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Game Review: eXceed 2nd - Vampire REX

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The eXceed series consists of three fan-made Japanese shoot-em-ups in the “bullet hell”/danmaku/modern style where there are tons of bullets on-screen and only a tiny part of your ship/character can get hit.

eXceed 2nd - Vampire REX isn’t the second game in the series. It’s a remake of the actual second game in the series (eXceed 2nd - Vampire) which (as far as I know) never got a Western release. I’m just going to refer to eXceed 2nd - Vampire REX as just ‘eXceed 2nd’ for the rest of the article.

Unlike the first game (eXceed - Gun Bullet Children), eXceed 2nd uses the ‘polarity switching’ mechanic from Ikaruga. In case you’ve never played Ikaruga, here’s a quick rundown of how polarity switching works:

eXceed 2nd is actually quite a different game, polarity switching aside.

The most pronounced difference is level design. Ikaruga’s stages have various color-coded obstacles, and bosses are built around the ‘polarity switch’ concept in such a way that makes the game somewhat of an action-puzzle title. eXceed 2nd is structured more like a traditional modern-style shoot-em-up that happens to use a polarity switch mechanic. Sure, there are sections in eXceed 2nd’s levels that expect your polarity to be a specific color, but they’re not as frequent (at least on Easy) as they are in Ikaruga.

The games also have different scoring systems. Ikaruga’s scoring is based around shooting groups of 3 enemies of the same color in a row. It’s heavily based on memorization and figuring out exactly what Ikaruga’s developers want you to do at any given time. eXceed 2nd has a more forgiving scoring system with Dodonpachi-style chaining that also rewards you for absorbing bullets.

There’s a third, major change. In Ikaruga, collisions with enemies are fatal. They’re not in eXceed 2nd, and I’ll talk more about this mechanic later.

So, what else does this game have going on?

Weird Quirks

Oh yeah, there are some weird quirks that I need to talk about.

eXceed 2nd features a dynamic rank system with four levels. There are no gradual changes between these levels, and the differences between Easy and Normal are especially steep. With each level, bullet speed and density increases. It might be due to my level of inexperience, but the change in bullet speed is sometimes so steep that I can’t get used to it fast enough to properly dodge off-color bullets.

And this game isn’t very good about telling you when you’ve been hit. It just kinda happens and then every bullet on the screen disappears.

Rank changes weren’t the only causes of deaths. Strong enemies push you back, and one boss fight has invincible enemies that are incredibly annoying because of this. eXceed 2nd has enemies push you because of a somewhat unhelpful system where you can damage enemies by getting close to them. It a theoretically good system, but I didn’t find it to be helpful and it leads to bad situations.

Other Stuff

The soundtrack is good.

I didn’t pay too much attention to the plot. It’s not bad or anything, it’s just not my thing. There’s an option to disable dialogue when you start a game, so I usually disabled it because I played the game quite a few times.

I played on Easy. It’s a fairly gentle difficulty.

I didn’t experience any technical problems while playing it.

So?

Yeah, I talked a bunch without saying if any of it made for a good game. I think that eXceed 2nd is a decent shoot-em-up. There are some fairly annoying things about it (like how enemies can push you around the screen), but there’s more to the game than one might initially expect from a fan-made shoot-em-up with Ikaruga’s main gimmick.

Recommended for people who want a modern-style, Ikaruga-inspired shoot-em-up for the PC.

Controller Notes

Every game in the eXceed series supports controllers. However, be sure to use a controller where the D-Pad/stick is not detected as a hat switch. This applies to Xbox 360 controllers (D-Pad is a hat switch on PC) and some arcade sticks.

I primarily used two controllers to play games in this series: a Dual Shock 2 (using a USB adapter) and a PS3 WWE All Stars Brawl Pad. Both worked just fine.


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