• Another Century's Episode Portable Review Sony PSP

    This review must start out with a simple statement of fact about this and similar games: if the robots/series featured in it are not of any interest to a person, they should really think about why they would buy it.

    The gameplay is repetitive. Destroy one enemy. Destroy another. A third. Ad infinitum. So what's the point? Gundam SEED Destiny, Kira Yamato, Strike Freedom Gundam; Eureka 7, Renton, Nirvash Type ZERO spec2; Code Geass, Lancelot Albion, Kururugi Suzaku. Just three of the series featured in the game and one mech from each. How many fans of a particular series imagine controlling their favourite character and their robot counterpart? In many, many cases they do and that is the draw of Another Century's Episode series.

    The game is divided into many episodes, and then each one of those into several missions. Finish all the missions in an episode to unlock the next and an extra mech. Motivation indeed! Complete a mission and the player is graded according to the number of enemy units defeated, time taken and allied units remaining (if applicable). The score earned from this can then be used to upgrade the stats of the mechs at the beck and call of the player. This in itself can hinder progress upgrade equally and hit a difficulty barrier that can't be overcome without some serious grinding. Or upgrade just one and get a little bored of using the same weapons and attacks constantly.

    The handling of the robots depends on their design this much is obvious. Bigger/heavier ones don't move as fast and their speediness can't be upgraded as much as the smaller/faster robots. Aside from the user-created/modified weapon palettes, the controls vary little between mech, and certainly give the user the level of control they would expect. The nub controls movement, L/R decrease/increase height respectively, Square and Triangle are weapon buttons, with Circle being direct melee and Cross controlling boost. Targeting is done with down on the d-pad press to cycle through enemies or hold to cancel targeting. Left/right on the D-pad are used to change the currently selected weapon palette, which changes the weapons assigned to Square/Triangle. One additional control for the Macross-series Valkyries is up on the D-pad cycling through the three different modes battloid, gerwalk, and flight.

    During battle, "battle chips" can be collected by fulfilling certain requirements, like defeating a particular enemy. These chips can be combined together to create special attacks such as Sniper Shot, or status restoration abilities that can repair damage or increase health. These can then be added into the weapon palettes that a mech has. Each mech has 4 weapon palettes, with each palette having 2 weapons/special attacks, etc., assigned to it. Changing palettes is quick and simple, remembering which palette comes next in the sequence can sometimes not be, but that's a problem with the player rather than the game. Assigning the right weapons before beginning a mission is something that comes with trial and error.

    All the robots have been rendered with the accuracy to be expected of a Super Robot Taisen spin-off, although the stages in which the missions are set are more than a little barren and unexciting. Many missions have stages split into several areas which can only be travelled to once certain enemies have been defeated. Having to move between these different areas can also be a pain, as allies that as supposed to be being defended can't all be protected at the same time when split up into different areas and all being attacked at the same time. "That's part of the challenge of the game!" some might cry. Which may indeed be true, but does not excuse the game from telling the player that they need to be in two places at once. The two wingmen that can be deployed to fight alongside the player always stay with their commander and can't be sent off to fight in another area. And they are pretty dense, too.

    The player is given the option of creating a folder on the Memory Stick inserted into the PSP so that they can make a personalised soundtrack by copying their own MP3s into it. The standard in-game soundtrack is made up of reasonable approximations of the music from the series' featured, and is perfectly fine for the mindless blasting that is going on.

    The game gets tough and can be a little unrewarding. While shooting down mech from a favourite series can be fun, it does get a little boring if the player doesn't vary who they play as, which in turn means upgrading all the robots equally across the board, so no individual one gets suped-up too quickly.

    The good:
    + Lots of action
    + Lots of robots

    The bad:
    - No real variety in gameplay
    - Fans only

    Score: 6/10
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    Temjin Virtual On Figure, boxed

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