We take a crack at Hudson's XBLA shooter.
Xbox 360 (XBLA)
"Forgotten Worlds!" that's what I shouted out the very first time I saw the trailer for Omega Five. And when I finally played the game, once again, "Forgotten Worlds" took center stage in my mind. Perhaps it's the way you control flying humanoid characters that can rotate and shoot at 360 degree angles that made me think of Capcom's classic, side-scrolling sci-fi shooter, but a modern day Forgotten Worlds is probably the best way I can describe Natsume's Omega Five in a single sentence ? which is a great compliment to the game.
What sets Omega Five apart from a lot of other shooters currently available on the Xbox 360 is that it's an original game developed for the Xbox Live Arcade, so with that, be prepared for one of the most impressive-looking and intense horizontal shooters to come along in quite some time. While the side-scrolling play mechanics of Omega Five are completely 2D, the game sports gorgeous, High-Definition 3D graphics complete with great textures and lighting effects to produce some absolutely stunning backdrops. Even more impressive is how ripe with activity the backgrounds are with enemies working their way from the backgrounds to the foreground. From the snowy landscapes of the "The Glacial Fortress" with hulking behemoths marching about the blizzard in the background, to stage 3's futuristic factories with giant industrial machines moving around, to the lush, exotic look of the second stage with its gorgeous waterfall, vegetation, and mixture of organic and metallic life, each level is beautifully crafted with incredible detail and truly a sight to behold.
The audio's no slouch either as the game contains a variety of great sound effects and an energetic and upbeat soundtrack that's a throwback to the great shooter themes of yesteryear. The fact that the entire game clocks in at a paltry 47 MB is quite impressive given the audio and visual tour de force that Omega Five is.
While you'll spend much of the game wrecking havoc on alien invaders, you never really know why you're unleashing that much carnage as there isn't much of a storyline to go on. But suffice it to say, shooters have never been built on storylines but on reflex-intensive gameplay that'll put your twitch gaming skills to the test, and Omega Five definitely delivers.
The gameplay of Omega Five is what you can expect from a side-scrolling shoot-em 'up, but instead of controlling a ship, you control flying humanoid characters tasked with destroying the alien onslaught. The game starts you off with a choice of two playable characters, and you'll be able to unlock three additional characters when all is said and done. The characters all basically control the same way and, save for one, all have their own unique attacks.
As you take to the air with your celestial warriors, enemies will literally come at you from every direction (front, back, and the background), so often times you'll be frantically rotating your gun to meet the oncoming onslaught. Fortunately the game's dual analog control scheme is tight and responsive, making maneuvering and shooting a painless process.
Each character starts out with a default weapon and can acquire two additional weapon types along the way by destroying item packs that appear at various points throughout the levels. There are a total of three weapon types for each character, and each weapon can be powered-up twice for maximum impact. Additionally, item packs also store recovery packs that will replenish portions of your depleted energy gauge.
In addition to their main attacks, the characters can also perform "Variable Direction" attacks that are quite effective in making short work of enemies when used in conjunction with their main attacks and differs in each character (except one). For example, Ruby and R.A.D., save for their aesthetic differences, are basically identical to each other and share the same Variable Direction attack in which they shoot out an anchor that damages or destroys enemies while tethered to them. Tempest on the other has a Variable Direction attack that changes based on his active weapon.
Additionally, each character can also perform a "Dimension Field" emergency escape move that'll get you out of some small jams at the cost of a small portion of your energy gauge with each use. And then there's the "Ultimate Burst", a special screen-clearing attack that you can use after collecting the valuable pink chips left behind by vanquished foes to fill up your character's chip gauge. And once maxed out, you can store up to three Ultimate Burst attacks to get you out of some sticky situations.
While Omega Five has a short learning curve, the game is by no means easy. The game moves at a somewhat slow-moderate pace but crams enough action in each level to keep you frantically shooting and dodging from beginning to end. The enemies are numerous and each level presents you with a variety of challenges to overcome while working your way to the challenging boss fights that await you at the end of each level. Memorization and quick reflexes are definitely key in Omega Five as this isn't an easy game to conquer in a single sitting, so it'll take a little practice to get the hang of things and properly utilize the score and bonus multiplier to rack up some high scores.
While I've spent most of the review singing Omega Five's praises, that's not to say that the game isn't without its faults. There are only 4 levels to complete in the Arcade and Challenge modes, and while each level is moderately long, the entire game can be completed in half an hour. The game starts you off with a small number of continues, but you can increase your continue count and eventually obtain unlimited continues by putting in enough playtime. The game features your standard Leaderboard rankings, Achievement points, and a multiplayer mode for some local 2-player co-op action. Unfortunately there is no online play - which is a shame as that would have made for an awesome experience.
While Omega Five isn't a content-heavy game, it does sport a decent array of hidden bonuses. After completing the game players will be able to unlock additional characters, an unlockable female voice announcer to replace the default male voice, as well as a funky Retro mode that utilizes a graphics dithering effect and low-fidelity sound to make the game look and sound more retro. There are also special Arcade++ and Challenge++ modes where top flight players craving more of a challenge will get all they can handle in a one-hit death setting.
All in all, Omega Five is a great addition to the Xbox Live Arcade library. The game looks fantastic, sounds great, and plays just as well with a nice variety of enemies and some intense boss encounters. The game may be too short for some players, but there's more than enough action to provide a satisfying challenge.