If a shmup isn’t difficult then it’s not well-made. Omega Five is extremely well-made. It will frustrate you, it will make you swear, it will make you yell “Oh, come on!,”? and it will keep bringing you back for just one more try.
Like most games in its genre, Omega Five isn’t long. Many would say that Omega Five is criminally short due to having only four levels, but the four levels available are packed to the gills with diverse and challenging enemies, beautiful environments, and interesting bosses. Omega Five differs from traditional shmups in two ways: it features multiple characters with different play styles, and the player character models are huge.
The two initially available characters are Ruby and Tempest. Ruby is fairly quick, has access to laser- and electricity-based weapons, and uses a grappling hook as a secondary weapon against large and stationary foes. Tempest, in contrast, is slow, bigger than Ruby, uses fire- and water-based weapons, and is able to absorb and deflect enemy bullets. Either character can make it through all four stages, but their path to the finish will be as different as their respective arsenals. As a bonus, beating the game with Ruby unlocks R.A.D., a robot with powers similar to Ruby’s, and beating the game with Tempest unlocks Sensei, an aging samurai with a sword, bombs, and canine companion.
Shmups enjoy longevity not from long levels but from high difficulty and the pursuit of high scores and completing the game with only one life. Natsume realizes this and the achievements reflect this. Gamerscore is awarded for completing the game in one life with each of the four characters and for performing tricks with three of the four characters (R.A.D. shares a secondary weapon with Ruby so she doesn’t have a specialized achievement).
If Omega Five has one failing it is a lack of online multiplayer. When local multiplayer is available – as it is here – it should also be available over Live. We don’t all live in a house full of shmuppers, and it would be nice to try and tackle O5’s four stages with a far-removed friend. Everything else is done right. Stages are long and challenging, characters are diverse and have individual strengths and weaknesses, bosses are huge and foreboding, and the whole experience is both gorgeous and fun. If you have even a passing interest in shmups then pick up Omega Five; it’s a steal at $10.