Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two of the Awesomest Shoot-em-ups Coming to Xbox Live Arcade

For those who missed these great games (one because the death of the console that hosts it; the other because of its rarity), Xbox Live is giving you the chance to experience (or re-experience, as the case may be) two of the few shooters that broke away from the convention defined by 19xx and many, many similar games: Ikaruga and Rez. One was a game for the recently-disowned Dreamcast console, while the other is for both Dreamcast and PS2 (comes with a vibrator too!)

Why are these games important?

Ikaruga is a simple shooter at the core. What makes it different however is the style of play; you get no powerups like in most shmups, and you can't just randomly shoot and evade bullets. Instead, the game involves what I can only describe as 'color-switching': Your ship has a black 'form' and a white 'form'. From here on it's pretty intuitive: Black ship can absorb black bullets, but receives damage from white; white ship can absorb white bullets but is damaged by black. The same holds true for enemies. Absorb enough, and you can unleash a powerful attack. It sounds so simple, but it actually creates some pretty difficult situations which require quick reflexes. This is what makes it so fun to play.

Rez, on the other hand, isn't anywhere near as challenging as Ikaruga. It's a "shooter-on-rails", which means your ship simply follows a predefined track, and you just shoot whatever comes to the screen while you helplessly move forward. Like Panzer Dragoon, but minus the glorious graphics--yes, this game is graphics-unintensive to the point of pure simplicity. What makes this game attractive, however, is the music. The entire game is set to delicious techno music. So what? The game itself is like taking ecstasy, thanks to the psychedelic environments and the elements within it, including the player's ship which vibrates to the beats. But the best part is when you shoot enemies. Every enemy you hit, every shot you release, contributes a little something to the music, and it varies--sometimes it's extra percussion, other times it's extra...other synthesized instruments. You can even mess around with the beat by altering the timing when shooting enemies, and you will find that it would still fit with the music. It's simply mind-blowing and audibly pleasing. Wait till you get to the true final stage!

The best part about this release from Microsoft is obviously the improved graphics: Imagine playing these in gloriously high resolution!

Here's a few more screenshots of Rez HD:

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