Looking back at more old Capcom games, today we go slightly out of order and look at Exed Exes. Spoiler alert: This game isn’t very good.
Or maybe it is. But if so, its quality exists in some arcane measure that I am unable to discern with my feeble human perception.
Exed Exes sounds like a game about shooting former spouses or something, but in fact it involves robotic alien insects (the original U.S. arcade release came in under the title Savage Bees, in fact). I suppose it’s a little like Galaga, except nowhere near as well-considered. Exed Exes feels like a step down from Capcom’s first game, Vulgus, in every way except visuals. The music is especially terrible — a repetitive drone that sounds like it’s going to build into something interesting but never does.
This, as it turns out, is a metaphor for the game action itself! It’s just humdrum shooting from top to bottom — or bottom to top, as the case may be — as your little ship flies ahead and avoids collisions with enemies and enemies’ bullets. Most of the bad guys take the form of, yes, bees. Some of the bees are very large, much like the enormous flies in Vulgus. After a while, you’ll reach the “high point zone” (or something along those lines), where giant skulls drift downward toward you and soak up bullets. Then it’s back to the grind again.
Even though Exed Exes features more elaborate graphics and faster action than Vulgus, it comes off as a less refined game. It lacks the rhythm that makes Vulgus unique and interesting; in that game, learning when and where to fire off those piercing rockets for top score combos becomes the defining strategic element, a bedrock of consistent level design and placement around which less predictable chaos swirls. Exed Exes is just waves of bees that move faster and shoot more. Of all the old-school Capcom shooters I’ve played, it offers the least thoughtful play and most slapdash challenges. Nothing about Exed Exes really defines it as a game; if it stands out among its peers, it’s strictly in terms of its mediocrity. Well, I guess they can’t all be winners.