Aegis Wing (X360) (2007)
Developer: Microsoft Game Studios
Review by Faididi and Co.
A perfect showcase for XBLA
In the future, humankind abandons a polluted Earth to settle on the nice, cozy planet of Europa (no relation to Jupiter's moon). However, another interstellar race known as the Araxians also wants Europa, so we form a group of superpowered starfighters called the Aegis Wing to defend our new home. This is pretty much the same old tale in the genre, with nothing complicated to worry about.
Developed by a Microsoft intern team as a part of promoting Xbox Live Arcade, Aegis Wing is a simple space shooter that pays close homage to the old classics of its genre, but it also takes full advantage of the X360's features. Completely free to download and play, this game lets up to 4 Players band together simultaneously, via any mix of shared-console and online network modes. The heroes fly through 6 side-scrolling missions, gunning down the Araxians with their main blasters and 4 types of powerful special weapons, which are occasionally dropped by defeated enemies.
Compared to the fancy-looking space shooters created by contemporary Japanese developers, Aegis Wing doesn't look special at first. The missions blur together, due to the unspectacular scenery and the few types of similar-looking enemies. However, don't let the generic graphics fool you, because this game is actually polished at heart. Its item system is well balanced, and its enemy patterns are carefully paced. The way the heroes' and the bad guys' attacks mirror each other in various forms is a neat touch (owing to the good guys basing their ships off Araxian technology), and while the bosses appear alike, they each have unique attack patterns.
Of all the features, the multiplayer aspect is probably the best part about this space shooter. The heroes have shields that allow them to suck up a few shots before blowing up, but because they always begin a mission with a preset number of lives, and because there are no 1-ups, they must rely on teammates to revive them with special power-ups if they run out of lives. Furthermore, Aegis Wing borrows the ship combining feature from Athena's STG: Strike Gunner, where the heroes can attach their ships together to boost their overall firepower. Of course, the differences here are that you're dealing with a quartet of heroes instead of a pair, and that the ship-combination option also magnifies the heroes' special weapon fire. The homing missiles, deathrays, bullet-reflecting shields, and stun fields are already potent enough on their own, but using them as a team makes the heroes truly unstoppable. This emphasis on relying on your friends to keep you in action and to stack up your firepower is a fantastic way to encourage teamwork, and it's Aegis Wing's greatest strength.
The Aegis Wing starfighters handle very responsively. Moving around, firing the different weapons, and attaching to other ships are all easy to do. As an extra bonus, the heroes' ship colors can be changed in between the missions.
Graphics: Above Average
The visuals may not wow anyone, but they're more than decent, with brightly drawn characters and easily identifiable objects. The backgrounds are nicely textured, too. The only complaint here is why the Players' status displays are located separately at the four corners of the screen, instead of being strung together along the top of the screen in the most sensible (and least obstructive) manner.
Audio: Above Average
The weapons boom out loudly, and the same goes for the crisp, crunchy explosions. The chances are you won't find the music as impressive, though. Except for the moving main theme heard on the menu screens, the tunes sound like B-movie sci-fi horror material that would better fit a Godzilla film.
Aegis Wing is the perfect space shooter for showcasing XBLA's potential. Its full-fledged 4-Player support, engaging team dynamics, cool special weapons, and neatly balanced enemy patterns all come together to offer what may be the single greatest experience for space shooter fans on the X360. The fact that Aegis Wing is free makes it even more attractive than it already is.