Review by Gruel

Reviewed: 10/21/05

There are better anime-based games to choose from than this

There isn’t much room for Japanese anime fighting games in the PS2 market unless the game title happens to include some form of Dragon Ball in it. Unfortunately for its latest competitor DICE (DNA Integrated Cybernetic Enterprises), the gameplay is awfully simple and boring, and there really isn’t anything in here to keep you coming back for more.

DICE is based on a Japanese anime cartoon that has you control a series of pilots who commandeer a group of Dinobreakers. These pilots’ missions are to save the galaxy from its evil and cleverly named rival, B-DICE. Apparently the material made to construct the Dinobreakers, called ‘shell’ is running low and people are finding all types of illegal ways of getting their hands on it. Now scientists have discovered the material that Shell is made out of is some kind of living fossil that can get out of control if it falls into the wrong hands. So now it is DICE to the rescue.

The primary way to play DICE is through the single player missions. There are over a dozen of them, and most of them feature some dragged out cut scenes of dialogue of the DICE members breaking down their game plan. Most of the missions are broken down into several areas, all of which that have a number of bots that must be vanquished to move on to the next area. Gameplay was easy to get the hang of as most the time spent was mashing the square button to perform several move combos. There is also one of several different types of satellite bots that can be picked to fight alongside you. They play a semi-important role as they can be controlled on which enemies to target fire upon with the circle button. So they do help out in a little way.

Usually there are several areas that each throw waves of baddies at you to clear before meeting the mission’s final boss. There are some noticeable hiccups with the gameplay that did ruin it for me. One is whenever your Dinobreaker takes a big blow and is knocked down the pilot is ejected from the seat and must race to get back in the Dinobreaker. The problem with that is he takes far more damage when he’s out of the vehicle which makes it possible for him to die within seconds when the pilot is scrambling to get back in. Secondly, the camera can be a royal pain as you have to maneuver it all the time with the right analog stick. This can prove to be difficult at times while in the midst of battle. Lastly, the missions are simply boring and more often frustrating to play through. There is practically no depth to these types of missions as I struggled to convince myself to move on.

Bandai tried to save the monotonous action by throwing some actual racing events in the mix of missions. Yes, the Dinobreakers can transform into vehicles to take part in races. Why racing is involved in saving the world is beyond me, but hoo-ray for gameplay variety. I had some good first impressions with them as they were a nice break from the aforementioned missions that tired me out. However, there are some big broken parts with the racing engine that ruin any chance of it being any fun at all.

The vehicles flat out suck at cornering, they make it seem more easier to manage tough turns than the intense cornering involved in sim-heavy racers like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. To really get me cursing at the screen they decided to throw in a lot of direct 90 degree turns with no walls so I almost always ended up falling off the course into the ocean. Then, to really hammer home the point you are going to lose, after the several seconds it takes to transport you back on the course your driver is automatically ejected from his vehicle so it takes another several seconds to hop on and start accelerating. So once you fall off track a couple times, you are practically guaranteed a loss.

The missions are where most time in DICE will be spent. There a few other options to check out, but they never got me coming back for more. There is a garage mode where metal chips collected during gameplay can be spent in order to upgrade the Dinobreakers. Two other Dinobreaker characters and several other Satellite bots can also be unlocked by playing through the missions a few more times if you so desire to do so. There is also a two player split screen multiplayer option, but I highly recommend avoiding your friends to suffer through this.

I didn’t have to suffer through any gut-wrenching visuals thankfully, but they didn’t leave too much of a lasting impression either. They are acceptable, but by the lowest of standards. The character models look decent and their special attacks animate well too, but that is pretty much the highlight of the graphics. With the exception of the bosses, most of the villains look rather blah and combined with the also bland stage design looks like something that came out of an early Dreamcast game. The only upside to all this is that it leaves for the game to run at a smooth frame rate as I didn’t notice any slowdown at all in the midst of things. Aurally, things aren’t so great either. There is lots of voice acting for all the mission briefings, but none of which is delivered all that well. The sound effects are of your typical robot-bashing fare, and the background music consists of tracks that are familiar as the ones heard off the Dragon Ball animes, just not as catchy or memorable.

Bandai obviously aimed this game towards younger fans of the show, but I think they won’t be doing them any favors either. If I was 10 years old I probably still would be fed up with DICE within hours. The gameplay is too repetitive and boring to be worth anything, the main game can be beaten within seven or eight hours, and the extras offered just aren’t worth coming back for. Sorry Bandai, but DICE ended up with a bad roll of the die on this one. Avoid this and stick with Atari’s solid line of Budokai games instead for your anime fix.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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