Review by Prion
"fun for the first 5 hours, unbearably boring for the next 40"
Let me first say that I bought this game because I *love* military strategy games. They have been my favorite game genre since I was 10 years old (when I bought Romance of the Three Kingdoms for the NES in 1991). But this game has been nothing but a disappointment and a waste of money. Here's why:
Gameplay (2/10): There is very little strategy involved in this game. It never gets more complex than assigning soldiers to your AFWs (i.e. mechs: Giant walking robots). Besides doing that, you will be spending 5% of your time reading the dull conversations of the characters, 10% of your time assigning soldiers to your mechs, 10% of your time moving your mechs around on the map, and the rest in battle, where you spend the majority of your time waiting to reload, aiming, and watching animation sequences.
Unfortunately, this game is missing a lot of basic strategic features that would have made it much better. When you are in the ''map mode'', it doesn't matter whether you attack your opponent from the side, front, back, etc. You cannot perform joint attacks either. Because of this, there is little incentive to use some basic troop movements against your opponents (i.e. pincer movement, attacking the flank, etc.). Once you are in battle mode, the only thing you can do is move your troops to the frontguard, rearguard, shoot your cannon, perform a special attack, shoot a special shell, and move your mech either forward or backwards. Nothing else is involved (the screenshots of battlemode deceptively make it look like the game is much more sophisticated than what it is). When you or your enemy troops perform a special attack, an animation sequence ensues which you CANNOT skip. Like all other games, these are amusing to watch at first, but after seeing the same animation for the hundredth time, it becomes quite a burden. Also, it seems that if you decide to shoot your cannon (at which point the game will change into ''aiming mode''), you cannot abort your shot, nor can you change the direction of your mech or troops. With the aiming sequence sometimes taking 10 seconds out of the 90 second battle time limit, it would be nice to be able to control other things. Furthermore, the aiming sequence consists of nothing more than simply deciding WHEN to shoot. You do no aiming whatsoever. You simply watch an accuracy counter increase, and its is your decision to shoot once you believe you have a high enough accuracy.
Also, the ''physics engine'' in this game does not seem to exist, or is completely inaccurate. Your ten or one hundred ton mech will fall back the same distance, whether it is hit by a cannon, small arms fire, or even a single smoke grenade thrown to it by humans! (the latter one is the most ridiculous to witness - seeing your giant mech cringe and fall back a few steps, after being hit by something that weights less than 5 pounds).
There are plenty of other things wrong with the gameplay, but I will not go on any further at this point.
Graphics: (8/10): The graphics in this game are good (especially for a military strategy game, which historically have had some of the worst graphics out there). Depending on where you attack (and get attacked), the background will differ. Sometimes its in a city, with buildings in ruins by your side. Other times its next to a river, where you can see the current of the water. There are probably at least 10 different background settings for combat (plus there are three different light settings: daytime, dusk, nighttime). Battling at night means that your visibility is reduced (no surprise here). It would have been nice if enemy mechs would get ''marked'' after being attacked (i.e. scratches, holes in the armor, blast marks, etc.). The only thing that you will see, is the enemy mech's legs or weapon on fire, or their shield fall off. Which brings me to another point: The enemy's mech's weapon can have a ''destroyed'' status, yet still be capable of shooting at you! In fact, ''destroyed'' only means that its accuracy is reduced. I'm not sure if bad translation or bad logic is to blame for this.
Audio (5/10): The sounds of gunfire, cannons, explosions, mechs walking, etc. is quite good in setting the mood of being in a battlefield. However, besides hearing soldiers scream when they get shot, this game features NO speech whatsoever. It would have been nice to hear your soldiers scream ''move out!'' or ''fall back!'' when they are ordered to advance and retreat. It would also have been nice for them to include some speech when your characters perform ''special moves'' in their mechs. Instead, all you see is a picture (yes, a picture) that is flashing in red, and a really trite line on the screen, such as ''Get ready! I'm going to Quickfire!''. One character even says ''You move too slow'' to the enemy mech, even though HE'S got the slowest mech in the game!!
Story (initially 10/10, then 2/10): Let me explain this. The story behind this game is quite original: Japan never gave up after Hiroshima. Instead it kept fighting. Russia invaded Northern Japan, and the United States (and its allies) the South. Germany came in and with their engineering might, helped invent these giant walking mechs to fight the war in Japan's unique environment. (Italy also plays a part in the war). The introduction to this quickly captures your imagination. However, seeing the drab dialogue of the characters during and after the battles was enough to put me to sleep. I spent most of my time pressing the X button to fast forward it. Also, the developers decided to give one of the character in the game a pathetic stereotype. This character is Italian, and you can witness him saying things such as ''Mama Mia! Whatsa matter witha you! You don't lika Italy?''. Although I admit chuckling to this pathetic script line at first, it got wearisome quite fast.
Replayability (0/10): Believe me. Once you have finished this game, you won't want to play it again, and that's IF you manage to finish this game, which should take you 40 to 50 hours.
Load Time (9/10): (Load times are never really rated for games, but I believe that they should now that all next generation games are no longer on cartridges). This game has an AMAZING load time. You never really have to wait more than 2 seconds during a loading screen. The load time for this game (which is on CD) can be considered as good as those of a cartridge.
Buy or Rent: RENT! I would strongly suggest renting the game for the weekend, and playing it for 5 to 10 hours (save it to your memory card). If you still think its fun after that, then buy it and resume where you left off. Otherwise save your money for another game. Trust me. If you live in a country where games tend to be expensive, then this will save you a lot of money (as well as your dignity).
Overall (4/10): The game if very fun for the first 5 hours or so. Afterwards it gets VERY boring, because you realize that there is nothing more to the game besides waiting and shooting, and which will take you another 40 hours or so to complete. Although no matter how good a game is, there is always room for improvement, I must say that this game would need another 6 months in the developers lab in order to become a decent game. There are simply too many features of the game that are missing of that are simply faulty in order to compensate for what is not. If it were not for the PS2 graphics that this game possesses, it would get a rating of 1/10.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Originally Posted: 05/25/01, Updated 05/25/01
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