Incomprehensible plot setups and outrageous situations are nothing new in the vast and peculiar world of Japanese gaming culture. So a game starring a gaggle of pint-sized android schoolgirls that duke it out in a vitriolic war over who gets to eat the last pudding on earth seems pretty tame on the weirdness scale when compared to some of Japan's edgier offerings. A quirky gem hailing from Japan's thriving indie-game development scene, Acceleration of Suguri X Edition packs an oddball mix of bullet-hell blasting and competitive arena fighting that doesn't take itself seriously at all. That's mostly a good thing because the frenetic brawling action found in this small package is well paired with the game's outlandish vibe.
One-on-one arena battles filled with sprays of explosive bullet fire, insane special attacks, and volleys of giant missiles are the pulsing heart of Acceleration of Suguri X Edition. These enticing matches deliver quick and frantic blasts of rollicking good excitement in a handful of solo and multiplayer modes. Combat takes place within a vast circular arena set against a meager medley of unobtrusive backdrops. As the clock ticks down, you and your opponent zip around the screen, unleashing a flurry of rapid attacks until only one character is left standing. Most projectile attacks automatically rocket toward your foe, and melee swings generally push you in her direction too, but that doesn't guarantee a direct hit. A quick dodge maneuver lets you and your opponent move around the battlefield speedily to evade incoming fire, yet dodging too frequently overheats your character and leaves her prone.
Though it's essentially a competitive 2D fighting game, Acceleration of Suguri X Edition plays like a shoot-'em-up, and the addictive qualities of this refreshing combination quickly set in once you get a feel for the controls. It's a shame this requires a bit of frustrating trial and error due to the total lack of any help menu or explanation of how to play. The game just throws you into the fray and expects you to figure out everything on the fly. Button mashing only gets you so far, and it can take some time to get the feel for the types of attacks that different button combinations unleash. The vast majority of moves are pulled off by either a prolonged hold or quick tap of the square, triangle, or circle buttons. What's irritating is that it's not readily apparent that holding L1 while hitting these other buttons lets you fire off a modified version of each attack. Once you overcome that obstacle, battles become a lot more strategic and enjoyable.
Within the confines of each stage's circular boundaries, the twitchy gameplay yields some truly chaotic and dazzling fights to the death. The camera automatically zooms in and out of the action based on how close the combatants get to each other. With both characters spewing laser blasts, orbs of glowing death, explosive projectiles, and other hypnotic volleys back and forth across the screen, it makes for some dizzying rounds of airborne combat. In addition to a few cool-looking variations on several core long-range and melee attack moves, each character has her own set of hyperattacks. These range from giant focused laser beams and satellite orbs that hone in on their targets to chain whips and blocks of bullet-reflecting ice. Every successful blow landed on foes has the dual purpose of whittling down their health bar and charging your special meter, which lets you dish out a crippling barrage each time it's filled.
Diving into straightforward local multiplayer matches in Versus mode against another human opponent is where you'll squeeze the most fun out of Acceleration of Suguri X Edition, but there are a few options for loners. The standard Arcade mode lets you initially pick from one of seven battle-hardened young female combatants and plow through a string of a half-dozen matches per character. Completing these bouts with different characters unlocks new stages, additional fighters to play as, and snippets of background story to read through if you feel so inclined. Then, there's a practice arena for experimenting with moves against the computer and a sparse Story mode with two short campaigns that are heavy on wacky text and bombastic character dialogue. The text-heavy character interactions during story portions are packed with nonsense dialogue that shifts between humorous and annoying. The crisp character graphics from the Arcade mode are dropped for the story sections in favor of slapdash hand-drawn artwork, featuring color-pencil shading that looks more amateurish than charming.
Even with limited content and a few presentation issues, the intense battles and tight gameplay in Acceleration of Suguri X Edition offer a high replay value. If you spend a little time getting to know this shooter-brawler hybrid, you'll want to dig deeper to check out each character's moves, test her unique combat abilities against other adversaries, and grab a pal to pummel over and over again. When you factor in the budget price of this addictive download, a dusting of sugar sweetens most of the sour notes.