bit more appealing than anything based on Gradius, for sure. I'll check it out, perhaps over Christmas time, and I'll at least say something about it at some point.

Nick DiMola Director

12/03/2011 at 09:26 PM

Deathsmiles was a great game. I wanted to write a review on it, but never got around to it. That is a much better game than this one. I need to pick that game up at some point in the future, before you can't find it any more.

Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

12/04/2011 at 03:13 PM

Death Smiles is one of my favorites on 360, I was going to write a review for PixlBit when I was on staff but some stuff didn't pan out. Anyways, the top SHMUPS on 360 that is available in North America are Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun, Death Smiles and Deathsmiles 2. Treasure and Cave own the genre IMO.

It's a shame that Otomedius is a middle of the road game since it falls under the Parodius lineage. I do still want to get a copy of this but maybe during a sale.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

12/04/2011 at 03:22 PM

While I haven't played any Parodius, I did some research. General consensus is that those games offer a little more variety than this one does. There are a few Parodius characters that make a cameo here, but Otomedius, from what I've seen, is practically considered another universe.

Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

12/04/2011 at 06:15 PM

BTW I think you ment to say Otomedius Excellent rather than Otomedius Extreme at the tail end of the review ;).

Jason Ross Senior Editor

12/04/2011 at 07:29 PM

Yup. I'm just glad that's the only place that mistake slipped through. The week leading up to and after, playing the game, I could not get it's name quite right. "Extreme" is totally a better game name. Totally.

Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

12/04/2011 at 08:26 PM

The Tak Fuji effect got you Jason ;)

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/05/2011 at 11:16 AM

I don't want to steal the comments away from the actual game you reviewed, but does Deathsmiles suffer from the same um... style issues as Otomedius? The box art left me a little worried. I don't really have a problem with Japanese style, but it does get a little ridiculous sometimes.

Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

12/05/2011 at 08:19 PM

By theme and graphics, to a little extent I guess you can say yes. By gameplay, dear god no. The gameplay in DeathSmiles and other Cave games are practically unrivaled in the genre.

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