EXO Squad is a game for the Sega Genesis made in 1995. It was developed by Novotrade International, who later became Appaloosa Interactive, and published by Playmates Interactive Entertainment Ltd.. Based on the popular cartoon, the game follows three of the main characters of the show- J.T. Marsh, Wolf Bronski, and Rita Torres- before the events of the show actually take place. Each character has unique game play styles and objectives, although they fall into action gameplay stereo types. The game animates and plays very similarly to a another Novotrade game for the Genesis, Cyborg Justice, and has gameplay elements of both that and Sega arcade classic After Burner.
The most notable aspect of the game is the single player mode's heavy reliance on narrative in the game. Cutscenes are extensively used during the single player campaign, with each level having a rough explanation for what is taking place in the game. These usually consist of still pictures with scrolling text, but on occasion include frames of animation for, say, the narrowing of eyes in response to a question posed by the events at hand, or just generally talking. Every mission ends with a password and another cut scene, giving a rough link to the next mission at hand. This serves to feel a lot like the source material, with the same kind of post-event jumps that do not show the aftermath of whatever event is taking place.
Gameplay divides itself into two different modes, Arcade Mode and Duel Mode. Story mode is the single player component of the game, where the player guides the three characters through an unfolding narrative involving time travel, bioengineering, and man-made super humans named Neosapiens.
The gameplay has a few overarching elements. Every game style has the same health system, a radial dial in the top left corner that moves counter clockwise as you lose health. The dial can contain eleven tanks, or rotations, around the circle. Full health is marked with an F, for full, and from there it counts down from F to zero. By the time the last lap is completed on the zero, the character explodes and the level resets. Check points are very rare, and progression is managed through passwords instead of a battery save. The game only utilizes the A, B, and C buttons on the Genesis controller, with no support for six button controls.
J.T. Marsh's gameplay consists of Afterburner style flight combat. Using the D-Pad, the player moves from left to right, the up and down arrows serving to move JT from one horizontal plane of play to another. J.T. had a standard arsenal compared to the rest of the characters. The A button would fire a regular gatling gun, and the B button, when held, charged a cannon. It was possible to fire the machine gun while charging the cannon, and is definitely a useful strategy for later in the levels. The C button engages evasive manuvering, allowing the player to move much faster and outrun lock-ons that boss characters, which were other Exoskeletal robots (entitled E-Frames) piloted by villainous Neo Sapiens. The boss characters only have one attack, which consist of powerful gatling guns that lock on and deplete health incredibly quickly. If the lock on is not evaded, the fight can be ended in mere seconds.
Wolf's gameplay strongly resembles the side scrolling elements of Cyborg Justice, mostly due to the animation style. Wolf walks his E-Frame from left to right, powering through opposition with heavy weapons fire. The D-Pad has two functions: Wolf only moves forwards if told, but he crouches by pressing Left. The game does not allow the player to turn around in these levels. Up and down on the D-Pad are used to move Wolf's crosshairs up and down, allowing him to aim at targets. The A button initiates a shield that causes Wolf to glow blue and reflect most damage, the exceptions being direct contact with enemies and missiles. The B button serves as both his gatling gun and cannon. Pressing B fires the regular gun, while holding and then releasing B causes the cannon to discharge. The C button is used to jump, mainly over obstacles like pits. Bossfights for Wolf's levels consist of heavily armed E-Frames remaining stationary and firing upon Wolf, with simple patterns.
Rita's gameplay is a side scrolling duel between two E-Frames, hers and an enemy's. The tutorial is left to be very vague, which encourages discovery. The gameplay in these stages is by far the most entertaining of the three. The D-Pad is directional movement, with the up button causing the E-Frame to begin to hover. The A button doubles as both the shield and a large, overhanded slamming punch. The B button also pulls double duty, serving as projectiles (cannon or missiles, depending on how long the gun is charged) and also straight punches and lunges. The C button is used for complicated manuvers and attacks, and needs input from the D-Pad to function at it's best. Up and C causes RIta to do a front flipping kick. Forward and C initiates a large dashing knee attack. Backwards and C is a form of teleport, where the E-Frame dashes to the other side of the screen, turns around, and fires a downward shot. Down and C makes the player lay down. From here, the player can dodge the charged shots like missiles, shoot the cannon, or lift a foot and kick an approaching apponent.
The most interesting thing about Rita's stages is the counter-active nature of all the attacks. Moves have priority, and it is established through common sense instead of rules. For instance, while the front flip kick will leap over the ducking lunge, the attacker is left open for the overhand strike. Laying down makes the player an ample target for the teleport fire, and on and on. The gameplay of these stages is so solid that it seves as the game's multiplayer mode, randomly shuffling between three enemy E-Frames, Wolf, and Rita.