If you're a fan of both anime girls and reflex-based sidescrolling shooters (a surprisingly common combination, actually) then you're in for a treat: Konami is localizing the third entry in the previously Japanese-only Otomedius line of games. The Escapist's Allistair Pinsof sees potential, but only if the performance issues can be ironed out before release.
Read Allistair's full preview of Otomedius Excellent here. The game will be available July 19 on the Xbox 360.
Otomedius is the spiritual successor to the Gradius/Parodius series, continuing their difficult horizontal shooter action and numerous load-out options. You also get to decide which ability to enable/upgrade, as you collect items after defeating highlighted enmies. So, yeah, it's a Gradius game with large-breasted anime girls and bright, colorful backdrops.
The game controls like a classic Gradius title. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the various power-ups, but most of them perform as you expect. Overall, I felt they were hit and miss. Some you couldn't spam and restricted you to a recharge time - not something I want to deal with in my shmups. The speed boost felt unwieldy, like someone cranked the thumbstick sensitivity to max. The quality of a shmup is dependent on smooth controls and frame-rate, so I'm worried about how Otomedius will turn out in retail form.
The demo only contained the first stage which was a breeze on expert. It's worth pointing out that I am a shmup-graduate - I got my degree after two weeks at my local community college! -- so newbies might have more difficulty wiht it. Konami shooters are known for raising the stakes, stage-by-stage, so Otomedius Excellent will probably get to be pretty tough by the time you reach the final, eighth stage. If not, there is still an unlockable, higher difficulty.