The shmup genre, a playstyle that’s lived longer than most of us on the staff. As we played these games and grew, our skills were honed to the point that memorization and bullet dodging became second nature. As time went on, a desire for a more… difficult approach arose, and along came the Bullet Hell Shooter. Like watching a fireworks show, the screen is littered with bullets with narrow passages of escape. Thanks to small hitboxes, escape was somewhat easy, and pretty cool at that. So in the heap of Bullet Hell Shooters comes a series of indie games called eXceed. The three games in the series sought to change things up a bit by introducing certain mechanics to the standard Bullet Hell formula. And now, they’re in a complete little package for a small price. Is it worth getting all three, getting part of ’em, or not bothering at all? After the jump, I breakdown each game of The eXceed Collection.
Each game will have its own overall score, together with the grand score for the entire package.
Story and Concept
The story of Gun Bullet Children… is completely in Japanese. Yep, this is an import. The only things that are in English are the menu items and black-bar text. The text-boxes when the characters speak are in Japanese. Unfortunately if your computer is not set to the proper region, the text will be all fudged up and look like complete nonsense. Thankfully the Gun Bullet Children hompage has the English script up. I do wish this was in the actual game instead of on a webpage. The story prologue details a war between god and the Fallen Angels. One of the Angels, Anhel, and the rest of humanity fought against the Fallen Angels and the Vampires that they sent. They won, but Anhel needed to recover. So she fell asleep and humanity built a church around her harboring the Gun Bullet Children. Soon, a major invasion of Vampires and Fallen Angel forces ensues and it’s up to the Gun Bullet Children to take them out. Pretty interesting, but again this is said on the homepage and not in the game’s manual. Either way, story never really mattered in shmup games, and it’s not really changing here. Grade: 70/100
The graphics are a mixed bag, but mostly leaning on the drab side. The seals and pentagrams motifs play into the biblical themes at play here and look pretty nice. Can’t really say the same for everything else. Since the game was made in 2005, screens were not at the level they are today. Because of this, playing this on a higher resolution screen makes the game look pretty bad. Unfortunately, there’s no option to upscale nor to play the game in a smaller window. The game will always play in full-screen and can’t be changed. The bullets themselves are pretty dull and the backgrounds are just boring. Some of the bullet patterns from the bosses look pretty cool, but that’s it. Nothing else here is visually pleasing to the eyes. Not even the artwork. Grade: 65/100
Music and Sound
The techno music at play here is almost as drab as the graphics. It’s very repetitive and builds up to meaningless dribble. I mean, it’s okay for the action on display, but none of it is too motivating to kick some ass. It actually takes a while to get to the good techno near the end of the game (and I really mean a long time. I’ll get there in a bit). And it’s strange too when you hear some of the more choir-like music and wonder why the rest of the soundtrack isn’t like this. There’s only one song that combines techno with this kind of music. These selections are actually very nice but are very short. Unfortuantely it’s not enough to save this game’s soundtrack. Grade: 60/100
Gun Bullet Children gives you three characters to choose from, each with their own playstyles, speed, and power-up. I’ll tell you right now, this game will leave a terrible first impression, especially if you play as the first character, Chinatsu Kagaya. While she has a wide range of fire, her rate of fire is slow. I was ready to skip this game and move on to the other two. But I gave the game a chance, and took some time to understand the mechanics. So here’s the result: The second and third character, Sowel and Miyabi, are a much better choice to play as. Sowel has a dragon (called a Killing Doll) that fires bullets with you andlocks on to the enemy closest to Sowel. Her rate of fire is better than Chinatsu but still rather slow (which is made up with her dragon). Her power-up (called Counter-Magic) is an effective screen-clearing move. the third character, Miyabi, is arguably the best character to play as. The rate of fire is crazy fast, but not too powerful though. You want to play as her though for her Counter-Magic, which is very effective against enemies and especially against bosses. Unlike the other two characters, Miyabi’s Counter Magic is not screen filling and you must get closer to the enemy to it to hit. But when it does, it destroys! You can render an entire phase of a boss’ pattern completely and utterly moot.
But how to do you Counter-Magic? Well it’s charged up using the game’s Graze System. A meter to the left builds up the closer you get to bullets and builds faster as you close in. When the meter is full, you just press the shoot button to activate. Now this does have it’s repercussions. If you’re like me and you just hold down the shoot button and focus on moving, then you have nothing to worry about since you just have to let go and press again to start it up. But during quiet times, I’ll let go to give my finger a rest and assess the situation. The setback is that if I resume firing, I’ll set off my Counter-Magic and potentially waste it on an easy enemy. But still, the Graze system is very rewarding, especially if you’re playing as Miyabi since her Counter is so devastating. It’s like being awarded cool points. I actually found myself heading to single bullets off in the corner to increase the charge meter. So basically you’re rewarded for your skill in dodging bullets, something that I’ve rarely seen in this genre. So kudos for this system.
Finally, some of the bosses can really drag on if you’re playing as the other two characters. You’re regular shots don’t do a lot of damage, making Counter-Magic a must if you want to cause some major damage. Refer to the first paragraph in this section to see how effective those power-ups are for boss battles. The game does have a level-up system where you collect red pots dropped by enemies and gain exp. Leveling up has a different benefit for each character. Chinastu’s bullet count will increase, but it won’t change her god-awful firing rate. Sowel will speed up. And Miyabi’s firepower will increase. I’ll said it before and I’ll say it again: Miyabi is a very rewarding character to play as if you’re good at dodging bullets. Otherwise, play as Sowel. Grade: 80/100
In the end this is a good first attempt from Tennen-Sozai. They had an idea and put in a system in place that rewards your skill. Still, this game could’ve used a lot more work in the presentation department. In comparison to the other two games, this is kind of a dud. Alone, it’s okay. But the other two… well, hit up the next page and see what I think of the other two.
eXceed 1st Overall Grade: 65/100