The Laser Guide to Video Games - Review - Exelica - Dreamcast









In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Laser Guide to Video Games

Exelica - Warashi - 2007 - Sega Dreamcast

Released several years beyond the Dreamcast console's original lifespan, Exelica is a simple port of the Japanese arcade game. It's a relatively traditional vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up that delivers satisfying action and challenging play without much elaboration. You begin each encounter by selecting one of a pair of fighter pilots. Taking the form of a mech instead of the standard space-shooter vehicle, this allows you to see the character in motion as they occasionally spin and jump around the screen. Its particularly evident when you unleash a bomb and the character takes off and temporarily predominates the action. This divergence aside, Exelica follows a fairly traditional shoot-'em-up structure. This is especially true when you encounter the standard enemies, whose predictable pacing and techniques are easy to counter. In order to assist you in your mission, you'll be able to find two different types of enhancements. The first of these are weapons power-ups that increase the power and range of your standard shots. The others are bombs which you can collect and save before detonating at the right moment. Its a good strategy to hang onto them, since they're best utilized during Exelica's elaborate, challenging boss battles. These helps you survive their massive onslaught while strategically reducing their energy bar, making them easier to dispatch.

Players are set to battle against an array of enemy forces with the main objective clearing the screen, before they can hit you with a wave of aligned fire. Exelica follows the 'bullet-hell' mode and throws unrelenting, manic streams of fire at the player. Unlike many other titles, enemy firepower arrives in anticipated patterns that are easy to navigate once you've memorized their pattern's location, speed and, movement. This isn't quite as simple as it might seem and it takes some practice and skill in order to defeat some of the enemies. If you persevere to the end of each stage, you'll encounter a massive end-stage boss who throws everything they have at you, requiring you to utilize your capabilities to the fullest in order to survive. If you run into trouble and lose a life, the game offers abundant help in the form of generous continues, and numerous power-ups that are placed frequently throughout each stage. Moving ahead doesn't require excessive exertion but a sustained level of concentration should allow you to get through the majority of the action with little effort. Later stages provide additional challenge, requiring increased skill and concentration in order to make it through to the final stages.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Exelica offers an experience somewhat above-expectations. Most of the action takes place on a traditional 2D plane, though a scattering of 3D renders and polygonal enemies are well-placed. These appear somewhat subdued by contemporary standards and while there are occasional moments that are dramatic, the game never feels overblown. Likewise, the backdrops utilize 3D polygonal elements to a noticeable degree but its not distracting enough to get in the way of the action. The game's animation are fairly elaborate at points when your character takes prominence with their spinning bomb attacks yet falls into the distance when normal action resumes. You probably won't notice any major flaws in the main context, but there are occasional glitches in certain stages where it becomes difficult to make the distinction between background objects and enemy fire. This can be frustrating but fortunately doesn't occur often enough to detract from the otherwise high-quality appearance.

Exelica's immediate appeal is obvious but there are some key elements that sustain its long-term appeal. Its controls and interface are intuitive, allowing the action to move fluidly without noticeable slowdown or lag. Controlling your ships quickly becomes intuitive, with natural button-placement allowing for immediate access that doesn't require excessive complexity. The sharp gameplay is well-balanced, unfolding at a consistent pace throughout that makes gameplay easy to manage and comprehend. Your ships maneuverability in the face of the bullet-battalions is noticeably flexible, allowing you to move around onscreen without impediment. Responsive controls instantly unleash devastating bombs and attacks quickly. It follows the structure of many genre companions for the most part, though the slight pause in timing when you set off a special bomb van disconcerting, interrupting the game's momentum to an unfortunate degree. Its relatively minor in the larger sense, but its noticeable and detracts from the experience.

However, its brevity shouldn't dissuade you if you're looking for an accessible, enjoyable shoot-'em-up that doesn't require excessive effort. Exelica is an excellent arcade-port for the most-part. Its not as elaborate or deep as one would like. Standard mode is entertaining and enjoyable but the game ends too soon. Consisting of only a handful of stages in total, it doesn't take excessive levels of effort to get through to the end and defeat the boss. Most players should be able to finish the game with little effort. This is a little disappointing at first, but extend replay value arrives in the form of harder difficulty levels, which provide additional challenge. While its not the most elaborate title on the Dreamcast, Exelica delivers entertaining gameplay that's thoroughly enjoyable without becoming overly difficult or challenging.

- Michael Palisano