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One of the great things about Xbox Live Arcade is that it gives Xbox 360 owners the chance to sample slightly obscure, left-field or older, classic games at a bargain-basement price - and often in a new high definition form. Pick a winner, and you can get a good few hours of gameplay for a lot less than you might have coughed up for some overhyped, underdeveloped new release. Download the trial versions and you need never pick a loser, but even if you do the £3.50 to £7 price tag shouldn't smart too much.
Triggerheart Excelica is one of the more obscure ones. It's a conversion of a 2006 arcade shoot-em-up, relatively popular in Japan, but virtually unknown over here. It's a top-down scroller in the mode of classics like 1942, Xevious and, more recently, Ikaruga, with a choice of two anime battle maidens going up against some kind of alien force led by a traitorous anime battle maiden with a bad attitude (or at least that's my understanding of the rather sketchy plot).
What we have here, essentially, is a decent-looking, old-school 2D shoot-em-up created using modern 3D techniques. Thanks to an HD retune of the graphics, the various enemy fighters, tanks and backgrounds look pretty good and move extremely smoothly, with some nice 3D effects neatly integrated into the action. Launch a smartbomb, for example, and your current heroine zooms up into the air before flying down to administer the crushing blow. 3D is also used to create an illusion of depth in some of the level backgrounds, and polygonal models allow for some huge screen-filling bosses in the frame.
I couldn't say that Triggerheart Excelica was a match for Omega Five on the visuals front, but it's certainly no disaster. What might be a deal breaker for some are the huge bars at the side of the screen, which are required to keep the game's original ‘tallscreen' aspect ratio. You do have the option of rotating the action and either rotating the controls or your screen to match. Sadly, the former doesn't quite gel while the latter isn't really an option unless you play your 360 through a rotatable PC monitor. Do you really want to stick your large-screen HDTV on its side?
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