• Evangelion Sound (3nd) Impact Review - Sony PSP (3rd)

    Neon Genesis Evangelion is, along with the likes of Akira and Ghost in the Shell, one of the most recognisable anime series out there. As a result, over the years there have been a number of games based on the series, ranging from Pachinko simulations to RPGs to fighting games. Despite this, it was something of a surprise when Evangelion 3nd Impact (yes, you read that right – three is 'san' in Japanese, therefore reading as Sound Impact) was revealed to be a rhythm action game (although sometimes known as Neon Genesis Evangelion 3rd Impact, like on Play-Asia). Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, with legendary composer Akira Yamaoka – he of Snatcher, Silent Hill and Shadows of the Damned fame – at the helm of the sound direction, this was always going to be a unique Evangelion game in a world where many such games already exist.

    A brief introduction is the first thing to greet players and, for those familiar with the series, it is instantly recognisable as being in the style of the next episode previews used in the TV series and Rebuild movies. It is these movies – four in total which take the form of a retelling of the original TV series with some tweaks – that the game takes its cues from. This brief intro takes the player onto the main menu, which it has to be said is very bare-bones with the only options being to jump into the available songs or change the volume of music and dialogue.

    Each of the thirty song choices (not all selectable initially, with more being unlocked as those available are successfully completed) take the form of one of six types – Apostle Session, Hex, A.T., Call of Fourteen, Number5/Beastie Girl and Teardrop. Confusing names maybe, but in reality although they all look very different, their basic gameplay should be familiar to anyone who has even a basic knowledge of rhythm action games. For example, Apostle Session plays out in a 'Simon Says' formula with button presses needing to be mimicked as they match up to a circle icon. Hex has the player press or hold the circle button when hexagons overlap and Teardrop requires either the circle or cross button to be pressed as an on-screen Eva unit leaps over telephone wires and other obstacles to reach a target. The fact that Yamaoka has reworked some famous songs and themes from the series and movies is something that fans will appreciate and provides a fresh take on things, something that compliments what the Rebirth movies are doing with the TV series.

    The different stages are collected together to form several episodes over the course of the thirty songs, following the events of the first two Rebuild movies and again, this is something that will make more sense and be more familiar to those already well versed in Evangelion lore. Although describing each stage as a song would be the norm for the majority of rhythm action games, here not each one features music as most players would expect. Take Call of Fourteen for example –whilst there is ambient background music, it is kept to a minimum with the focus instead being on a specific character speaking their thoughts in what plays out like a trip through the internal workings of their mind. Those who have watched the final two episodes of the TV series will get more out of these stages than those who haven't and peering into the thoughts of Shinji is every bit as depressing and disturbing as would be expected.

    With no difficulty select initially available, the game instead relies on increasingly hard stages as the game progresses with more complex button combinations and faster reactions required. Frustratingly however, it isn't always easy to identify when to press each button due to busy stage backgrounds or icons not being highlighted well enough. The Hex and Number 5/Beastie Girl stages suffer the most from this. It doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the game too much, but retrying certain stages a number of times will almost certainly be a requirement for most players.

    On the topic of failure, a meter running along the bottom of the screen will increase with each successful action and drain with every missed or mistimed button press. Should it empty completely, the stage will be over and need to be replayed. Each stage can be passed or perfected and the goal of having a perfect rating on each one is one way the game offers replay value. Another is that, once the game has been completed, a hard option unlocks and this will really challenge players, especially later on. It is something that most will want to play as the game can be completed on standard difficulty in a couple of hours – one sitting to a lot of people.

    Evangelion 3nd Impact has a confusing title, confusing game type names and will, as a result, alienate a lot of non-Evangelion fans. Those who have experience of Grasshopper Manufacture's style of quirky game design (Killer7, No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned etc) will perhaps not be too surprised at this, but this is a game that really feels targeted to the Evangelion fan who wants to play a game set in that universe that is relatively easy to understand (in terms of gameplay and, for importers, lack of large amounts of Japanese text) and doesn't feature hundreds of small silver balls. Those who would consider themselves connoisseurs of the rhythm action genre should be encouraged to give the game a chance though. The PSP is home to a wide variety of great examples of the genre and this is one that despite familiar source material, stands on its own as something truly unique.

    - Good use of the Evangelion license.
    - Unique take on the rhythm action genre.
    - Relatively import-friendly.

    - Very short experience.
    - Non-fans will likely be confused.
    - At times hard to identify when to press buttons.

    Score: 7/10

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Kaido's Avatar
      Kaido -
      Great review. Thanks
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