One of the games that’ll be on sale on Steam until Monday is A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda. I think an enhanced version also just got released on Xbox Live. I’d basically never heard of it until the sale, and after trying the demo I wanted to get it out in the open a little bit.
Basically, this game attempts to be the love child of Mega Man and Contra. The demo feels a bit more the latter than the former, but nonetheless it looks like a completely solid sidescrolling shooter.
Even the presentation evokes Super NES games but with today’s graphics, or at least GBA games but at a higher resolution. The opening explanation of the story plays out by scrolling across still images while subtitles fill in for dialogue. It all works the same way the cut scenes in Mega Man X might, and is basically just as effective. The music hits the same spot too.
From there, you immediately end up in corridors jumping over and shooting at robots in six directions. It’s pretty tough for me to think of another indie game that captures the spirit of the aforementioned shooters this well.
The demo only covers the beginning of the game so I didn’t get the see much evidence of the kind of platforming you might find in classic Mega Man, but the bosses are pretty much Contra bosses. They’re massive, and beating them depends on rote pattern memorization while never letting go of the trigger. Though because you don’t die instantly they’re a lot more forgiving here.
A.R.E.S.’s own mechanics come into play when you collect scrap from defeated enemies to build pretty much everything, from health items to new weapons. The dynamic is a pretty smart one if you ask me: if you don’t take as much damage you won’t have to waste scrap healing yourself that you’d otherwise spend on new weapons. Though, enemies seem to respawn so it probably is possible to grind for scrap. There are also some unique tools and abilities you get throughout the game.
After trying it out I went ahead and bought A.R.E.S. on Steam and hope to eventually get to it. When asking around for more handheld 2D action games like the classics in a previous post someone actually suggested me A.R.E.S. It may not be handheld, but it seems to otherwise fit the bill.