Game: Otomedius Gorgeous!
Release Date: November 20, 2009
My Score: 7/10
Before this game, It has been a very long time since Konami released an all-new shooter. Gradius V was made by Treasure and every shooter release after that was just a compilation of older games. So when I heard a new shooter was coming out, I thought it would be Gradius VI. As I got more and more information that the new Konami shooter would be anime-based, I was a little skeptical. Then in the fall of 2007 Otomedius hit the arcades. I went to an arcade and it was with very little fanfare. It was placed with the girlie games, so that didn't help much. So I risked dignity and 600 yen (for the e-AMUSEMENT PASS Konami forces you to buy when you play their arcade games) and I tried the game out. I was bored and unimpressed. But then I thought....all I've been playing as far as shmups is anything Cave spews into arcades. The only way to give this game a fair shake is to erase how recent games have spoiled me. I realized the game is an ode to Gradius fans and they weren't going to change their formula for anybody. After that, the game became very enjoyable and nostalgic. Fast forward 2 years later and I buy it for the XBOX360.
Otomedius (Otome meaning "Virgin girl" or "Maiden" but not used in everyday conversation) feels more like Gradius than Parodius even though it looks like Parodius. All of the famous ships and bosses from Konami classics have all become personified into mostly female anime characters. There are MANY elements of this game from enemies to backgrounds to bosses that take from classic Konami shooters. If you are a big fan and have played most or all of Konami's classics, then you will be rewarded for your loyalty. There are little things here and there that you will immediately recognize from Salamander, Nemesis, and of course, Gradius games. There is no doubt that when you play this game, you KNOW you are playing a Konami game.
According to the very short manga that came with the game, the main character named Anoa Aoba (a personified Vic Viper), has come to Earth with her buddy from Planet Gradius. They know the evil Penguins are going to attack, so they arrive at a high school at the right moment. The Penguins attack the school and the 'Angels' kick their asses. They then befriend a boy named Kinya who is apparently very good-looking but is afraid of girls. The 'Angels' take notice of him right away and begin to flirt with him. One of them even calls him "Honey". They go on to tell him that life is precious and they have come to earth to protect life, specifically his. So the next day the girls magically appear as exchange students and all the boys are taken by their cuteness. They only give Kinya attention which makes all the other boys jealous. They flirt with him but he runs away. He comes home late at night and the girls are waiting for him on their knees in his bedroom. Yeah.....so that is how it ends in the min manga. It sounds like the beginning of a porn movie. Chicka chicka wow wow. At the end of the manga they give you a QR code which you're supposed to scan with your cellphone so you can continue reading the story. I did this but I didn't go too far because I am in the USA and using my Japanese phone for websurfing does get pricey. I think I am paying like 1 yen per kilobyte while roaming outside of Japan. You get 4 web episodes free, and then you must pay upwards of 300 yen beyond that.
Like most classic Konami shooters, you have a bar system which lists different attributes of the ship which you can enhance. Speed, missiles, lasers, ripples, options, etc. You can choose a "manual" mode where you choose when and which power-ups to get. Or you can opt for the computer to do this for you automatically. I don't like the game's AI's choices so I always opt for the manual mode. Don't go crazy with the SPEED-UP option or your ship becomes impossible to control accurately. My recommendation is get two SPEED power-ups, one laser, then max out your options. After that, build up your forcefield. AFter that, you can be almost unstoppable!
There are two modes of gameplay. Original which is based on the arcade game or "Gorgeous" mode which is the XBOX360 mode. In the original mode he screen is shrunk down to 4:3 (Gorgeous mode is 16:9) with no real good way to expand it to full screen. In original you start off with a forcefield and you also have a "burst" attack which annihilates anything on the screen, accompanied by a full screen animation respective of your character. This is unfamiliar territory for Konami shmups as they traditionally don't have these types of super attacks that most other shmups do. In the original mode you can choose the level you want to go to. In Gorgeous mode, you go through the levels in a set order. One problem with gorgeous mode is something not-so gorgeous. Massive slow-down. It feels like I am playing Super R-Type on SNES, it is that bad. At least there are no virtually no load times, so perhaps that makes up for the slowdown? Anyway, I found myself playing the Gorgeous mode more often because it feels more like a classic Konami shmup without the extra gimmicks like point-collecting and burst attacks. Also, although it slows down, I can get a full screen instead of a 4:3 screen in the middle.
There are 6 levels in Gorgeous mode. San Salvador Island, Tokyo, Alexandria (From Gradius II), Antarctica, Canada (Remake of 1st level from Gradius 1), and the final Stage. There is a sixth stage in original mode, but I listed that in my gripes paragraph below. The stages begin like old Gradius games. You are in empty space with no background to collect power-ups. After about 2 minutes or so the screen morphs into the stage's background. The stage designs are very colorful and detailed, but moving things in the background can sometimes be confused as foreground enemies. There are a lot of penguins in all of the levels which makes it sometimes feel like Parodius. My favorite is the Tokyo level, but it does seem out-of-place compared to the other levels. I guess the designers wanted to make a level inspired by their hometown.
There is another element of the game that I am not really into, but does add to the replay value. There is a point-collecting system. The more points you get can be used towards upgrading your upgrades. (huh?) This is only available in ORIGINAL mode. You still have to earn power-ups, only the power-ups are more powerful than before. The better you score in individual levels, the more points you get. Earning points also opens up pieces of the gallery where you can view works from the game's artist, Mine Yoshizaki.
Also worth noting is that there is online coop mode where you and a friend (or a stranger) can play through the game together. There is a LAN versus/coop mode as well.
What's wrong with the game other than the massive slow-down in Gorgeous mode? One complaint is that you do not get the "complete" game. The game (in Original mode) is very short (5 levels) but you have to buy the 6th level (Easter Island) as DLC in order to get the full experience of the game in original mode. Way to be greedy, Konami. I understand buying DLC to enhance a game, but DLC to COMPLETE a game, that is just low. But hey, they throw in extra songs for the soundtrack. I try to ignore this fact as I play because it is an enjoyable game even though it is not complete right out of the box. Other grievances about the game is that the moving things in the background can be confused for foreground enemies and the bullets are often the same color as the background in some levels. The enemy penguins look static, a lot of them are standing still doing nothing. It might be OK for SNES Parodius, but I expect more from an XBOX360 game. Also, collision detection is another gripe. Your ship is pretty big. Sometimes bullets pass through you, and sometimes just grazing a bullet kills you. It is hard to dodge bullets when your ship is big and you don't know where the collision point of your ship is.
There is a touch-pad joystick available for the XBOX360 which is made by Hori. I do not understand the need for this overpriced joystick, it is merely a gimmick to sell joysticks....at $300. DLC, gimmick joysticks, spending money to finish reading the online manga....this game can potentionally cost $400.
The verdict: 7/10
If you are a fan of classic Konami shooters, then this will not disappoint. Its slow pace may turn you off if you have been spoiled by recent manic shooters, but solid gameplay is intact. If you've been introduced to shmups by manic shooters, then you probably won't be too impressed with this title. For you shmup veterans, there are little quirks here and there and acknowledge those who are well-versed in the Gradius universe. So if you're a new school shmupper, perhaps you should pass, if you're old school...GET THIS GAME! Although I do have my gripes about this game, it is a must-have for veterans who want to feel nostalgic about playing Gradius as a kid. If you're a youngan, then this game is Gradius for the Moé Generation.
As always, no pirated or emulated reviews. My copy:
The e-AMUSEMENT PASS needed to play most cabinets of the arcade version.
It also doubles as a memory card, remembers your points earned for upgrades.
This is me attempting to get the extra manga issues with my Japanese phone:
Woohoo! I am there!
Aw crap, now I gotta pay up the ass! Forget it....
(The page doesn't work on a PC)