It isn't every day that a Japanese-made title is released worldwide for either of the currently-available Xbox platforms. Shooting Love 200X came out of absolutely nowhere when it was released back in April for Xbox 360 and was very much a surprise release, especially when you consider that it was first published in Japan back in February of 2009. Indeed, this budget-priced compilation of Triangle Service shooters took its merry time in getting to the US and Europe and sadly, it wasn't really worth the wait.
The package is a celebration of Triangle's history in making arcade top-down shooters and includes Exzeal, Trizeal Remix, an interesting set of mini-games entitled Shmups Skill Test, and a mini lock-on shooter by the name of Minus Zero. The lack ofXIIZeal and DeltaZEAL is explained by the fact that they were made available on the Japan-only Xbox 360 compilation Shooting Love 10th Anniversary. This is a shame, given that those two games are arguably better than anything contained in Shooting Love 200X.
The first thing you'll notice about the emulated titles that are included here is that they don't take up anything like enough of the screen. Sure, they're vertical shooters and we were always expecting large borders on either side of the playfield, but that playfield has gaps at the top and bottom of the screen, making things seem somewhat more claustrophobic than it really should. Not only that, but parts of the emulated games haven't even been translated fully. The score breakdown at the end of a stage of Trizeal Remix has headings in Japanese, for example. You get three credits to start off with in the two main games and that's your lot, unless you reach an extend score, which will take a fair amount of skill to get to. Once your credits are out, your game is over. Obviously, this makes for a stiff old-school challenge that will be appreciated by some more than others.
Of the included content, Trizeal Remix is easily the best of the two full titles, offering an interesting multi-weapon mechanic and a rewarding power-up system that is absolutely missing from the lacklustre Exzeal. It also offers a much better scoring system, to boot. Both titles offer single and chain-shot buttons so you won't wear out your controller (or your fingers) but somewhat confusingly these are mapped differently for each game. This is, sadly, yet another indication of a quickly rushed-together compilation. There are also issues to be raised with the games themselves when it comes to visuals. Neither title is in any way a graphical tour de force, even when you consider the genre. Shooters that are ten years older than the two on offer here have more of a visual pop than can be seen in these examples. When you compare Trizeal Remix and Exzeal to the likes of comparable Xbox 360 shooters – Under Defeat HD, Ikaruga, Triggerheart Exelica and Radiant Silvergun for example – there's absolutely no contest.
The additional content is more interesting. Minus Zero is a one-life lock-on shooter featuring geometric shapes. You – playing as a triangle – have to lock on to multiple enemies with the A button, pressing again to take them out. There's plenty of movement required in order to stay alive here but there's an issue with regards to the presentation getting in the way of the gameplay. We're all for tough games, but the strange haze effect that seemingly surrounds every individual object on the screen means that things go from being tough to unfair in a manner of seconds. Judging by the sparse entry counts in the online leaderboards, it seems that most people would agree that this will be a minorly interesting diversion that won't take up too much of your time.
The Shmups Skill Test on the other hand, threatens to be clever. Taking the form of a series of Warioware-like super-mini games, this mode's main goal is to find out your shoot-'em-up skills age. You'll start off with a quick dodging mission, then move on to having to protect the earth from meteors, then shuffle over to trying to take out a small boss character, before being tasked with saving the earth by…well…shooting discarded drinks cans into a large waste paper basket. In space. This collection of challenges is as bonkers as it seems, but is strangely compelling. When you first play through and are told that you have a player age of 57, you'll definitely want to give it another shot to see if you can't get that number lowered a bit.
The problem is though, that once you've done that – which may take two or three attempts – you'll likely not bother to play it again. If you're really taken by any of the challenges involved, they're all unlocked for you to play individually. The problem is that while fun once or twice, none of them really merit any extended playing time. In multiplayer, the Skill Test is good fun but again, you'll probably only give it a couple of spins before boredom sets in.
Shooting Love 200X is a strange collection. Released with little fanfare over six years ago and just randomly released recently in the US and Europe without any improvements or changes, there's little for us to really recommend. The package features two main games that are far from the best in their field, and two extra titles in Minus Zero and Shmups Skill Test that are poorly designed and lacking in longevity respectively. For the same price, there are much better individual ports available on Xbox 360 that will scratch your shooter itch.