The eXceed Collection (PC)
Publisher: Nyu Media
Release Date: March 29, 2012
MSRP: $9.99 [You can buy The eXceed Collection at the game's Website, GamersGate, the Capcom Store, Mangagamer, or Steam.]
The eXceed Collection contains three bullet hell shooters that overlap in regards to the designs and themes that each game holds. If you have played any type of arcade shoot em' up, then you can expect a simple story that will unfold throughout each stage.
EXceed - Gun Bullet Children involves a war between human and vampires where you end up playing as three girls that were enhanced to fight toe to toe with the immortal beings. Each of the girls come with their own playing style that should be familiar with any fan of shoot em' up games. For example: Chinatsu Kagaya can three shots at once that cover the left, center, and right part of the screen, Sowel Devosiana fires normal shots with the help of a familiar that shoots in various direction, and Miyabi Housen shoots rapid shots in the direction in front of her.
As you collect items and points, you can increase the firepower of the bullets that each girl fires. If enemies are ganging up on you, then you can unleash a super move that will clean up any hellish moment. However, this sort of maneuver does not work on the bosses that you encounter. You also are given bombs that help clear the screen, except that they are useless against bosses as well.
Despite how fun it is to dodge bullets and shoot things, Gun Bullet Children contains a few design issues. This one is a bit minor, but the enemy projectiles look rather harmless in the game. In other words, every projectile looks like a basic shape, which kind of feels like the developers did not put any effort on the effects of the enemy bullets. And that is not the end of it, since the game's interface contains text that is almost illegible. With that out of the way, we can head straight into eXceed 2nd - Vampire REX.
Playing the part of role reversal, Vampire REX has you play as a half human, half vampire girl that goes by the name of Ria File. Compare to the gameplay in Gun Bullet Children, Vampire REX plays exactly like Ikaruga. If you are familar with the controls from Ikaruga, then you will feel right at home as you utilize the polarity system by having Ria switch between Human and Vampire Mode.
Other differences include better sprites, enemy that bullets look more flashier and presentable, the text is easier to read, and the entire game looks cleaner than Gun Bullet Children. In case you have never played Ikaruga, the gameplay has you switch between two colors on your character's force field (White for Human and Purple for Vampire). Depending on the color change, you can absorb bullets of the same color, along with dealing more damage to enemies of the opposite color. If you absorb a certain number of bullets, then you can unleash a super beam that will obliterate everything. And unlike Gun Bullet Children, the super moves can damage bosses.
If there is one thing that Gun Bullet Children has over Vampire REX is that you could play as more characters. However, I think that the polarity system and the other improvements give the second game the upper hand. Since the eXceed games have only gotten better at this point, eXceed 3rd - Jade Penetrate Black Package offers another big improvement.
Abandoning the premise of the first two games, Jade Penetrate has to do with a dragon chick known as Rayne Lindwurm that is fighting to become a Cardinal Lord aka the highest title in her realm. Overall, the game is the prettiest of the trilogy, and the bombs from the Gun Bullet Children make a comeback as well. The only negative aspect of the game is that the polarity system from the second game is not present anymore. However, you do have a shield in the game, except that it is used to fill up your special meter by touching the bullets outside of your Rayne's hit box. As you continue to kill things in each stage, you also have the chance of obtaining small dragons that will aid you in your firepower.
If you think that you can rush into any of the three games, then you will be in a huge mess of trouble. If having limited continues wasn't bad enough, having to worry about enemies firing massage barrage of one-KO bullets is great way to test your precise movement skills. Before you stray away from the lack of continues, the game is beatable, since it all depends on the player's skills. With each game running at five to eight stages, the experience is not that long to begin with. Depending on your skills and patience, you can pick between multiple difficulties that will either lessen or worsen the intensity.
As for the artwork in the game, all three eXceed games are filled with cute girls that exhibit huge adorable eyes. Love it or hate it, you have to admit that you might not have guessed how hard each of these games were if you judged the game on its artwork alone. With the exception of the first game, the other two do a great job in assigning colorful pallets to the adorable bosses that you encounter in each stage.
Music wise, the soundtrack for each of the games feel like a blend of fast pace techno-like music with segments that feel like a remix of orchestrated songs, which suits the situation quite perfectly. It is hard to think of any other kind of song when you are trying to avoid over hundreds of colorful bullets that are doing a great job at overwhelming the player. To all of you anime fans out there, the eXceed games also feature a few voice actresses such as Chiwa Saito (Homura from Madoka Magica and Hitagi from Bakemonogatari), Yukari Tamura (Navi from Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger and Nanoha from Nanoha), and Nana Mizuki (Fate from Nanoha and Nanami from Dog Days).
With the content that the eXceed Collection has to offer, you are getting a good deal with three fun shoot em' ups that offer their own mechanics that take notes from other great shoot em' up titles. As long as you are up to the challenge, the eXceed Collection is a fun way to test your luck in dodging bullets.
8.0 - Great. 8s are impressive efforts within their genre with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but it's worth your time and cash.
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