If you've ever played the classic shooter Gradius, and thought that it could use cute anime girls, then Otomedius Excellent would still not be for you!
Developed by Konami Excellent is the second in the Otomedius series (the first released in America), with Mine Yoshizaki (Sgt. Frog creator) designing the characters. The premise of the game has you piloting one of eleven female pilots as they battle against a new threat known as Dark Force, which terrorizes Earth with its massive armies and strange minions. Otomedius is set up in a classic side-scroller style that has you battling ships, bots, and various bosses throughout the levels. Sounds simple, right? Not by a long shot.
One of the game's bigger flaws is that throughout each level too much is going on at the same time. In many instances you'll find yourself battling it out against over thirty enemy ships and bots, only to be shot down after being hit three times. You can collect extra health, but in almost no time at all you'll be back down to one final lifeline, which is symbolized by how much your character's eyes are open in their icon. It gets even worse when all your lives are lost and wish to continue, as Otomedius Excellent will wipe out all but one point of your entire score.
Controls can be wonky at times, too, as you'll find yourself confused about which button does what to no end. One button was supposed to do single shots, whereas another allegedly fires doubles, yet throughout my entire gameplay experience I could not differentiate between the two. Another big flaw with the game is that you could not spin your character around, and while it sounds like that wouldn't make sense there will be areas where enemies will be firing behind you and you cannot evade. It became quite frustrating after being killed seven times in a row by enemies that I literally could not shoot.
Graphically Otomedius Excellent disappoints, looking like a bare bones Xbox Live Arcade title. Nothing about it screams revolutionary, even by downloadable game standards. It made me wonder why it was made into a physical release in the first place, as it looked like something that would barely take up a single Xbox disc. The game also has some translation errors that are more facepalm-inducing than hysterical, leading me to believe that whoever was in charge of bringing this game to America did a half-ass job making sure all the grammatical kinks were out of the system. Its anime sequences look great, although I would worry if a game like this was to be translated into a full-fledged TV series or OVA.
The music, though, is another story. Composed by Motoi Sakurba and Michiru Yamane the techno/trance music that fills the worlds of Otomedius is worthy enough for any club or rave. There is no English dub for the characters, however, and the only way you can understand what they are saying is on the tiny scroll on the bottom left-hand side of your screen. You'll find yourself more confused than intrigued by what's going on throughout the game.
Now comes the worst thing about the game: the Story Mode is only one hour long! You get blasted by the enemies -- and sometimes not have to defeat the bosses at the end to complete each level -- and your total gaming time will be less than even the dreadful Ugly Americans game. You'll be able to earn power-ups that can be used for the next time you play, but you'll find yourself so frustrated with this game that you won't want to bother. There's an online multiplayer mode, as well, but every time I went on there was not a single gamer to be found. (Apparently they got the "Avoid this game!" memo before I did.) As for extras there is this to be found with your right analog stick:
Can you say "Jailbait Simulator"?
- Nice opening anime sequence
- Techno soundtrack worthy of any party
- Graphics look worse than your average XBLA title
- Too much enemy AI attacking during gameplay
- Story Mode lasts only one hour!
- Disturbing fan-service
You would think that a game that teamed up the Gradius developers with Mine Yoshizaki would be a winner. Alas it was not to be, as Otomedius Excellent will go down in history as one of the worst scrolling shooter titles ever to be created. This is one game that should've stayed put in Japan; on second thought it should've been scrapped for something that would've even turned out to be below mediocre. Simply put: avoid Otomedius Excellent at all costs, even when it's released on the PlayStation Vita later next year.
FINAL GRADE: 1.1 (out of ten)