you like all the 'pretty' colours?
It seems every time some bangs in the final
nail into the Dreamcast coffin there's a developer that gets
out the pincers and pulls it right back out. Triangle
service did it with Trizeal, Mile-stone
with Radirgy and now Warashi with their latest Dreamcast
title: Trigger Heart Exelica. A game that made its
debut into the Japanese arcades in early 2006. Running on
the ever trusty Naomi hardware, Warashi seemed well
aware a Dreamcast port was worth their time. And now -much
to the delight of all Dreamcast die-hards- Trigger Heart
Exelica arrived. Coming in a 'current-gen' DVD style
box (as with last years Under Defeat) it looks ever
so sexy. Hopefully the content of the actual disc (or discs
if you got the limited edition) are equally good.
After starting the game the intro plays. An
intro that reminded me of a game I still can't put my finger
on, rest assured it's a very classic intro with scrolling
text, some colourful artwork and the voice of a Japanese women
saying 'Trigger Heart ......Exelica'. See, I told
you it was classic. The main menu features the regular arcade
mode, a story mode, an arrange mode and finally a training
mode. Let's start by taking a look at the arcade mode. You'll
get to pick one of the two girls (Exelica or Cruel
Tear) and watch the tutorial (which is in Japanese, but
you'll still be able to pick up some techniques from it) before
you're launched into the action. You'll control the girls
with the d-pad, which is just as well really. Use the 'A'
button to fire (spread fire for Exelica and more
powerful 'linear' shots for Cruel Tear) and press
one of the triggers for a smart bomb. 'Nothing new there'
you might think and you'd be right. Thankfully Warashi
added a completely new element (well completely new to me,
anyway) which plays a big part in the entire game; the anchor.
on, make your pick
The anchor is basicly a grappling hook which
is able to grab about every flying object that you'll see.
Once the enemy ship is 'controlled' (which takes longer for
larger ships), the enemy ship can be swung around! Now there's
multiple options; hang onto the ship and let it destroy everything
in its path or launch the ship into a fleet of enemy ships!
This part of the gameplay is both extremely satisfying (launch
a ship at the right moment and see it head directly into a
swarm of enemies, taking them all out) as well as a technique
which must be mastered to stay alive in one of the game's
many hectic moments. Thankfully, the actual 'swinging motion'
can be set to automatic, but should you wish so you can also
make the motion yourself (by holding the 'A' button and performing
circular motions on the D-pad). Another use of the anchor
is to lock onto ground targets (tanks, turrets etc) and bosses.
It's a good way to concentrate fire and dispose of them quickly.
The gameplay in Trigger Heart Exelica
can be as easy or difficult as you desire. The arcade mode
can be set to Easy (which wasn't available in the arcade version),
Normal or Hard and you can set the amount of lives and bombs.
This is all rather spoiled by the unlimited continues the
game offers by standard. A credit earning system similiar
to Under Defeat or Radirgy would've been
a better idea. Even the most crap players around (like me)
will finish it on their first sitting.. not a good thing.
Sure, you can show a bit of control by starting over after
losing your third credit, but who ever does that? Pro players
need not to worry though, because the Arrange mode
offers exactly what you desire: one single credit.
Should the main game be too hard, or should
you want to practice some more difficult sections of the game,
it's the training mode you'll need. People looking
for a little more depth to it all might want to take a look
at the story mode, which has added dialogue and some
new (and tough!) boss battles. It's -naturally- all in Japanese
so it was the arcade mode I found myself returning to the
bit somehow reminded me of the Power rangers..(huh?)
As like most shooters, Trigger Heart
Exelica is a game in which racking up high-scores is
half the fun. The game has multiple ways of doing so. Shooting
the enemies by fire is one option, but using other ships and
launching them into large clusters of enemies is obviously
the way to go. Each defeated enemy drops a couple of small
yellow blobs which automaticly home into you when you give
the fire button a rest. Every one of them adds to the multiplier
(see the 'x..' above). Another way of obtaining bonus points
is to do well at bosses. Finish off the boss quickly enough
and you'll receive a 'special bonus' which is based on the
elapsed time. As easy way of receiving this bonus is using
a bomb, the bosses (especially the first few) seem very vulnerable
to them. The true warrior shouldn't need such cheap tricks,
One of the more obscure bonuses available
is the 'weight bonus', it's a bonus given for enemy ships
controlled. Should you do well in the game (like beating levels
without dying), there's also a couple of hidden things to
discover. Things like hidden battles, new ending screens and
(most probably) the use of Faintear - the game's
main boss. Rest assured, it will take you quite some time
to master this game and see everything. The game keeps track
of scores in every mode (except the training one)
and the difficulty you played on, so you'll be able
to set scores on easy, normal and hard. With that in mind,
an internet ranking (similiar to the one used in Trizeal)
would've been pretty cool. Oh well, can't have it all I guess.
a big white plane coming your way..better do something..
not that hard to obtain this, really.
Before concluding, let's talk about the graphics and sound.
The graphics in Trigger Heart Exilica are pretty
good. While the ships look good enough (except that the player
ship doesn't work that well on small screens as you can see
on the screenshots), the bosses are more impressive with some
huge turrets, lasers and plenty of morphing. The backgrounds
are a bit of a mixed bag really. While some parts of them
look pretty good, most of them are either uninspired or rather
bland. (no more 'clear air' scenes, please!). I would've liked
to see a bit more thought put into them. The interface on
the other hand is fine, with fonts that suit very well, multiple
screen modes (see screenshot 2) and user-set borders. (thank
G-REV and their Under Defeat for that one).
The sound is also done very nicely with tunes
that don't distract from the action too much but manage to
create enough atmosphere to be noticed. Especially the boss
tunes really set the mood. Should you like them a lot, pop
the bonus disc that came with them game (if you got the limited
edition that is) into your cd player. It features all the
music from the game, including the music from the intro and
some of the longer SFX. Again, these tunes reminded me of
a game I played a long time ago. They have a certain retro
feel to them, I guess.
As always there's a couple of things that
bring down the score. Like said before the unlimited continues
might not be such a good idea. The lack of puru puru
pack support was also a bit of downer especially after the
rumble-a-thon that was Under Defeat. Finally, a multiplayer
mode or mini-game (remember the crazy 'lifting' mode in Trizeal?)
would've been just what the doctor ordered. While the arrange
and story modes are nice extra's the gameplay remains
mostly the same in them.
Overall I wasn't disappointed
with Trigger Heart Exelica. All the little details
Warashi put into it (such as the way larger ships
rotate slower and really seem heavier than smaller ships)
are worthy of praise. A recommended purchase for everybody
looking for a shooter 'with a twist' (hohoho) and certainly
a step up from certain other Dreamcast shooters I could mention.
Let's hope Karous is equally entertaining.
can fire..but why not..
Some of the backgrounds are a little bland, but the rest of
look pretty good. Plenty of effects enhance the experience.
The themes go well with the action. Good boss tunes. Well
Not sure about the Japanese voices and speech, though.
Multiple difficulty settings to suit everybody. 'Pick up and
Unlimited continues make for an easy
blast through, but thankfully
there's plenty of modes and options on offer.