Review: Eschatos (Xbox 360 Import)
Before you ask why you should care about an imported Xbox 360 game, let me get this out of the way: Unlike most things on the system, Eschatos is a region-free game.
Eschatos‘ mechanics are simple, but effective. You have three tools at your disposal: a straight shot, a wide shot, and a shield. The straight shot is powerful and travels across the entire screen while the wide shot is weaker and has a much shorter range, but allows you to take out multiple weaker enemies at once with ease. Giving you unlimited use of these two guns at all times instead of relegating them to a collectable power up system gives you a great sense of versatility as you play.
Lastly, the shield can protect you from bullets to some extent. You’d think having a shield would make the game too easy, but you’d be wrong. For one, the shield only protects you from the front. It also can’t withstand everything. But most importantly, you can’t fire when using your shield. This fact is very important to getting a high score.
Much of Eschatos is speed. Everytime a wave of enemies is thrown at you, you’ll want to take them out as fast as you possibly can. The faster you clear the wave, the more of a time bonus you’ll get. This is absolutely crucial to getting a high score. A moment with a shield out is a moment wasted. Because of this, the game has a constant sense of urgency to every enemy encounter.
There aren’t bombs in the traditional, collectable sense, but by shooting an item pod, a screen clearing item will come out. If you can collect it, it will be used the second you make contact with it. Stronger enemies will take damage and actually survive, but weak enemies and even bullets will be completely destroyed.
Enemies have a nice diversity. Each is clearly recognizable and has distinct movement and bullet patterns that set it apart. Some of the bullet patterns almost have a “Bullet Hell Lite” feel to them. They’re very well designed and satisfying to avoid. What’s even better, though, is how much they change with each difficulty setting. It’s clear a lot of attention to detail was put into tweaking the bullet patterns for each of Eschatos‘ four difficulty settings.
Aside from difficulties, there are also several modes to choose from. While I prefer playing Original Mode for its purity, Advanced Mode adds an interesting extra layer. In Advanced Mode your gun actually starts much weaker. Certain item pods contain power ups that will boost both of your guns by a level. By the time you collect enough of these, the power of your gun can actually exceed that of Original Mode.
There’s also Time Attack. You must keep the game going by playing as fast as you can. Instead of getting points for defeating enemies quickly, you’ll be awarded with extra time. Similarly, extra lives turn into an extra 15 seconds. You can’t run out of lives in Time Attack, but you will waste not only the time it takes to die, but an extra 5 second penalty on top of that. The leaderboards for Time Attack are based on how long you can keep the game going.
Visually, Echatos isn’t much of a looker. The graphics are quite simple. What makes it stand out is mid-level perspective shifting. While most of the time you’ll be on a flat plain shooting upward, occasionally the camera will shift. This happens mostly (but not exclusively) during boss battles. You’ll have to shoot into the distance as bullets get closer to the screen. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s actually a very neat effect.
Much like the graphics, the audio has a very “old” feel to it. But despite the rather lo-fi instruments of the music, the melodies themselves are wonderfully catchy and memorable. The retro style of the composition actually compliments the dated instruments quite well. Often times, I can’t get the Area 6-11 song out of my head.
If you get as addicted to the music as I do, you’ll be happy to know the game is packaged with the soundtrack. Not only that, but Eschatos also comes with two other SHMUPs: Judgement Silversword and Cardinal Sins.
While the other two games are more primitive (they are Wonderswan Color ports), they’re great in their own right. They share the core mechanics of Eschatos, but have their own charms. Judgement Silversword has some interesting boss battles including one against a sword wielding foe, while Cardinal Sins has an pretty unique score-attack flow.
With each stage based on the theme of a Cardinal Sin, they all have their own unique features. One spouts extra lives like crazy, but they’re destructible. Another has orbs that, when shot, turn everything into bonus items. Eschatos may be the star of the show, but these other shmups are definitely no slouch. With each mode and difficulty of each game having its own leaderbord, there are plenty of opportunities for high score battles.
Importing is rarely cheap, but Eschatos is worth it for SHMUP fans. All the different games and modes will keep you busy for a long while, especially if you’re competing with friends for high scores. The time based bonuses really bring up the tension. It may not be the best looking game, but I haven’t felt this fond of a SHMUP in quite some time. Eschatos‘ mechanics work in such great harmony with each other, it’d be a shame to miss it.
This entry was posted on Monday, May 9th, 2011 at 1:05 am and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.