Exerion is not a traditional shoot-em-up. In fact, we’ve coined a new subgenre for it: the “groove-em-up.” No, we’re not trying to be pedantic (ok, maybe a little). According to our fact-checkers, a groove-em-up is a type of shoot-em-up that’s action takes place in a perpetual state of fluid motion akin to a groove within music. In order for a shoot-em-up to be considered a groove-em-up, the stage layout, enemies, and protagonist must move constantly. We’re not talking about automatically-scrolling shooters here. Even those have some down time between stages. The groove-em-up doesn’t give you a chance to be still or catch your breath. One phase/stage blends seamlessly into the next, like songs linked together on a concept album.
Exerion just sounds like a heavy metal name.
Groove-em-ups are rare creatures, so what makes Exerion qualify? Each stage utilizes a combination of parallax scrolling and inertia simulation to produce pseudo-3D effects. These effects make the stage layouts – comprised mostly of brown mountains, purple cities, and green Moai heads – look like ocean waves that continuously flow towards the player. All the while, space creatures descend from above and – because of the inertia simulation – move in bizarre, off-kilter patterns. In reality, both the screen and the creatures are moving at the same time. Freaky! Your protagonist, a white space ship, is controlled by you. While you could stay still in the middle of the screen, the erratic nature of both the layouts and the enemies (and their projectiles) will force you to take flight and move all around the screen. The combination of all the different types of movement happening at once makes Exerion feel more akin to a jazz improvisation than the steady 4/4 rock rhythms of most shoot-em-ups.
The “Wizard of Oz” monkeys finally found some extra work.
Yes, we believe Exerion to be a groove-em-up. But we also admit that some of what we’ve written may be a load of crap. If we’ve irritated you with our reasoning, we apologize. Hopefully one thing we can all agree on: the groove-em-up subgenre should exist in some shape or form. Let’s move gaming forward, everyone.
This screen brought to you by “Computer Blue.”
At the end of the day, Exerion is a space shooter where you shoot creatures for points. You have two types of attacks, an unlimited slow double shot and a limited fast single shot. The more creatures you kill with the laborious double, the more bullets you acquire for your spunky single. After five unique rounds with a variety of enemies, the game repeats, only harder. The whole experience is fun and a bit more disorienting than your standard shooter (those who get motion sickness probably should stay away). Most of us won’t need to play Exerion for more than 10-15 minutes. That’s plenty of time to both get a feel for the game and appreciate the tricky special effects that make Jaleco’s shooter stand out from the pack.
Easter Island: In Space!
PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
PUBLISHER/DEVELOPER: Jaleco (port by TOSE)
GENRE: Shoot-em-up (or groove-em-up, if you’re feeling funky)
RELEASE DATE: 02/11/85 (JP)
ALSO ON: Arcade, MSX, SG-1000, Virtual Console (Wii, Wii U – JP only), Nintendo Switch, PS4