By Scott MacDonald / June 15th, 2013
Destined for XBLA sometime in the near future, A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX feels like a mash-up of Contra, the 2D Metroid games, and Mega Man. Originally released for Steam back in 2011, this side-scrolling 2.5D run ‘n’ gun platformer combines elements of all three games into one package. It has a large variety of weaponry like Contra, an artistic design similar to any 2D Metroid (Metroid Fusion comes to mind), and items hidden in out of reach areas like Mega Man. It also seems to feature bosses that are brutally hard just like Mega Man, which is to say I wasn’t able to beat the boss of the level I played. In fact, I didn’t even get anywhere close. The boss roasted me into oblivion with a flamethrower.
Players take control of an advanced robot named A.R.E.S., whose mission is to recover the captured Minos Space Station from a rogue faction of the Atzai, an alien race with whom humanity has an alliance. The Atzai actually built the space station, which converts Earth’s pollution into energy for space travel. Zytron, leader of the rebels, attacked the station and has control of all the machines onboard. You can get a few more plot tidbits from the company’s press release here, but as it stands, the plot sounds like rather standard Sci-fi fare; Serviceable, but not necessarily extraordinary. I played level 3 or 4 of the game in the demo, so what little plot details I did get didn’t really make sense to me.
A.R.E.S. looks pretty good for an XBLA title. Granted, I don’t have a ton of experience with the Xbox 360 or XBLA, but I didn’t find much to complain about. The high-res graphics look crisp and clear, and the frame rate remained smooth and steady through my robot-blasting session. The layered backgrounds add a nice sense of depth to the environments, and the few lighting effects I did notice (mostly from things going “boom”) were rather impressive. Overall, A.R.E.S. looks quite good, although, the artistic design itself might be a little bland (then again, I don’t know how many different ways you can really design a space station).
Despite being a robot, A.R.E.S. is pretty agile. It has a double jump, a dash move (which can serve as a triple jump), and it can roll. You can switch between different guns using the d-pad. I had access to a pea shooter (pew, pew, pew, anyone?), a laser cannon that shot longer shots than the pea shooter, and a gun that fired wide arrow-shaped projectiles. Depending on the enemy, I was able to switch between guns as necessary to eliminate most of the robotic baddies I encountered. A.R.E.S. also has grenades and a lightning attack that creates a circular field of energy around him. This field also seemed to stun certain enemies. It’s entirely possible that A.R.E.S has more moves as well, too, as I’m inexperienced with the Xbox 360 controller, and there wasn’t a tutorial, so…I just pushed buttons and blew stuff up. The controls themselves do feel solid, though. Guiding A.R.E.S. through the levels is a breeze, and his jump feels spot on; it’s got just enough weight to it so it doesn’t feel floaty and his run isn’t slippery either. I mention this because games of this type require tight controls, and A.R.E.S. feels great on the Xbox 360.
Part of what makes the robot-blasting fun enjoyable is the game’s strong sound design. During my time with the game, I switched between several different kinds of weaponry, each with its own different sound effect. That might sound silly to mention, but in this kind of game, it’s nice to not have subtlety here, and only one gun made the classic “pew, pew, pew” sound. Explosions in particular sound impressive and pack a nice wallop. A.R.E.S.’ circular electrical attack sounds like a loud crash of thunder, which makes it especially satisfying to use. I unfortunately couldn’t hear the soundtrack during my time with the game due to the ambient noise in the room, but the original soundtrack had a rock/techno sound to it. There’s also a second playable character, Tarus, but I unfortunately did not have time to use it.
Even if A.R.E.S. ends up being nothing more than an amalgam of the aforementioned titles, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. All three of those franchises have respectable pedigrees, and we all know that expression about imitation. I’m reserving my judgments for now, though, until I get some more hands-on time with the title. Aksys will hopefully have a demo out soon on XBLA, but until then, there’s a lot to like about A.R.E.S., so far, and I’ll be keeping it on my radar.
A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EXAksys GamesExtend StudioORiGO Gamesxbla