It's a nuisance to throw out these days, but "Shmups are a dying genre" seems to be rampantly fluttering the interwebs over the last few years. Which is odd considering we've seen a shoot-'em-up revival lately with constant freeware shooters, fan creations, and classic remakes going abound. So with that, Omega Five makes its blaster and bomb diffusing entrance into Microsoft's Marketplace. But is it any good?
At first glance, Omega Five may come off as more of a bastard child of several shooters put together rather than it's own creation. Ships are thrown away for actual people (sort of), which after being selected are shuttled into stages, limbs dangling out and about throughout the hailstorm of fire. Unlike other "human" shoot-'em-ups, such as the Shikigami no Shiro series, Omega Five's mechanics are placed into horizontal stages much like Thunderforce and Gradius.
For an XBLA game, Omega Five may be one of the prettiest titles available, albeit very short.
At first, you can only choose between Ruby, a sultry, skirt-laden blondie and Tempest, a gangly, freakish green creature with four arms. Needless to say, it does not sport very memorable characters, though each one (for a total of four playable characters) is interesting and borrow some mechanics from other games. For example, the trapeze-like satellite linked to Ruby's gun can be used much like one of the satellites found in R-Type, blocking bullets and latching onto enemies for incision-like damage.
The core of progression is simplicity. Three varying weapons of the typical blue, red and green variety are littered throughout the four available stages, each of different shooting types, of which collecting the same weapon as the one previously equipped raises the level of your firepower, to a maximum of three. What's nice is how each characters firepower changes dramatically, like Ruby's red power-up serving as a spread fire of pellet bullets while Tempest utilizes the same for a flamethrower cannon.
For an XBLA game, Omega Five may be one of the prettiest titles available, albeit very short. What's unfortunate is how all four stages feel very claustrophobic, no thanks to the awkward coming of enemy ships and biological life forms from both the front and back of your "ship". The title's score system works as much as Dodonpachi's does, racking up a hit combo until your combo meter runs out (represented as a five-point star on the bottom of your screen), reverting your score multiplayer back to a pitiful and meaningless x1.
Patterns in Omega Five are unconventional and strange, though the game is still quite easy and shouldn't take the well-oiled shooter fanatic more than a few hours to dominate and maintain his or her ground. Your character's limbs annoyingly flutter and dangle the whole time, though thankfully aren't too punishable by not being within the character's hitbox.
Finishing the game with either of the two primarily available characters furthermore unlocks R.A.D. and Sensei, a peculiar old man on a hoverboard utilizing his saber and no more than kanji glyphs to fend off enemy galacticas and space fish. It's all very cheesy and discouraging, but has some merits for trying to mix things up a bit.
Leaderboards is essentially all that will keep players coming time and time again to best their friends score, a stranger's, or perhaps even their own for quite some time. It's a decent title, though shoot-'em-up veterans might not spend too much time with this gem. Fun, but short, pretty, yet too easy to crack open and finish within hours, shooter fans might want to try the trial version before giving it the full noteworthy decision of point shelling. Coupled with the fact that it's a full $10 to purchase puts Omega Five on the backburner of possible cores worthy of total and completely bittersweet destruction.