Otomedius Excellent Review
I was admittedly a bit embarrassed when during my (ridiculous) E3 demo of Konami's Otomedius Excellent, I made the assumption that the game was a digital download. The rep was quick to assert that the game would see a full retail release, thankfully willing to ignore what my statement really implied, namely: "This game appears to be worth about five bucks." Thing is, I wasn't wrong. Though Otomedius Excellent recently launched at the budget price of just $29.99 ($39.99 for the special edition), it still falls short of what I expect for my $30 in this economy, an unpolished mess barely worth recommending to even the most die-hard shooter fans.
One of the game's many mundane boss battles.
Otomedius is an offshoot of Konami's famous shooter franchise Gradius, reimaging the sleek spaceships of the series as underage girls with brazenly-exposed sideboob. The special edition of the game is designed for those among us who have completely disregarded the notion of ever courting the fairer sex, complete with an artbook worthy of any smut collection, and a pillowcase likely meant to inspire some awkward nocturnal emissions. To be fair, this isn't the first time that unsettling lolita imagery has been used to sell video games. The difference is that Deathsmiles was actually fun, a balls-out bout of bullet hell frenzy accented with some cute little girl motifs. Meanwhile, Otomoedius is all fluff and no filler, less notable for the actual game than for the loading screens, where the cast of squeaky-voiced teenagers moan in ecstasy as you direct a cursor over their nipples.
Everything you need to start your new life FOREVER ALONE.
The game does feature a wide variety of ladies to pick from (and molest during loading time), most of whom pay homage to a classic Gradius ship. For instance, Aoba Anoa pilots her own version of the famous Vic Viper ship, something which might be cute if her outfit showcased an appropriate level of skin. Regardless, the wide variety of characters is likely Otomedius's strongest suite, the various ladies all sporting a unique special attack and a variety of potential weapon options to choose from. After picking your child bride, its right into the action, all of which will be familiar to Gradius veterans. By collecting power-ups from downed enemies a tiny gauge fills, letting players spend their collected bonuses on better weapons and abilities. These include the crucial "Speed Up," "Force Field," and the famous "Option," a tiny gunpod which follows behind your ship, spewing forth its own collection of ordinance.
Thank god for strategically placed orange triangles.
The first thing you'll notice about Otomedius Excellent is how dated the visuals look, barely textured environments and similarly uninteresting enemies, none of it looking any more impressive than a first-generation Dreamcast title. These poor graphics actually make gameplay rather confusing at times, and I was often unable to tell whether I was about to slam into a wall, or pass harmlessly over some background element. In some of the more oddly-lit stages enemy bullets can seem difficult to discern, and in a game where your primary objective is to avoid said enemy bullets, this seems a cardinal sin. Additionally, though the gameplay is similar to most other shooters, I found the controls way too loose. Even a tiny nudge of the Xbox 360 analog stick would move my new lady friend much farther than intended, my attempts at pinpoint maneuvering often thwarted. I was also unable to discern exactly where the hitbox was, my underage avatar crying out after being struck by shots I was sure I'd avoided.
It really does look like a Dreamcast game.
Another thing that stands out is how little content is included. The game is just eight uninspired stages long, and though shooters aren't known for their length, the lack of any real extra content seems just another reason the game seems better suited for a digital download. Meanwhile, the dialogue remains entirely in Japanese, with only a tiny English translation crawling across the left bottom corner of the screen, as if I'm expected to both dodge bullets and read text. Not that storyline is of tantamount importance to my shooter, but again, this game is not a great shooter, so having no idea who these characters are or why they're fighting doesn't really add to the appeal (I think they go to a high school for girls who can turn into spaceships, which makes no goddamn sense). Not to mention that it's $30 for this short unpolished romp and Konami has the nerve to offer extra characters and stages as DLC? Jeez.
3-Player Co-Op is fun, but not enough to justify this game's hefty price tag.
I won't lie, there are moments of fun in Otomedius, namely when you've managed to outfit your little concubine with four options and every conceivable power-up, filling the screen with an absurd mix of lasers and missiles, raining down hell in true Gradius fashion. The problem is, these moments are few and far between, and knowing this team had six years to learn from the awesomeness that is Gradius V makes this rookie effort frankly embarrassing. Knowing that many better shooters can be found on the Xbox Live or PSN marketplaces for a fraction of the price, I simply can't recommend Otomedius to anyone other than those in the market for a creepy pillowcase.