This article originally appeared in Nintendo Gamer magazine.
With Capcom farming most of their series out to western studios lately, a game like E.X. Troopers comes as something of a surprise. At first glance, there's not a trace of Lost Planet in its hyperactive, cel-shaded anime stylings - but it's all there lurking beneath the hood. The animation, the enemy Akrids, the orange gel that spews from their corpses - oh, this is Lost Planet alright.
Specifically, it's a spin-off of the forthcoming third entry, focusing on the bug-battling exploits of a bunch of E.D.N. academy students. Where Lost Planet 3 appears to be going for a survival horror vibe, E.X. Troopers is aiming for the polar opposite: multicoloured action exploding out of every orifice. Or to put it another way, the lead guy of 3 is called Jim and has a beard; the lead guy of E.X. is a teenager named Bren Turner with a magnificent dome of pink hair. (If anyone ever asks you the difference between Japan and the US, it's probably best to just quote that sentence.)
Details are thinner than the atmosphere on E.D.N. III, but we do know that Bren is a recent graduate of an academy that specialises in exterminating the indigenous bug-like race of inhospitable ice planet - and that he has an AI friend who lives in a mech suit. He also has a chum who can speak to the Akrid, and another who's secretly in love with him - or possibly with his Vital Suit, Gingira. Teenage melodrama seems to be the order of the day in the cutscenes.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it is a massive change from the first game's confusing Resident Evil-esque nonsense, and the second's practically nonexistent plot. There are other changes too, by the looks of it, including the welcome addition of a hub environment, which will let you wander around and chat to people between missions.
But it's the core action that appears to have received the biggest overhaul. If the brilliantly ridiculous trailer is any indication, there's a more arcadey flavour to the combat - which already resembled a three- dimensional Metal Slug. Movement seems faster and more fluid, a stark contrast to its bulky, sluggish nature in the previous games.
Of course, a lot of this is speculation, and speculation based on what appears to be the PS3 version of the game. The 3DS one is under wraps for now, but like E.D.N. III itself it's bound to thaw out soon.