A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda EX

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A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda EX
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A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda EX
Action
PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade
Review based on Xbox Live Arcade version
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Origo Games
Release Date: October 2nd, 2013
Originally released on Steam back in January of 2011, A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda has finally found its way onto the console market, where it belongs. Over two years after the initial release, this EX version of the game will now find a broad, new audience to pick up and play. But, since its release, the title hasn’t earned much love from the gaming community for some reason. Is this a sign of a decreasing interest in the original side-scrolling platformer that defined a generation, or is this love-letter to a beloved blue bomber just that bad a title?

The core concept of this edition remains the same as the initial Steam release. You play as A.R.E.S., going through various levels to save humanity from a green mist that has transformed many robots into evil man-killing devices. As he makes his way through the space station, he must take on a brief rescue mission to save a doctor who can help him save mankind, all leading to a tragic conclusion. You can also play as Taurus, another robot that is essentially the Protoman of to the Mega Man that is A.R.E.S., but with different moves, attitude, and yields a different conclusion to the story that are meant to be twists, though, especially with Taurus, end up a bit too foreshadowed earlier on to shock the gamer.

There is no spoken word dialogue throughout the game, instead opting to use text spoken by anime-style drawings or in-game sprites to convey the short but effective story line. The audio, however, sounds as though it is slightly .midi augmented mixtures of Rock and Metal compositions one might expect from the days of Super Nintendo. While nothing new, it definitely stands out among the countless modern soundtracks that have begun to sound similar over time, and focused more on conveying the specific emotion at set points than a general atmosphere like this title does. Most of the time, the audio sets up that dismal, mechanical environment the landscapes give off, complimenting the darker and grown up Mega Man X inspiration well to the point that if it were to swap, both would fit naturally. The special effects, however are minimal, but again remain within that specific time period to keep the look and feel of the sixteen-bit era alive.

The graphics are just right for the what Origo Games was trying to achieve. The character designs are your typical sprites that are still common place today, carrying a hand drawn effect with crisp edges and colors, all providing a sleek look to the more steampunk dismal and mechanical futuristic landscapes of another planet, as well as a satellite. There are animated cut-scenes at times that look more as though they came out of your standard anime, perhaps inspired by the similar scenes on the PlayStation One’s Mega Man 8 entry. These do come out of nowhere, and while it could have been done with interaction between the sprites, it does help accentuate the urgency a little better, even if they are out of place.

The controls, however, definitely have some issues. While each character operates in a slightly different manner, such as A.R.E.S. and his dash ability, and Taurus with his hovering, the main controls all remain the same. Certain instances, such as defeating an end boss, will give your character a new weapon, which can be controlled with the typical x button or the right analog stick. The triggers work to help with additional movement as well. However, it’s the most basic and important function, the jump ability, that just doesn’t want to work sometimes. This is a real pain in areas where you need to jump at just the right time, as well as during one boss that chases you upwards, leaving you to jump from small ledges until you reach the open hallway on the right that leads to the encounter. Controller after controller, this issue kept creeping up, making it almost impossible to complete stages three and on without dying at least once, or ending up going backwards by falling to a previous part of the stage.

A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda EX also has you finding data and upgrade discs in each of the stages. These are mandatory when you play on later Normal chapters, or just on the Hardcore difficulty in general. These also play a role in obtaining some of the additional achievements or trophies. The end of each stage is graded as well, giving your character additional experience and encouraging you to find those upgrades and get through the stage as quickly as possible to earn an SS rating. This is done by not getting hit by the end boss, completion time, as well as racking up a high combo count. Of course, you will have to go back and replay some levels more than once, as there are times you need later upgrades to reach a specific one that can help you grab a disc just out of reach where that first upgrade was on another stage. Thankfully there is a chapter select, and it does help to make getting these additions a little easier.

One time through A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda EX, and it becomes clear that, not only do the endings leave this as a potential first and only chapter of the series, but that it is far from an original game. The initial Mega Man cast is here, just as different characters and reskinned. Given that Capcom has essentially killed off our little blue hero, this is a suitable successor to the crown. While the stages are short, leading to a game you can finish up in one sitting, there is enough to keep you going back through both of the character’s campaigns, which you need to do in order to obtain all the data discs. This makes the roughly three to four hour experience of one time through per character last well past the double digits. Some stages can become a bit tedious, but with a slight casual approach that lets you pick up the controller for even a few minutes and get immersed in at least one stage, it becomes an incredibly fun title you can throw on at any time, even if it’s just to beat your own score or climb further up the leaderboards. It’s a shame it took two years for this complete experience to hit consoles, but it was well worth the wait, and hopefully a sign of a sequel to come.

Overall Score: 8/10
A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda EX
A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda EX
Digital review copy of this title provided by Aksys Games.