The blue low-poly skies have been empty too long, with no daring star pilot lighting them up. The ground turrets have gone rusty with time, squadrons of low-res popcorn-fighters rest neglected in their hangars, and improbable walker-bots have had nothing to stroll out against. There have been a few half-hearted attempts to fire up a space-menace worthy of a cocky fighter whose age is no reflection of skill, but nothing’s really taken hold since the furry contingent energized the Nintendo 64. That crew is more about brawling than shooting nowadays, so it falls on the shoulders of a new pilot to take up the mantle as Kyuu eliminates the Zodiac threat through a series of planets and the depths of space.
Ex-Zodiac is a Starfox-alike that’s a throwback to the SNES style, complete with 4:3 aspect ratio to go with its low-res simple polygonal environments, but thankfully with a modern smooth framerate rather than the SNES’ dozen-ish FPS. It’s been in the works for a while now, complete with a first-level demo from last fall that was both a good promise of the game to come and now seems to be gone. The ship has nicely responsive handling, can fire lasers with a button-tap or lock-on missiles by holding it down, and enemies pop in from all over as you twist around the buildings while flying straight through town. The final boss in particular was nicely designed, with multiple weapons to target and shoot off its scorpion-body while it tries to buzz-saw the ship into bits. While not showcased in the demo, the level structure will be of the branching sort, with multiple routes to the final boss and even a couple of hidden levels along the way.
The Ex-Zodiac demo was hugely promising, hitting nostalgia in all the right ways, but leaving unanswered the question as to when we’d get to see more. That’s still a bit of a mystery but it’s looking to be a bit more of a wait, with Pixeljam having picked up the game for publishing in Early Access next year. For now, though, there’s an announcement trailer, and it’s got all the 16-bit polygon shooting you could hope for.