Developer: Extend Studio
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform: Xbox 360 (XBLA)
Release Date: September 4, 2013
ESRB: E 10+
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
In 2010, developer Extend Studio created a loving homage to the Mega Man series via their own game. Titled A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda, it featured a robot who platformed in a 2D-sidescrolling world and fought against renegade robots. It“s been a few years but the PC game has been revamped and brought to consoles via a new Xbox 360 release. So, how does the game stand up, and are the additions enough to warrant old fans to purchase another copy?
First, let“s focus on the game from the standpoint of new players. A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX is a game with very little pretense. After starting it up for the first time you“re informed to the simple story that“s meant to keep you going. Basically, a space station has found itself the victim of a catastrophe. Strange space gasses have entered the station and caused all the robots within to rebel against humans. Thankfully, the lead character, Ares, is a robot who is immune to the gas and sets forth to save the humans from otherwise certain robot-inflicted demise.
From there, players are tasked with navigating levels and shooting copious amounts of robots to see their mission through to the end. Shooting here is handled in either a twin-stick fashion or via pressing the X button. Most players will probably stick with using both analog sticks because this is easiest. You control the robot“s movements with the left stick and can aim his weapon via positioning of the right stick. When using the button instead, you can only fire in the direction you are facing, which is hardly ideal.
Each level basically unfolds in the same way, although the platforming can be quite distinct between them. There is usually a miniboss in the middle and then a big boss at the end. Depending on which difficulty you choose from, these encounters can be monotonously easy or enough to make you want to toss the controller aside in frustration. Bosses routinely look cool and offer a host of special attacks ready to be unleashed upon the player. Thanks to the addition of skills such as an instant heal though, it usually never feels like an encounter is totally impossible.
With a game like A.R.E.S. that relies heavily on platforming alongside shooting, you would hope that the controls handle perfectly. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Primarily the issue lies with jumping controls, which feel finicky. For example, if you are too close to the edge of a platform and jump, it will act as if you already performed a jump. This cuts off possible height from performing double jumps and doesn“t really make sense. Other times, you may need to quickly jump from platform to platform and find that your character simply won“t jump at all. It seems that jumping too quickly can confuse things, which is horrible since there are moments in the game where precise and fast jumping is required.
It“s issues like these which really pull down A.R.E.S. since it manages to have attractive visuals and a great soundtrack to go along with it. Artistically, the game always looked great, but has definitely been enhanced for a large TV display. The original“s soundtrack is still included, which is as excellent as ever, as well as a whole new soundtrack for the second character. But even the best aesthetic and musical choices can“t fix problematic play. Then there is the matter of new Xbox 360 content which is, for the most part, also lacking.
The control scheme has been tweaked some for its XBLA release, but players could already use the Xbox 360 controller via PC release if desired. Higher resolution textures and a leaderboard have also been implemented but neither is a particularly noteworthy selling point. Mainly, the allure for old fans to try this version is because of a new character and some new skills. The new character is stronger, but otherwise not too different from Ares.
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the release of A.R.E.S. is why it exists in the first place. The PC version did garner a crowd, but not a massive one thanks to its mostly average gameplay. Mega Man madness is certainly alive and well today but this has been the case for a while now. What took this upgraded version three years to come out? Rather, why have Extend Studios seemingly given up their plan of A.R.E.S. being an episodic series? If A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX sees great success then maybe they“ll return to those plans. For now though, Xbox 360 owners can finally get a taste of a decidedly average experience.
+ Two campaigns to play through
+ Great visual design
+ Excellent soundtrack to keep players hyped
- Jumping needs to be precise and simply isn“t
- Game is fairly short (presumably to have led into currently non-existent episodic sequels)
Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10)
A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX is the kind of game that plays to a niche user base but otherwise does little to excite the rest of the gaming audience.