A general rule of thumb here on Wilcox Arcade is that the more posts a topic gets, the more fascinated I am by said topic. This rule isn’t a constant, but it tends to hold true. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn, and StepManiaX are just a few of the topics that have gripped me, and their post-counts show it.
Exa-Arcadia, if you couldn’t tell, is also one of my favorites.
Luckily for me, I’ve got even more to write about today. If you were wondering what indie developer Dangen Entertainment would bring to the proverbial table when they joined the Exa team earlier this year, you’ll soon get to see the fruits of their labor. Last week, we found out that Devil Engine is coming to Steam in Winter 2018, followed by the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and—you guessed it—Exa-Arcadia in 2019. Check out the trailer for yourself below.
As Adam Pratt of ArcadeHeroes.com noted in his article on Devil Engine, it is super weird to see an arcade platform listed alongside the major home consoles at the end of a trailer. This is so good for arcade industry exposure, and I hope we see more of it in the future. In fact, that was one thing that actually really bothered me about the original Nippon Marathon Turbo Hyper Running trailer (before Exa uploaded their own). The end card listed Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, but Exa-Arcadia was nowhere to be found.
But Devil Engine gave a big shout-out to arcades, and gosh darn is that awesome. The game itself seems pretty wicked cool, as well. The graphics, for one thing, are gorgeous. The sprites are high-resolution, packed with detail, and cleanly animated. And the backgrounds—oh, the backgrounds—they’re so good. They, too, are packed with detail and, to top it off, feature many layers of parallax scrolling. Parallax scrolling is often key to a vibrant 2D game, and Devil Engine pulls it off here.
But this is a hard-action, horizontally-scrolling shoot-em-up—how does it play? While we won’t know until we get to play it, Devil Engine looks real nice-like. It’s definitely one of those games meant to overwhelm the player with bullets (hence the “MAD ENGINE RAMPAGE”), which is super jivin'. Considering how many unique environments and enemies we saw in the trailer alone, I’m willing to bet that this won’t grow stale with multiple playthroughs. And I have to say it: those bosses are rad as heck. That’s gonna be fun.
Here are some notable gameplay tidbits from the Steam listing to mull over. I’m curious to see how some of these features transfer over to the arcade release.
There are three shot types with unique bombs.
Players can build a point multiplying combo with careful play and expend it with a bullet absorbing burst.
There are six “incredibly detailed” stages. (Agreed.)
There are eight game modes.
Points can be spent to unlock in-game shaders and additional music, stages, and playable ships.
I think what a lot of people are super stoked for is the music, and justifiably so. The soundtrack is composed by Tsukumo Hyakutaro of Thunder Force V fame, and with it comes this really distinct, pulse-pounding chiptune/rock vibe. The trailer ditty already has me wildly anticipating what’s to come. What I love about this is that, with each new Exa-Arcadia title, we’re seeing that bangin’ soundtracks can still exist in arcades. While the vast majority of major arcade game developers have eschewed good music for loud sound effects, these indie studios understand the importance of the video game soundtrack. Dangen Entertainment is proving that Devil Engine no exception.
From what I can tell, player feedback toward Devil Engine has been overwhelmingly positive. The comments on the YouTube trailer are full of buzz, praising the gameplay, music, and sprite work. Perhaps the only “criticisms” are pleas for a physical release (which I wholeheartedly agree with) and an Xbox One release.
In fact, the only “negative” here isn’t as much about Devil Engine as it is about the Exa-Arcadia platform itself. As of late, we’ve seen a few comments that the lineup is too heavy on shmups. I understand that position. However, I don’t think it’s going to be a huge problem in the long run. While, yes, shmups are tad niche and now make up 70 percent of Exa’s launch titles, I do believe there’s so much more in store. Exa-Arcadia is not going to be a shmup-only platform. We’ve already seen a one-on-one fighter, a four-player puzzler, and a four-player party game, with much more still unannounced. The future is bright, even if it leans towards shoot-em-ups in the short term.
In all honesty, we should be happy that we’re getting so many solid titles so early on. Sure, a lot of them are shmups, but they’re darned good shmups. This isn’t something we should complain about. I’d gladly take another stellar shmup like Devil Engine over a mediocre game from another genre any day.
Part of this “problem” also lies in the fact that Exa-Arcadia is still unproven hardware. Though Exa has done an astounding job rounding up development partners, they’re still very much in that “awkward first year” stage. Developers don’t know how well Exa-Arcadia will sell, and arcade operators don’t know what their return-on-investment (ROI) will be. Like the Nintendo Switch in March 2017, this is a brand-new concept fighting an uphill battle for a foothold in the industry. Fortunately, Exa-Arcadia has received tons of support so far. I’m excited to see what happens.
Think about it this way. Atomiswave was a somewhat similar arcade hardware platform. By the end of its six-year lifespan, it only had 30 games under its belt. Exa-Arcadia hasn’t even released yet and already has 12 confirmed games. That’s nearly 50 percent of Atomiswave’s lifetime output in just seven months—that’s crazy. If it feels like Exa is lacking in genre diversity, it’s because we’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more to come.
Of course, Exa-Arcadia still has a long way to go before they surpass the 148 games released on the Neo-Geo MVS, but I can’t wait to see them do it.
Prepare yourselves, boys and girls. The Andraste is the only hope to defeat the terrifying, terrible, titular Devil Engine. We won’t have to wait long for more Devil Engine goodness, either; Exa promises that a future trailer showcasing arcade-exclusive content is on the way.
Before I go, I do feel the need to apologize for my tardiness on this bit of news. I've got myself a job at the local Save-a-Lot now, so I'll need to do some serious grinding to keep my blog alive. I refuse to allow any hiatuses! Probably.
But either way, I’m on the edge of my seat for Devil Engine Exa-Arcadia.. Y’all better keep it real.