Hudson's Xbox Live Arcade shooter Omega Five may have been unfairly lost in the noise of the thunderous announcements of Rez HD and Ikaruga for the Xbox 360, but anyone interested in shmups simply must take a moment to learn more about the game. Developed by a five-person team at Natsume, Omega Five immediately won me over with one of its playable characters. She's not only sporting some revealing Brazilian cut bustier get up that's apparently perfect for space battles, she immediately cemented the game's similarities to my personal favourite arcade shooter of all time, Forgotten Worlds.
Unlike Forgotten Worlds, you won't purchase weapon upgrades from shops. However, there is an undeniable series of moments, enemy types and aesthetic decisions that invoke memories of Capcom's futuristic shooter. Each character—two of which were on hand today, a female humanoid and a male four-armed alien—is equipped with a unique weapon. Hers is a satellite that fires independently and, when the right trigger is depressed, clamps onto whatever enemy you're aiming at. Yes, for massive damage. Shots are upgraded by grabbing one of three power up types that swarms of enemies drop. Similar to the Raiden series, shots can be upgraded up to three times. The female fighter, for example, upgrades her laser shot to the point where it bounces off surfaces.
The male fighter plays quite differently, employing a bizarre hose-hand that squirts one of three liquid shots. He can also deflect enemy fire back at enemies by moving dangerously close to bullets, then reflecting projectiles with a quick flick of the right analogue thumbstick.
The controls, by the way, are simple, familiar, and tight. Left analogue stick moves your character, right analogue stick aims, right trigger modifies your shot—launching the satellite as mentioned earlier for her, changing the flow of the goo for him—and the left trigger launches a screen clearing nuke. Up to three of these are earned by collecting pink triangles dropped by destroyed enemies.
Oh yeah. Omega Five is hard. The team at Natsume certainly weren't catering to casual players with their upcoming shmup, giving it a challenging arcade difficulty and limiting your continues to three credits. As an XBLA game, Omega Five is planned to feature two-player co-op... and gamers will have to share these credits.
I managed to beat the demo on my second play through, but imagine that the game will require plenty of repeat plays to finally finish (sans credit feeding).
For an Xbox Live Arcade title, the game is absolutely stunning. It's arguably the best looking game on the service to date, filled with beautifully modeled characters and candy coloured lighting effects. It has a crisp clean look in motion with some solid character designs.
Omega Five looks like it'll be packed with old school fun, offering plenty of challenge. It's quickly moved to the top of my list for future Live Arcade purchasers and anyone with a shmup streak in them need to give this game a shot. Me? I'm going back to the Hudson booth to gaze lovingly at it while waiting for time to pass.