Another week another XBox Live Arcade title gets funnelled down those wavy electrical tubes you see in films like the Matrix that Microsoft bought and now rent out to us for around three pounds a month. If I’m honest, I never get too excited anymore about what’s coming my way. There really have been so many lazy high definition makeovers of games that you’d forgotten you’d liked and then wondered why you had ever been able to wean any joy out of them anyway when you ultimately get round to downloading the trial version. Too much old dirge not enough new splurge, or something like that.
However, there are exceptions that prove every rule. Yes I have considered every single rule and have found exceptions to all of them – and Omega Five is definitely one of those. Instead of being an Arcade Classic in the XBLA sense, i.e. re-hash of old rubbish game, it’s a brand new title, it’s a side scrolling shooter (I like the word shmup myself) it’s distinctly Japanese in tone and art design and above and beyond all that it’s fun.
I not really going to go into what you have to do, I mean it can’t be too hard to suss can it? You choose your character, blast everything on screen until there’s nothing left on the screen any more. Oh yeah, and remember to get out of the way of enemy fire. You collect various power ups along the way, all which serve to give you a choice of weapon and of course to increase their power and their rate of fire. There’s the old ‘smart bomb’ technique which can only be activated if you collect loads of little pink triangles the spawn out of your enemies’ death march in order to fill up your triangular smart bomb meter, naturally.
For the first time in a long time I really did feel like I was playing an old/new game. Old in style and concept, new in the terms of well, it’s new. One thing to bear in mind though is that although all my eulogising about Hudson’s latest might make you dash over to your respective 360s in order to begin shelling out MS points to ‘the man’ who cares for neither you nor I, be warned: it’s bloody difficult! Seriously.
Oh how I wanted to throw the controller across the room so many times. I think it took me the best part of an evening to get past the first level which, on a side note, has some excellent Japanese chap introducing it as the Gwacial Fortwess: I love it. There are only four levels in total but believe you me it’ll keep you occupied for a while. It’s also got that element of surprise that really wants to make you punch someone’s lights out. Enemies come from everywhere and the game cleverly lures you to the back of the screen only for the next wave of flying, mechanical monsters to yes, you’ve guessed it, appear from behind you and take you down.
This isn’t one of those unlimited continues arcade games either. Three lives and that’s your lot so it really is a case of practicing and practicing in order to not drop any lives in the first two levels as if you thought they were difficult, wait until levels three and four. So again I must underline that this is as true to classic arcade game as you’re gonna get on XBLA at the moment so if you want a pick and put down kind of game that you don’t really want to invest too much time in then this really isn’t for you. Unless you’re a huge shmup fan of course.
The graphics are hilarious. Why use one million pixels when one thousand will do? Bright colours, jagged round the edges, a touch of bleeding here and there and we have all the ingredient of a late 80s early 90s coin-op paper round money drainer. You can’t help but love Omega Five, or Hudson, for taking us back to that dark, dingy arcade hall that we wasted so much of the money that we earned and that was supposed to last us until the following Saturday, but alas.
What more can I say about the game? There’s no multiplayer to speak of, really. Only two player local, which is a shame as I would’ve loved to have played this online with a friend. The price is also somewhat high, I feel. At 400 MS Points this would have to an insta-buy for anyone out there but at 800 this will only serve to exclude many many people from going beyond the trail version, I feel.
Also, this isn’t one for you Achievement whores either. Of course there’s the standard few points for every level completed and there are a few other character related ones thrown in for good measure but the real heavyweight Achievements are nigh on impossible to get. They are awarded for completing any level/whole game without taking any damage whatsoever. That’s crazy. But then again it’s supposed to be isn’t it? It’s a side-scrolling Japanese import arcade game. You’ve gotta love it for it!