'EX Troopers' hands-on: the 'Lost Planet' tailor made for Japan

Hands-on with Lost Planet spin-off EX Troopers from TGS 2012.

Capcom's Lost Planet 3 is in the hands of Spark Unlimited, the California-based developer tapped to bring the Lost Planet series to a wider, Western audience. For the most part, that game plays like a familiar cover-based, third-person shooter, with some giant mech-driving moments to break up the space bug-slaying action.

But Capcom has another Lost Planet game in the works, EX Troopers, a third-person shooter steeped in Japanese flavor. Where Lost Planet 3 aims for a stylized photorealism and detail, EX Troopers favors a cel-shaded, anime-inspired aesthetic. The stars of EX Troopers are cute, pink-haired warriors, not grizzled, intergalactic roughnecks.

The Tokyo Game Show demo of EX Troopers on the PlayStation 3 played nothing like its Spark-developed counterpart. The troopers wear speed-boosting jetpacks, flying through the frosty air of EDEN 03 with anime flair. Even the shooting feels Japanese, with no real reticle control, just a lock on system; press the right shoulder button to target an enemy, tap the left should button to cycle through all targets, press face buttons for rapid fire or high damage attacks.

Shooting, dashing, and unleashing a massive barrage of energy when an "action gauge" meter fills up - it all feels like Japanese action games of yore, like EX Troopers could have been released on the Sega Dreamcast. We had flashbacks to Sega's Gunvalkyrie, only without the maddening control frustrations.

While we were in control of a spike-haired teenager whose fashion sense seemed to outweigh the practicality of dressing for an ice-covered planet, we weren't alone. A cute, plum-haired girl and a chubbier young man fought by his side. A gruff commander barked orders at the team, all told through manga-inspired dialogue panels.

The TGS demo culminated in a battle with a giant Rig, one of the mechs controlled by a space pirate boss. Even this battle, with Virtual On-style dash attacks and shockwaves that emanated from ground slams, felt like a Lost Planet from an alternate universe.

EX Troopers has much of the Lost Planet mainstays that we now expect: Vital Suits, swarming Akrid, space pirates. Everything has a cute veneer, with EX Troopers' humanoid enemies looking more like they belong in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker than on a desolate planet infested with glowing bugs. It's stylish, simpler in scope than its Lost Planet predecessors, but also lighter hearted fun.

The Japanese release of EX Troopers is slated for November 22nd on the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo 3DS. A release outside of Japan has not been announced.

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