Capcom hasn’t exactly been as forthcoming as we wanted them to be on the matter, but even if the Lost Planet spin-off that is EX Troopers isn’t coming to the West we can ultimately get a small taste of the project. Since Capcom hinted that EX Troopers wouldn’t be coming westward any time soon gamers have been outright annoyed since the game looks better than how we all thought it would be.
Of course being gamers we’ve let our opinions on the matter be known but at long last we can see for ourselves if EX Troopers has the goods since a demo has gone up on the Japanese PlayStation Store. Being the gaming fiend that I am, I decided to download the demo and see if the game is worth checking out, both so I can inform you fine folks and so whether or not we know if we should all unite and harang Capcom to bring the game to the West.
Going into EX Troopers I had my expectations set at a certain level, particularly I wanted my senses to be smashed with a constant barrage of colors all while JPOP music blasted in my ears. Thankfully my expectations were met rather fast and not for once did they drop due to an unexpected occurrence. While the finer points of the plot were lost to me since I have yet to pick up Japanese For Dummies, the premise of EX Troopers was basic enough for me to follow: I played as a young chap as he went zipping around a sometimes snowy planet to battle pirates and the ever present Akrid.
Those who have played the Lost Planet series may think they know what to expect since things don’t seem that different on the surface, but EX Troopers feels like a completely different game aside from the shared thematic elements. The existing Lost Planet games definitely had a small extravagant flair to them reminiscent of an anime, but the realistic portrayal of the visuals presented a game that was pretty a standard sci-fi experience. EX Troopers on the other hand feels like a completely different beast that can be best described as a Japanese version of Borderlands. No, there may not have been any pigmy’s wearing masks chasing me, but the visuals of EX Troopers and it’s brief usage of dramatic cuts complete with manga style text pops did give it a vibe that felt like Capcom was taking a note or two from Borderlands, at least when it came to small base elements.
The change in style found in EX Troopers may be something that some gamers will have to adjust to since it presents an array of both positive and negative elements. I for one am happy to see Capcom try something different for once since the result of seeing a sci-fi world brought to life via cell-shaded style visuals resulted in a rather imaginative and sometimes breathtaking game. Only four levels were provided in the demo, but it’s clear that the game will have some standout visual moments that look like they were ripped out of a manga and recreated within a game, especially during the cut scenes.
Everything in the game was incredibly crisp and the art direction, however far a stretch it may be from the old Lost Planet series, seemed cohesive and for what it was everything worked. Seeing characters outfitted with stylish clothes, sans tons of zippers and buckles, with big eyes is definitely a departure for the Lost Planet series, but in the end it creates an atmosphere that we don’t see too much of within 3rd person action games so it’s a nice change of pace.
A few minor downsides are present to the graphical approach EX Trooper takes since some elements of the game did look a bit barren. Capcom may be developing the game for both the Nintendo 3DS and the PS3 via the PSN, but the PS3 version didn’t look like it was a slightly upgraded version of the portable version. Like I said the game has a crisp look to it though in a few instances the environments did leave me desiring a bit more. Special graphical effects such as snow deformation may be out of action and I’m completely fine with that, but the jungle/forest stage had a flat look throughout in part to ground textures that honestly looked a bit blah.
Looking at things from the standpoint that EX Troopers is an interactive manga/anime it may be able to gloss over such a graphical oversight, but in the end I think it could hurt the game since there isn’t as much moment to moment eye catching visual elements (snow effects, pretty explosions) as in the previous Lost Planet games.
Going into the gameplay of EX Troopers was the one element that I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the game. Certain concessions were obviously made as Capcom isn’t trying to appeal to the core Lost Planet crowd, but I was surprised with how fluid and enjoyable everything played out. Switching things up a bit, EX Troopers utilizes a different control scheme that allows the action to flow better but doesn’t completely throw skill out the window. Utilizing the Square and Triangle button to shoot between the two weapons that my characters could equip, EX Troopers feels more like an arcade game compared to Lost Planet. Such a sentiment may make the game sound out to be easier than it is, and while the demo was easy I did have feelings that Capcom was going back to its roots by providing fast 3rd person gun action that reminded my of the classic title that is Dino Crisis 2.
Footage from the single-player level.
Besides the game keeping track of my score and how much time it took me to complete a stage, the combat of EX Troopers does have things such as a countering system, contextual melee moves, and an epic charged attack that deals a good chunk of damage. The countering system in the game isn’t exactly a common mechanic as it seemed to be only possible when facing against boss creatures. Again the finer points of everything were lost to me since the game was giving me instructions in kanji, but it was possible to counter an oncoming attack by a boss and enter a brief button mash sequence in which I had to press the Circle button in an attempt to stun the boss and ultimately get a few extra shots in. The countering mechanic may not sound that good on paper but it works rather well within the game since I needed all the help I could get against the boss creatures.
Thankfully EX Troopers doesn’t have that same grind like nature that Lost Planet 2 had in respect to its boss encounters as the game feels like a mixture of Lost Planet, Monster Hunter, and Borderlands. The demo offered up a fairly simple boss battle for the single-player portion in which I and my two A.I. allies had to battle a pirate controlled mech, but things were taken to the next level for the online co-op. Likely the main attraction within the game, I was able to join two other folks and battle through a level to hopefully rack up a high score and beat the final boss.
I was surprised at how good the online portion of the demo was since the netcode was terrific, there was zero lag, and it was a complete blast to play. Out of the two multiplayer missions available I would have to say that both impressed me as playing with other people did give the game a different vibe. With the choice to select between five different characters and select different weapons, a feature that wasn’t available in the demo, EX Troopers is a multiplayer game that I think I would have no problem sinking tons of time into since it’s that much fun. A huge amount of depth isn’t required in the basic Akrid battles, but the boss scenarios is where things got heated since one stage had my allies and I battling three huge Akrid bosses at the same time - basically giving us one boss to battle with on our own.
A quick multiplayer co-op mission.
Contending with a huge Akrid by myself wasn’t that much of a hassle since targeting the weak spots was easy thanks to the lock-on aiming and because I could unleash a massive charged shot. After collecting T-ENG a series of stars represented on the HUD will light up signifying that I could unleash my anime inspired finishing move. Sadly it doesn’t seem like each character has a different move as the three that I played as simply shot the same style of blasts, all of which don’t seem to lock onto an enemy and instead generally go in the direction you’re facing. The charge shot isn’t an instant-kill type thing for bosses as it still boils down to good old fashioned teamwork at the end of the day.
I wanted EX Troopers to deliver certain things to me as a gamer and based on what I played of the demo I got exactly what I wanted. Stylistically the game looks good and surprisingly it has the good on the gameplay side of things by offering arcade style action that’s easy to get into and is an absolute joy to experience when playing with other people. Outside of a few elements that were disappointing such as some of the texture work or the somewhat screeching voices of the characters, EX Troopers is a game that would be a nice fit in the West despite not adhering to the guidelines that makes for a proper “hit”.
The tone of the game is one that’s obviously catered to the Japanese audience with it’s usage of overly dramatic camera cuts during cut scenes and JPOP blasting during gameplay, but if released on the PSN in the West I think gamers would fall in love with the presentation of EX Troopers and grow to become addicted to its gameplay as well.
The EX Troopers demo is currently available on the Japanese PSN Store.