• Shooting Love 200X Review Microsoft Xbox360

    Shooting Love 200X is a compilation of three of Triangle Serviceís arcade shooters and represents a pretty comprehensive collection of their back catalogue (with only 2002ís XII Stag absent from the package). On the disc youíll find a remixed version of the cult classic Trizeal, its sequel Exzeal and the shooter mini-game collection called ĎThe Shmups Skill Testí. NTSC-UK have already covered the original home version of Trizeal, released on the Dreamcast and later ported to the PlayStation 2, so this critique will instead focus purely on the other titles featured on the disc.

    Shooting Love 200X screenshot.

    The Shmups Skill Test is a novel and, given Triangle Serviceís history of providing rather traditional shooter experiences, surprisingly inventive offering. Similar in vein to the recent craze for Brain Training titles and their ilk Ė which see players practising to calculate their brain age via rudimentary mathematics and logic puzzles Ė the game pits you against a selection of random challenges chosen from a pool of over fifteen and, based on your performance, calculates your reflex age.
    Shooting Love 200X screenshot.
    Thereís a whole raft of different tests on offer, each fitting into one of several category types with emphasis on dodging, shooting, button mashing and so forth in an effort to exercise the genreís entire range of skills. Some of these mini-games are of quite a high quality, such as the ones that position you in the middle of a field with rafts of enemy tanks, diggers and helicopters pouring in from all sides, or the charmingly retro, 8-bit stages that replicate the visual style of the period. Players are rewarded for staying alive for as long as possible, with each stage featuring 99 levels of difficulty that gradually ramp up while you play. The stages based around a giant mechanised wasp that assaults players with different bullet patterns are also great fun, switching between different waves of projectiles every twenty seconds or so, playing out like a mini boss fight.
    Shooting Love 200X screenshot.
    The same canít be said, however, of many of the others. For example, two of the mini-games dump the player in the centre of a play-field littered with large obstacles and task them with survival whilst the screen careens randomly all over the place. The problem is that itís utterly impossible to predict the next direction the screen will run off in, thereby making it incredibly difficult to gauge your next move. There are a few that feature falling objects that must be destroyed which require the player to hammer the shot buttons as fast as possible, so youíd better buy a controller with turbo fire (which makes these sections very easy) or prepare for that early onset of carpal tunnel syndrome youíll be developing.
    Shooting Love 200X screenshot.
    Every playthrough ends with a final stage in which the player must use their shots to bounce aluminium cans into a hovering rubbish bin Ė a great idea, except that the physics modelling is so unbelievably poor that perfectly lined up shots will be sent spinning back out of the basket for no apparent reason. The concept behind the skill test is superbly creative and some of the setups are well thought out, but thereís an overall lack of polish to the execution as a whole. The graphics are unappealing, managing to combine poor technical expertise with a lack of style or artistry and for much of the time players will be subjected to the strained caterwauling of a poorly digitised opera singer laid over some jarring techno beats that will bring pain and misery to all who hear it.
    Shooting Love 200X screenshot.

    That said, should you have the mute button handy and a few friends, the mode starts to come into its own with players competing not only to survive each level for as long as possible but also to rack up additional points by shooting their competitors while theyíre at it. In two player itís possible to avoid the less satisfying challenges, with the player able to pick out their own level sequence, but itís a shame that there isnít a greater number of the more enjoyable, compelling stages on offer. Which does reduce the long-term appeal significantly.
    Shooting Loive 200X screenshot.
    While the Shmups Skill Test may vary widely in quality, Exzeal provides a much more consistent offering. Hailing from the Naomi arcade board, fans of Dreamcast shooters will know what to expect here, with decent, solid 3D visuals and ship designs running at a slick frame rate. Itís the standard setup, with the player battling their way through six vertically scrolling stages, with additional credits unlocked based on playtime. Thereís a reasonable variety to the stage settings, although thereís nothing terribly original on offer in terms of pacing and environments. The player starts off on the typical sky stage, before moving through the insides of factories, asteroid belts and so on.

    At times it feels like the developers were playing a lot of Ikaruga whilst they were making Exzeal, with Stage 3 in particular featuring a lot of similar elements to the aforementionedís second level thanks to a near identical colour pallete and a heavy reliance on avoiding moving blocks and static gun emplacements. This is one of the rare instances, though, where Exzeal shows some moments of originality, with players able to manipulate these gun emplacements by utilising their shots to rotate them or destroy some of the weapons batteries, thereby causing streams of enemies to come flying out in place of bullets. Another nice addition is Stage 5ís rocket-propelled asteroids, which can be lined up and then blasted across the screen, taking out many an enemy for bonus points, it represents one of the only times when Exzealís scoring mechanic approaches any level of sophistication and challenge, requiring some delicate manipulation of the action on screen.

    In an attempt to provide some diversity, the game features four main ships, with a secret fifth model also available, each with its own scoring mechanic. Type 1 features a very powerful charge-up shot that can pass through multiple enemies and increases the points multiplier for each successive target hit up to a maximum of sixteen, Type 2 offers a multi-directional charge-up shot at the cost of weaker power and separate multipliers, while Type 3ís weaponry is simply an automatic shot type whose multiplier is based on the proximity of the enemy to the playerís ship, with a maximum value of eight, and finally Type 4 features an additional sideways attack.

    The big problem with the scoring is that the enemy layouts and patterns have almost completely been designed around the Type 1 craft. This means that by and large the player doesnít need to use their brain, the optimum strategies are utterly obvious, simply line up your charged shots along the vertical paths with the highest coverage of enemy bullets and ships and let rip. Itís a problem compounded further by the fact that much of a playerís score comes predominantly from the boss fights, where getting that times-sixteen multiplier is the make or break of a levelís total. Itís a shame that so much of a playerís merit is based purely on just a single shot per stage. Had the stages been designed around the Type 2 or 4 crafts a bit more things might have been more interesting, but as it stands this isnít a game youíre going to be playing for its score attack challenge.

    Shooting Love 200X screenshot.
    Ten points to whoever can spot the obscure videogame reference. Now, what could it be...

    Despite this, thereís nothing all that wrong with the game, it certainly provides the odd exhilarating moment, such as the end of Stage 2 that sees you flying between huge, hulking behemoths which dwarf your tiny craft. But in trying to shoehorn in so many alternate scoring metrics all Triangle Service have succeeded in doing is diluting each one down. And when compared to the simple, old-school point pickups used in Trizeal, itís a letdown. Exzeal is a mediocre shooter, one that doesnít live up to its parentage, but which is reasonable enough to spend a few hours on. Itís just not exciting enough to bring you back looking for thrills and not deep enough to appeal to the score-attack crowd.

    The developers have also thrown in a little mini-game in the form of Minus Zero. Itís an abstract title with the player locking onto various geometric shapes by panning a fixed distance targeting reticule over enemies before launching a barrage of homing shots against them. This doesnít really work all that well thanks to an overuse of screen blurring explosion effects mixed with the fact that the playerís ship is the exact same colour as the enemy projectiles. Combined, this makes ascertaining your location in the sea of blurred colours unnecessarily tricky and more than a little irksome.

    Overall Shooting Love offers a lot of content, the Shmups Skill Test, despite its shortcomings, is reasonably compelling in the multiplayer context and itís been awhile since thereís been a four player shooter released. Exzeal itself is a competently put together game, if somewhat uninspired and disappointing for anyone familiar with their previous titles. Ultimately thought itís Trizeal Remix thatís the real draw here, but the changes are not significant enough to warrant a repurchase for anyone who already owns one of the previous ports. And while Triangle Service may be a very small company thereís no excuse for oversights such as having Xbox Live notifications appearing over the narrow play-field or the jumbled menu screens that have had no effort put into them all. If you havenít experienced Trizeal itís best to think of the other games as enjoyable extras or bonuses, but if you have, thereís not a strong, compelling reason to pick up Shooting Love 200X.

    Players: 1-4
    Genre: Shooter
    Developer: Triangle Service
    Publisher: Triangle Service
    Platform: Xbox 360
    Version: Japanese
    -Trizeal is included.
    -Multiplayer Skill Test novel and entertaining.
    -Shmups Skill Test quality inconsistent.
    -Exzeal scoring mechanics poorly implemented.
    -Minus Zero simply aggravating.

    N.B. The score below is based purely on Exzeal, the Shmups Skill Test and Minus Zero. If you donít own Trizeal please refer to the score for that review, as linked to in the opening paragraph.

    Score: 4/10

    If you would like to acquire this game it can be purchased from Play-Asia here. This is an affiliate link.
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