TRIGGER HEART EXELICA | Players: 1 | Release: 2007 | Developer: Warashi


Don't you like all the 'pretty' colours?

It seems every time some bangs in the final nail into the Dreamcast coffin there's a developer that gets out the pincers and pulls it right back out. Triangle service did it with Trizeal, Mile-stone with Radirgy and now Warashi with their latest Dreamcast title: Trigger Heart Exelica. A game that made its debut into the Japanese arcades in early 2006. Running on the ever trusty Naomi hardware, Warashi seemed well aware a Dreamcast port was worth their time. And now -much to the delight of all Dreamcast die-hards- Trigger Heart Exelica arrived. Coming in a 'current-gen' DVD style box (as with last years Under Defeat) it looks ever so sexy. Hopefully the content of the actual disc (or discs if you got the limited edition) are equally good.

After starting the game the intro plays. An intro that reminded me of a game I still can't put my finger on, rest assured it's a very classic intro with scrolling text, some colourful artwork and the voice of a Japanese women saying 'Trigger Heart ......Exelica'. See, I told you it was classic. The main menu features the regular arcade mode, a story mode, an arrange mode and finally a training mode. Let's start by taking a look at the arcade mode. You'll get to pick one of the two girls (Exelica or Cruel Tear) and watch the tutorial (which is in Japanese, but you'll still be able to pick up some techniques from it) before you're launched into the action. You'll control the girls with the d-pad, which is just as well really. Use the 'A' button to fire (spread fire for Exelica and more powerful 'linear' shots for Cruel Tear) and press one of the triggers for a smart bomb. 'Nothing new there' you might think and you'd be right. Thankfully Warashi added a completely new element (well completely new to me, anyway) which plays a big part in the entire game; the anchor.

Options aplenty
Go on, make your pick

The anchor is basicly a grappling hook which is able to grab about every flying object that you'll see. Once the enemy ship is 'controlled' (which takes longer for larger ships), the enemy ship can be swung around! Now there's multiple options; hang onto the ship and let it destroy everything in its path or launch the ship into a fleet of enemy ships! This part of the gameplay is both extremely satisfying (launch a ship at the right moment and see it head directly into a swarm of enemies, taking them all out) as well as a technique which must be mastered to stay alive in one of the game's many hectic moments. Thankfully, the actual 'swinging motion' can be set to automatic, but should you wish so you can also make the motion yourself (by holding the 'A' button and performing circular motions on the D-pad). Another use of the anchor is to lock onto ground targets (tanks, turrets etc) and bosses. It's a good way to concentrate fire and dispose of them quickly.

The gameplay in Trigger Heart Exelica can be as easy or difficult as you desire. The arcade mode can be set to Easy (which wasn't available in the arcade version), Normal or Hard and you can set the amount of lives and bombs. This is all rather spoiled by the unlimited continues the game offers by standard. A credit earning system similiar to Under Defeat or Radirgy would've been a better idea. Even the most crap players around (like me) will finish it on their first sitting.. not a good thing. Sure, you can show a bit of control by starting over after losing your third credit, but who ever does that? Pro players need not to worry though, because the Arrange mode offers exactly what you desire: one single credit.

Should the main game be too hard, or should you want to practice some more difficult sections of the game, it's the training mode you'll need. People looking for a little more depth to it all might want to take a look at the story mode, which has added dialogue and some new (and tough!) boss battles. It's -naturally- all in Japanese so it was the arcade mode I found myself returning to the most.

This bit somehow reminded me of the Power rangers..(huh?)

As like most shooters, Trigger Heart Exelica is a game in which racking up high-scores is half the fun. The game has multiple ways of doing so. Shooting the enemies by fire is one option, but using other ships and launching them into large clusters of enemies is obviously the way to go. Each defeated enemy drops a couple of small yellow blobs which automaticly home into you when you give the fire button a rest. Every one of them adds to the multiplier (see the 'x..' above). Another way of obtaining bonus points is to do well at bosses. Finish off the boss quickly enough and you'll receive a 'special bonus' which is based on the elapsed time. As easy way of receiving this bonus is using a bomb, the bosses (especially the first few) seem very vulnerable to them. The true warrior shouldn't need such cheap tricks, though.

One of the more obscure bonuses available is the 'weight bonus', it's a bonus given for enemy ships controlled. Should you do well in the game (like beating levels without dying), there's also a couple of hidden things to discover. Things like hidden battles, new ending screens and (most probably) the use of Faintear - the game's main boss. Rest assured, it will take you quite some time to master this game and see everything. The game keeps track of scores in every mode (except the training one) and the difficulty you played on, so you'll be able to set scores on easy, normal and hard. With that in mind, an internet ranking (similiar to the one used in Trizeal) would've been pretty cool. Oh well, can't have it all I guess.

There's a big white plane coming your way..better do something..
It's not that hard to obtain this, really.

Before concluding, let's talk about the graphics and sound. The graphics in Trigger Heart Exilica are pretty good. While the ships look good enough (except that the player ship doesn't work that well on small screens as you can see on the screenshots), the bosses are more impressive with some huge turrets, lasers and plenty of morphing. The backgrounds are a bit of a mixed bag really. While some parts of them look pretty good, most of them are either uninspired or rather bland. (no more 'clear air' scenes, please!). I would've liked to see a bit more thought put into them. The interface on the other hand is fine, with fonts that suit very well, multiple screen modes (see screenshot 2) and user-set borders. (thank G-REV and their Under Defeat for that one).

The sound is also done very nicely with tunes that don't distract from the action too much but manage to create enough atmosphere to be noticed. Especially the boss tunes really set the mood. Should you like them a lot, pop the bonus disc that came with them game (if you got the limited edition that is) into your cd player. It features all the music from the game, including the music from the intro and some of the longer SFX. Again, these tunes reminded me of a game I played a long time ago. They have a certain retro feel to them, I guess.

As always there's a couple of things that bring down the score. Like said before the unlimited continues might not be such a good idea. The lack of puru puru pack support was also a bit of downer especially after the rumble-a-thon that was Under Defeat. Finally, a multiplayer mode or mini-game (remember the crazy 'lifting' mode in Trizeal?) would've been just what the doctor ordered. While the arrange and story modes are nice extra's the gameplay remains mostly the same in them.

Overall I wasn't disappointed with Trigger Heart Exelica. All the little details Warashi put into it (such as the way larger ships rotate slower and really seem heavier than smaller ships) are worthy of praise. A recommended purchase for everybody looking for a shooter 'with a twist' (hohoho) and certainly a step up from certain other Dreamcast shooters I could mention. Let's hope Karous is equally entertaining.

You can fire..but why not..
..take control!


Some of the backgrounds are a little bland, but the rest of the graphics
look pretty good. Plenty of effects enhance the experience.

The themes go well with the action. Good boss tunes. Well done SFX.
Not sure about the Japanese voices and speech, though.

Multiple difficulty settings to suit everybody. 'Pick up and play' friendly.

Unlimited continues make for an easy blast through, but thankfully
there's plenty of modes and options on offer.

Graphics 7.6
Sound 8
Gameplay 8.5
Value 8
Overall 79



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