When top-tier shmups such as Bullet Soul and Eschatos fail to obtain localization, it’s evident that the genre may heading towards its last continue in the U.S. For a brief moment, Otomedius Excellent’s amalgam of the revered Gradius series with an ample supply of anime breasts seemed like Komani might play savior to the shrinking shoot-‘em up market. Yet with dated mechanics, humdrum stages, and outdated visuals, Otomedius is unlikely to cultivate an audience beyond the most zealous of devotees.
After selecting from a quartet of difficulty levels, players choose an avatar from one of seven moe archetypes. Choosing between the rabbit-eared, blue-haired Aoba Anoa, demure schoolgirl, or samurai Gesshi Hanafumma offers more than just cosmetic variance- each character has their own specific weapon package. Additionally, gamers can tweak their offensive output even further by accumulating weapon cards, which offer a pleasing amount of variation and allow for a fully customized loadout. Following Gradius tradition, players may choose a manual or semi-auto upgrade of their arsenal. The former tasks gamers which making a decision between immediate, less-powerful perks and deferred dominating weaponry, while the latter allows the CPU to make basic decisions. Unfortunately, the old series decree of losing firepower when a ship is destroyed also remains. This is partially offset by a high frequency of power-up icons throughout each of the title’s eight stages and the ability to recollect your ‘options’.
With each protagonist straddling a bulky rocket, the size of the player’s ship is larger than shmup convention. As such, gamers may want to jump into Otomedius’ practice mode, which reveals the character’s vulnerable hit box. Although the title never flaunts the parade of enemy missiles common to ‘bullet hell’-styled games, the ungainly dimensions of the player’s ship can be aggravating when battling a encroaching boss or navigating through a tight corridor.
Many of the title’s redeeming features seem to come with a caveat. Although Otomedius Excellent allows up to three online participants to work cooperatively, the game inexplicably prohibits continues. Just as some of the title’s boss fights are intensifying, the antagonist gives up and disappears off the screen, ending a level with bafflement instead of a blinding blast. Although the game wants to reference the classics (you’ll pass a restaurant which uses the Contra moniker), the lack of signature motifs such Moai heads reveal that this title is not Konami canon.
Graphically, Otomedius Excellent fails to justify its superlative moniker through simplistic enemies and overused stage texturing. Even the sporadic perk of parallax scrolling or remarkable boss design can be undone by the game’s bits of slowdown. Worse, the title’s vow of titillation is barely perceptible- except for suggestive stills in the character select screen and fleeting bits of animation before a confrontation, Otomedius is relatively chaste. Sonically, the game forgoes dubbing, offering diminutive subtitles which scroll throughout the stage.
The Japanese term kusoge refers to a piece of entertainment that is deliberately bad. Much like a campy, low-budget film, games like Cho Aniki are able to attain an audience who appreciates a bit of subversive kitsch. Regretfully, those admirers will be the only ones who will feel gratified by Otomedius Excellent’s uneasy vibe. Even with the title’s discounted thirty-dollar price, most fans of the genre are encouraged to indulge their passions for shmups with downloadable delights such as Deathsmiles, Trouble Witches Neo!, and Radiant Silvergun.