November 14, 2011

Review – Otomedius Excellent

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 10:10 am

review otomedius excellent
After much doubt, delay, and speculation, Konami’s side-scrolling shooter, Otomedius Excellent, has landed in North America, hoping to tempt genre fans with barely clothed heroines and inspirational notes taken from the holy book of Gradius.

Aspirations to live my life as cliché stirred a desperate want to love this release – Travis Touchdown has Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly 5, and I was going to have Otomedius Excellent. But as much as I can appreciate this game upsetting the digestion of Western audiences with wrappings your mother would certainly disapprove of, I’d rather play the aforementioned shooter mini-game found within No More Heroes 2.

Beneath the bubblegum aesthetics, Otomedius Excellent is a hard game to love, striving to find ways to break my heart with an experience I could love nearly everything about, except for having to actually play it.

review otomedius excellent
“Shoot the Core!”

That favorite phrase of the shooter genre serves as the entire design focus for Otomedius’ boss battles. Every end of stage encounter provides ships with candy colored cores, guarded by shield plating through an opening as narrow as the Death Star’s infamous weak spot. A series of predictable attack patterns works to keep players struggling to maintain a line of sight on that goal, creating a race against time as bosses will grow bored of waiting to be defeated and simply fly away to fight another day.

This approach doesn’t break the game however, and could earnestly offer a reasonable challenge if only the weapons were up to the task. There’s an element of immediate gratification most shooters offer, and I wouldn’t fault Otomedius for asking players to dig deeper for it if any sense of satisfaction ever emerged for the effort. But the weapons of Otomedius continually underwhelm the visual and tactile expectations, largely leaving players to choose between a three-directional stream of fire, which is ideal for stage enemies but not bosses, or pea-shooter alternatives more suited to tackling core attacks.

Since it wouldn’t be a Konami game without a laser I could take or leave, there’s one of those, as well as a special attack that strikes at multiple points on the screen, which I so rarely found use for I eventually forgot the option was available.

review otomedius excellent
Gradius inspirations factor into the weapon system, which has players picking up power-ups to cycle through available weapon upgrades during stages, which then remain with players until they die. Weapon loadouts can even be customized, as each of the playable female characters can be edited before starting a game. There’s a proven formula for success here, undone by the unfriendly way the game symbolizes upgrades during stages, and the fact that all these weapons look more fun to use in the small pictures describing them than they actually are within the game.

I never felt that my weapon choices prevented me from defeating a boss in a Gradius game, which is how Otomedius constantly feels – as if I can never select the right tool for the job, because it simply doesn’t exist.

At first I relied entirely upon one character with the three-directional split fire in order to get through stages. But the more I dug around, and the more I finished stages to earn stat increases, the more I could start making some sense of Otomedius’ agenda – though I still feel wanting for true comprehension. Eventually I made better use of additional gunpods and dual streams of fire, discovering that I could even recover said pods after dying if I was quick enough. And yet, no amount of discovery alleviates the sense that the rewards fall far short of justifying the effort – so either I’ve succumb to a need for immediate gratification, or Otomedius is simply a bland shooter any way you slice it.

review otomedius excellent
There are some legitimately clever ideas going on within the game however, with a stage where players can blast pillars to cause pieces of the environment to move, a boss encounter where a very determined blocker works to safe-guard the core, and even some slight camera pivots when the battle reaches space and puts players up against an obligatory armada.

Part of the problem might be that the game is boldly and unapologetically Japanese in presentation. There’s no attempt to endear itself with a narrative that is subtitled in tiny print during stages, tossing any chance of peace with the story out the window – aside from the idea of high school girls piloting ships that expose their entire body I have absolutely no idea what is going on even after repeated sessions.

Certainly I could attempt to summarize the plot, but it really isn’t worth the trouble.

Otomedius simply isn’t offering enough in the design or depth of its seven stages, and while I can’t deny that there is some substance to dig for and experiment with, neither can I suggest that such efforts yield a better game experience. Only a precious few will do so, and anyone else would be wiser to pick up a game like Deathsmiles for an oddity shooter fix on the 360.

review otomedius excellent
I could stand to be more forgiving of Otomedius’ bland visuals and design if the online hadn’t so completely disappointed. Up to three players can tackle the game together over LIVE, which provided a legitimately better experience, at least for a few short moments before discovering that co-pilots are sent back to the lobby menu if they die. This meant that I’d have to stop playing, exit the game, and then start a new session just to try multiplayer again, something that makes so little sense I really shouldn’t have to explain it, because Konami should certainly know better.

I’m glad to see Konami still interested in shooters however, and I’m glad to see them willing to bring less mass appealing titles over here. But Otomedius Excellent is several miles away from the publisher that brought us Gradius 5, and even further away from the kind of game you really want to stick your name on.

The bizarre factor is the only selling point here, and it’s a bloody shame the gameplay can’t back it up with something worth playing. I sincerely hope Konami tries again, but urge them to pick up the phone and give Treasure a call before doing so.



Xbox 360

Singleplayer, Local Multiplayer, Online Multiplayer

Release Date
November 8, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

1 Comment »

  1. I agree with this review 100%.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — November 17, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

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