Story and Concept
The story follows up the previous entry’s. But this time you’re playing as a vampire out to take down the Gun Bullet Children from the previous game. You’ll be doing just that as the bosses all comprise of characters from the first game, save for two who fight in tandem that are new to the story. The story follows Ria File whose name sounds like a .txt file someone in the dev team forgot to give a name to. She was confined by the Church mentioned from the previous game, but escaped thanks to the Undead Lord. To repay her, she joined the deviant army to take down the church and the Gun Bullet Children. I gotta admit, I kinda liked where this story was going as now you’re on the enemy’s side of things. The dialogue is still rather ho-hum and not very interesting. Grade: 75/100
First and foremost, thank god this can be played in different frame sizes. You won’t be confined to seeing this game in full screen. As such, the graphics are definitely cleaner and the presentation is improved and not cheap looking like the first game. Sadly, a majority of the backgrounds from the first game are reused here and are just as repetitive as they were from the first game. That’s pretty lazy. The character portraits, thanks to the scalable viewing window, are better looking and not as fuzzy. And finally, the bullet patterns look really nice now that the polarity mechanic is involved. Grade: 80/100
Music and Sound
This is another improvement from the first game. Gone is the uninspired monotonous techno rave music. Now the music is a little more on the DDR side… Okay it’s still techno, but the good type with more instrumentation and a clear melody. There’s also more variety to the music, with rock from S.S.H. (yes, that S.S.H!) to more whimsical arrangements like the second battle with Sigrune and Brynhild. Some of the songs (especially the final boss song) sound like something out of Castlevania though. Not a bad thing, just something I thought while playing the game. Speaking of which, that song you’re hearing up there is from S.S.H., and his godly rock style is clearly the high-point of this game. Rest assured it’s not the last you’ll be hearing from him, or lord it’s not. And the battle with Chinastu (the one that sucked from the previous game) is all the more better thanks to this theme. The sounds are slightly improved from the first game and actually help out in confirming bullet absorption (in case you forget which polarity you’re on). The voices are… still pretty grating. Grade: 80/100
First off, you’ll only be playing as one character for this game. The game makes itself pretty clear that it’s heavily inpired by Ikaruga and its Polarity system. You switch back and forth on the fly between Good and Evil polarities, absorbing bullets of the same polarity you are and avoiding ones that are opposite. Enemies that are opposite your polarity will receive more damage while those with the same take longer to shoot down. When you absorb bullets of the same polarity you are, you build a charge meter. When it’s full, you can fire a beam (with the polarity you’re in when you fire it) and clear out almost all enemies on-screen.
I’ll come out and say that (unfortunately) I’ve never played Ikaruga but am aware of the system that game used, so this is my first time playing with such a system. I must say, this is a very rewarding system as is adds a level of strategy rarely seen in Bullet Hell shmups. Unlike others where all you worry about is dodging bullets, here your playstyle is key to which polarity to stay on. Say I’m currently on Good Polarity and enemies of different sides come in. Do I go Evil to absorb bullets and dodge opposites, or I stay Good to take down the opposites (since they’ll take more damage). The same rings true for bosses. You’ll find some patterns easier to manage based on which polarity you decide to be on. You’ll even find yourself changing polarity to absorb bullets to gain charge. One thing I would do is absorb bullets (while still firing at the boss) and when the time came, I would switch polarity quickly (to be opposite the boos), fire the beam, and quickly go back to the previous side. You have to think as well as dodge in this game, and if this is what Ikaruga was about, then I want the game even more.
One thing I’m absolutely not a fan of is the Rank Up system. Basically the game will become harder the better you do in the game. So say I’m on Easy mode and I go a while without dying. The game will rank me up to Normal Mode. If I get hit, I’ll be bumped back down to Easy. In all honesty this feels like the game it’s punishing me for doing good. I’m not the best player of bullet hell (competent, but not the best), so I’d appreciate it if the game didn’t screw up my flow. I love how the game manual says that more advanced players would intentionally lose a life to control the difficulty and stream of bullets. I’ll come out and say it’s complete BS. I’d like to keep my hard-earned life and stay alive as long possible. Heck, if anything it feels like the game is punishing me for getting an extra life too! I play on the difficulty of my choosing for a reason. Let me “Rank Up” when I want to rank up.
But don’t let my Rank woes get you down. This is still a good bullet hell shmup with a good level of strategy involved. Grade: 87/100
Overall this an exhilarating romp through an Ikaruga-like game. The story is competent and rather interesting. The graphics are cleaner, save for the lazy job of reusing backgrounds from the previous game. The music is very much improved (and it’s got S.S.H.!) And the gameplay is pretty damn awesome as more rewarding that the first game (though that Rank system can kiss my ass). So if you got some bucks to spare, give eXceed 2nd a spin.
eXceed 2nd Overall Grade: 85/100
Off to the last game in this collection!