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Quick Review: eXceed 2nd – Vampire REX (PC)

I first wrote my review of the first eXceed title back in 2014, and I took a lot longer to get to this game than I expected. Granted it is probably more absurd for me to have not reviewed another Senran Kagura or Persona game until now, but your Goddess works in mysterious ways after all, and by that she means that playing eXceed 2nd at this time was a spur of the moment decision without much prior thought.

It was quite convenient that I played through the first eXceed with my old crappy computer because I actually tried replaying it recently. That attempt was short lived because I realized that the first eXceed was not re-formatted for newer PCs. It was originally a 2005 title so ran well on my old crappy computer but was pretty much unplayable on my newer one. it is quite clear that the effort was put into the 2nd and 3rd games with the first one as little more than an afterthought, and having now played Vampire Rex I can see why.

Vampire Rex is an IMMENSE improvement over Gun Bullet Children. In everything from visuals, to music, and especially to gameplay, Vampire Rex blows its predecessor out of the water into another body of water, then it blows it out of that body of water.

eXceed 2nd - Vampire REX | Siegrune

Just starting with the aforementioned visuals, the on screen projectiles are for more visually appealing than in Gun Bullet Children. While the original’s color pallet over used the colors red and black so much that you’d swear it was a virtual boy game, Vampire Rex… doesn’t do that. Instead the visual designs are unique and eye popping all the way through.

The soundtrack to Gun Bullet Children was pretty good, but the music of Vampire Rex is outstanding! Each of the level themes are atmospheric and intense, and every boss has their own unique theme, all of which are absolutely amazing. The one that sticks out the most is the Stage 6 boss theme “Flugel.” This track is so intense that I initially assumed that it was the final boss theme. It does fit quite well in the context of the game’s story as well. It’s easy to make a track that sounds “epic” or “intense,” but this track is just so brilliantly arranged that little compares to it. And most of the music is of this caliber as well.

eXceed 2nd - Vampire REX | bullets

Since the story was mentioned, I may as well talk about that as well. The dialogue is actually translated this time so you can actually understand what is going on, but I also can’t help but feel like there were some connections to the first game I missed. While it still feels a bit disjointed due to the game’s short length (not counting the amount of attempts that stack up), I did find the story interesting and it is a step up from the typical excuse plot.

Gameplay wise, Vampire Rex is also a major improvement over Gun Bullet Children, but I will clarify that my memory on the latter is a bit fuzzy since it has been so long since I played it. Unlike the first game, Vampire Rex uses a mechanic similar to that of Ikaruga’s polarity mechanic. For those unaware, this means that projectiles will be one of two colors and that the player can absorb projectiles that are the same color as them. The player is also given the ability to change their color at will, and will need to use this ability in order to get past the massive waves of bullets.

eXceed 2nd - Vampire REX | Angel boss fight
Pictured: A lot of fucking bullets!

There is one key difference between Vampire Rex and Ikaruga though, and that difference is that enemies don’t abide by this rule and your bullets will effect all enemies regardless of your current polarity. One should not assume that this makes the game easy though, as there is still a fuckton of bullets for the player to dodge and they will need to decide whether it is more effective to dodge or absorb, in a matter of seconds.

This means that there is naturally a lot of practice and memorization involved in order to beat this game. A standard run of the game would likely take about 20 minutes, but the total amount of time I spent trying to git gud at the game took 10 hours on easy mode. Those who are more experienced shmup fans will likely take less time on easy but there are three difficult setting that are higher than what I beat it on.

eXceed 2nd - Vampire REX | Ending

The other mechanic that makes Vampire Rex so effective is that you charge up a special attack when  you absorb enough bullets. Some bosses can be massacred in a short amount of time if one takes the right risk in absorbing projectiles or gets into the right pattern of dodging and changing polarities. With everything combined, you have a very well designed shmup that gives you just the right feeling of challenge and intensity, while also being aesthetically pleasing to boot.

I would definitely recommend checking out Vampire Rex if you are into 2D shooters or are looking for a decent yet fair challenge. Well that takes care of most of my review backlog, I just have one more game to review and I’ll back on track. Let’s just say that my next review will be quite, dare I say…. smashing. Ultimately so.

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