By: Casey Curran
Almost every single time I play a downloadable game, the first thing I look for is what retro game inspired it. It is very rare I cannot find anything to compare it to, whether the influence is subtle or almost a wholesale rip off. Despite an aesthetic far different from Mega Man, A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda is a game that constantly reminded me of Capcom’s renowned series. The comparison ends up being very important because A.R.E.S. will appeal to Mega Man fans hungry for something new more than anyone else.
The physics are where the Mega Man comparison begins, but not where it ends. Running and jumping feel very similar to both Mega Man: Powered Up and Maverick Hunter X. These lack the polish and precision that Mega Man provides, however. There were a few instances where a slight lag in jumping was noticeable when running to the edge of a ledge. This was not overly common, but it was noticeable.
Shooting can be controlled both by holding the X button or using the right analog stick for more control over your aim. This option does prevent the issue that most side-scrollers with right analog shooting provide, in that shifting your thumb from shooting to jumping both takes more time and feels awkward. This happens often as well with how important aim is, but the tradeoff the extra precision provides is worth it.
Technically, A.R.E.S. does everything it needs to do graphically. The game is very well polished and makes good use of colors. However, the art style does ultimately end up being forgettable. There is little that pops out, and the character and enemy models have a generic appearance. The two playable characters especially look like a bland fusion between a Power Ranger, Samus Aran and Master Chief.
The game takes more cues from Mega Man in the sound department than in its visuals. Music, unfortunately, is mostly forgettable. It lacks catchy beats, though it gets the job done. Sound effects have a fun, cartoony feel, and are undoubtedly the highlight of the game’s sound.
Extinction Agenda‘s level design is where this it will really remind gamers of Mega Man. The level design is almost exactly like it, consisting of similar screen transitions and an almost identical method of setting up hazards. The way obstacles and platforms appear will feel instantly familiar to Mega Man fans.
Enemies are very similar as well. The game is scattered with smaller foes, both floating and on the ground, which will can be easily disposed of, but allowing them to hit you will add up very quickly. Boss battles end every level in a cramped room where you have to quickly learn and pick up on how to avoid their attack patterns.
Upgrades are where it really starts to differ, however. The game only has four weapons to choose from; they’re switched via the d-pad depending on the enemy bulk and movement patterns rather than what is particularly effective against them. There are also movement and armor upgrades, which do help pace the game better.
There are also a number of stumbles along the way, however. There were a few instances where hazards are set up in a way where there is no reasonable way to get past them without taking damage. They are also placed in time sensitive instances, which do not mesh well together. I would eliminate an obstacle with a fixed amount of time, but because I had to wait for a hazard to be removed, I had to either take damage or not get there in time. The enemy placement can also be set up so it forces the player to wait an annoyingly long amount of time or take damage as well.
Despite these annoying moments, the game is still too easy and short. It can be beaten in a few hours with a small number of levels. This would be not as much of an issue if the game was more difficult, but an option to heal removes almost any sense of challenge. By simply tapping the right button you can restore your health using pickups every enemy scatters upon their destruction. This takes a reasonable time to recharge, but I always had a surplus of items to heal myself, and situations where I took damage too quickly to recharge were rare. The only instances I really died were with bottomless pits, and most of these were caused by the aforementioned flaw when jumping.
A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda is a decent, not great side-scroller. Nevertheless, if you are a fan of the Mega Man series hyped for its creator Kenji Inafune‘s next game, Mighty No. 9 (basically a spiritual successor to Mega Man for those who have not heard of it), then this is a very good choice to tide you over while you wait. If you are not a Mega Man fan, however, A.R.E.S is harder to recommend.