Review by Goemon
"Big, heavily armed robots that fall down all the time. Whee!"
Afraid Gear is a strategy/simulation game by Asmik Ace. The premise of the game is that you build a mecha and fight in tournaments against other mecha in order to win money. With your winnings, you may purchase better parts and weapons so that you can destroy more difficult opponents. It sounds a bit like Armored Core, but there are many differences that separate the two.
First, the battle system is almost totally automatic. If you decide to switch over to manual mode, you get a limited number of choices. You can choose which weapons to fire, what power level to go to, and what part of your opponent's mecha to aim for. Leaving it on auto-pilot is easier, since the AI is fairly good. As for your opponents, they're either dumb as rocks or very smart. It depends on what level you're fighting at.
As you move through the game, you need to purchase new parts for your mecha, and repair any damage dealt to it. To do this, you need to go shopping. There are a few stores around the city, which are accessed via a little map. You can also go to the bar, get plastered, and talk to people. As you move up in the rankings, you get better and better weapons and parts. Starting out, you get a very limited selection of parts. As your rank goes up, you gain access to new and improved items. It's tough to win with the default parts, but once you get out of the bottom rank, it's smooth sailing.
Of course, there are some flaws with the game. The first is that your mecha falls down a lot. No matter how much energy you put into making it walk better, it trips over its own feet every ten seconds or so. This isn't too bad at the lower ranks, since your opponents can't get off the ground, either. At the higher ranks, though, it can become a real bother. There is a point, near the end of the game, where your mech becomes powerful enough to walk without falling down. Another feature that haunts this game is the fuel gauge. Most of the battles in Afraid Gear are lost by running out of fuel before your opponent does. If this game were to be re-designed, I would suggest that they get rid of the fuel gauge and give these robots some crutches!
Graphics-wise, there are many well-done anime cutscenes. The in-game graphics aren't bad for PS1, but the mecha are a little blocky for my taste. The map system is just plain ugly, and should be redone. The map and menu music gets old VERY fast. It's the same second and a half clip over and over and over again! It's enough to make your head spin! Thankfully, there is a variety of good battle music to make up for that. The battle themes are memorable, and make the battles more exciting. They feature lots of loud guitar and keyboards, which happens to be my favorite style of music! In the cutscenes, the music is very moving, especially in the emotional and tearful ones. They are based on the main battle theme, which gives the movie lots of power. The sound effects are your standard explosions, gunshots and ''Whump'' sounds when your mecha falls down. The voices in the Beginner Mode are done very nicely. Like a good anime, you sense that the character is actually talking, not just moving his or her mouth with someone else speaking. The sound effects during the movies are much better than the ones in the actual game. They're definitely movie quality. Watch a few of the cutscenes and you'll see what I mean.
Aside from the regular mode, there's also a Beginner Mode which has the cutscenes I mentioned earlier. It is more linear than the regular game. You're walked through the process of building a mecha and you fight a bunch of easy opponents. Unlike the regular mode, the Beginner Mode has a great story. The anime cutscenes seem like they're straight out of a series or movie. They lost some quality due to the size limits of a CD, but they're still moving and they make the whole Beginner Mode worthwhile. In fact, one of the scenes almost brought me to tears. Unlike the Beginner Mode, the regular game is totally non-linear. You can play at your own pace. For instance, if you find a certain rank too difficult, you can go back down a rank and win more money, buy better parts, practice, and go back and kick some tail. Of course, your opponents can get better parts too. Sadly, there is no real story for the regular mode. None of the cool character interactions are there. If they could have given the regular mode the same anime cutscenes and story as the Beginner Mode, this game would be amazing!
For some strange reason, I like this game. I enjoy buying parts for my mecha and rooting for it in the fights, and cursing at it when it falls down. It's like watching sports on TV, only after the match, you can change stuff around and fight again! The anime sequences are well done, the battle music is good, and I think it's pretty fun. I like the non-linear structure of the main game, and the Beginner Mode is good for new players or anyone who likes good cutscenes. It may not be much like Armored Core, but it's a nice break from the ranks of the Ravens.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 02/04/03, Updated 02/26/03
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