Seeing through your agenda.
The Mega Man series is an interesting chapter in the long history of video games. With a few disappointments and plenty of beloved hits, it’s easy to belt out a working formula. Among these are the 8 bit-styled ninth and ten entries in the series, which many fans felt were a long-overdue return to form. However, spin-off titles and attempts to modernize the franchise have been met with mixed results, such as the lackluster Mighty No. 9. Fortunately, aficionados of the Blue Bomber can check out another title, A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX, to get a fix of a distinctly modern-style Mega Man. And if you’re wondering about the title: the EX means this is an upgraded version of the original title, with more content, tweaks, and bugfixes than you can shake a robot at.
A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX takes place in the year 2094. In a society heavily dependent on sentient machinery, a strange gas has infected various AIs and turned them murderous. Our intrepid android heroes, Ares and Tarus, are new models immune to the effects of the gas, and take it upon themselves to clear out the rogue machine menace for once and for all. However, it seems as if they’re being watched and judged by another, unseen force…
A shot in the dark, a shot to a spark.
This title’s homages to the Blue Bomber are apparent from the get-go. Stages consist of small to medium-sized chunks of slower-paced platforming. You’re not expected to pull off elaborate jumps so much as you’re expected to be quick on your trigger finger, blasting away pesky robots that respawn if you leave an area and return a short while later. But enemies are most than just pests. They drop bits of material that are used to buy upgrade techs. In each level, upgrade chips are to be located in precarious positions, and are also dropped by bosses. These help our synthetic duo to extend their abilities and arsenal, which is an absolutely must later on in the campaign, as things get decidedly trickier.
The campaign itself is actually somewhat short. It features more longevity with the option to tackle it as either robot. Though they aren’t very different, there is enough variety in their moves and upgrades to make the experience feel fresh with each. It also helps to explore every level’s last nook and cranny to find the elusive upgrade. The addition of a ranking system, which scores you according to criteria like completion time and amount of damage taken. If you’re a score hunter, this’ll keep you coming back for more. Hell, you’ll keep coming back to it anyway, what with the tight controls and genuinely fun shooting.
A mission like clockwork.
Once again like the 2D shooter that is its inspiration, A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX has its fair share of bosses that are easily the most noteworthy aspect of the game. I’d not kidding: the first few are relative breezes in the park, but it’s not long before the knife is twisted extremely tightly. Be prepared to die. A lot. Unless, that is, you’ve spent your upgrades wisely and snagged some armor. But even then, this motley roster of mechanical miscreants can have you sweating bullets. They’re also a pretty lot, with clever and interesting designs that add some much-needed graphical flair to a otherwise generic-looking romp. “Wait”, you may be thinking to yourself, “what does he mean by that?”, you ask. Well…
This game’s visuals are… mostly alright. There’s a certain gritty, sci-fi flavor to it all, but it’s nothing to write home about. I have similar views with regards to the music and sound effects; they’re okay, they serve their function, but they’re neither particularly offensive nor memorable either way. Having played the original, I notice the improvements in this EX edition, such as higher resolutions. Still, it’s far from the prettiest game I’ve ever played, but that’s all okay. It’s generic and functional, and if you don’t mind the constant space station look, you’ll find a lot to love here.
If you find you were disappointed by Mighty No. 9, A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX might just scratch your itch for a modern take on a Mega Man-style game. It’s not a long lost classic by any means, but it’s a wonderful mix of cartoonish, sci-fi grit with plenty of action to sooth your trigger finger. If this all sounds like your cup of tea, then browse on over to the game’s official Steam page now to grab your own copy, or at least try out the demo.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Steam), Xbox 360. Reviewed on: PC. ; Publisher: ORiGO GAMES ; Developer: Extend Studio ; Players: single-player ; Released: the 3rd of October, 2014.
Full discloure: this review is based on a Steam key for A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.