STAFF REVIEW of A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX Box art It's been said that imitation is the best form of flattery, but what if the imitation was bad, we mean really, really bad? When you talk old school platforming games that offer controller breaking difficulty, hair pulling frustration, and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment upon completion, A.R.E.S. won't be in that discussion. Developed by ORiGO games and released originally out on PC a while ago, A.R.E.S. seems to take its cues directly from games like Mega Man, however, trying to pay homage to such an iconic franchise is nothing short of a titanic challenge, but ORiGO thought they were up to the task. Sadly they were wrong; very, very wrong. Let us also not forget that this tribute piece costs a whopping $15, or 1/4 the price of a full retail game. Now you may be asking yourself what exactly makes A.R.E.S. a game to overlook? Here are a few reasons why we say save your money:

A.R.E.S. tries to play off a theme that has been played out more times than we can count. On a space station deep in space, a virus has surfaced that causes the robots on board to become armed and very dangerous. The robots apparently turn on the humans on the station with one goal in mind, next stop, the end of all humanity. Naturally the only ones to stop the evil robots are two good robots named Ares and Tarus. These wonder twins are on a quest to stop Zytron from unleashing these evil robots and thus save mankind. That right there is literally the entire story of the game which is played out over seven, yes seven, platforming levels where you will have to jump and shoot and slide your way to victory. This watered down story is what is supposed to pass for a plot, but there are children in Ethiopia that have more meat to them.

While the duration of A.R.E.S. is relatively short and lacking substance, the 2D platforming aspect is in absolute abundance. The play control does take some getting used to; however, there are times where the controls vary between pinpoint and accurate, and skittish and cumbersome. There are differences between the characters to help distinguish them from each other, but outside of that, the only difference is the character model itself. For instance, Ares has a slide move whereas Tarus has a forward roll. Another example would be Ares's ability to air dash compared to Tarus's ability to hover in midair for a short period of time. These play a role in the other gameplay mechanics such as using the right stick to direct your weapon, or making sure to hit the A button perfectly to time a critical jump. While the mechanics of a 2D platformer are paramount, when the action gets hectic (especially during a boss fight), you may find the controls to be overcomplicated and borderline psychotic for your thumbs as you try to balance shooting your target and running and jumping for your life.

There may be times when A.R.E.S. seems to overwhelm you with enemies and combat, but thankfully you have an arsenal of four weapons to help you eliminate the opposition. These weapons though can be modified and upgraded through the use of upgrade chips that can be found throughout every level and after every boss battle that you win. As you progress and decimate enemy robots, you will notice that you collect materials from their fallen shells. It's these materials you will need when you obtain the upgrade chips as each one costs a certain amount of materials to use. The upgrades though are not easy to obtain and will require not only split second reaction times, but the time necessary to explore each of the seven levels trying to find them.

As this arcade game pays tribute to some old school, side scrolling, and platforming shooting games, what would be complete without vintage 16 bit graphics that have been enhanced in HD? Every single graphical facet harkens back to the day when we went crazy over the detail of sprites but now with an HD makeover, A.R.E.S. tries hard to bring you back to, as Bruce Springsteen calls it, the glory days. Even the text box dialogues between characters helps to add a sense of nostalgia to help take you back down memory lane. To compliment this entire package A.R.E.S. tries very hard to include a retro, synth heavy, electronic techno soundtrack that is reminiscent of games we have grown up enjoying. While this effort is noble at best, one can't help but notice that other games of the past have done all of this better, and for cheaper as well.

A.R.E.S. tries very hard to accommodate all the nostalgia of the past glory years of 2D platform shooting, however, there's a reason why games of the past have done this so well that they become legends, they focused on what was core to the gamer's enjoyment and left out all the other "fluff" that would not do the game justice. For $14.99 ($15) A.R.E.S. is a game that is for suckers who want a chance to relive some of the glory of old, however, if that is what you are looking for, then consider other options that would not only save you money in your wallet but give you far better enjoyment that this.

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.3 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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