[Foreword: this article was actually designed to include the review of two different games. The fact that I’m now deeply involved with Beyond, coupled with the vanishing of Tony (still lost in Defiance), convinced me to publish at least this part. Session 2 will come in time. I promise!]
As far as I am concerned, the “golden age” of Japanese animation spans from the end of the ’70ies to the mid of the ’90ies. It was indeed in this period that Japan produced the vast majority of western-known robotic sagas, from “Ufo Robot Grendizer” (aka Goldrake, aka Goldorak) to “Neon Genesis Evangelion”.
In time, all these series became eventually a game, but most of them never crossed Japan boundaries, mainly for copyright reasons: while in their homeland they all “depend” from Bandai (as far as software goes, at least), in Europe (and especially here in Italy) different sagas have different “owners”.
As an anime “addicted” this situation is unbearable so that’s why even if I don’t speak the language, I need a dose of Japanese “dope”, from time to time…
I will be presenting a game that, although only partially usable, should satisfy your hunger for a robot for quite some time.
The product is “A.C.E.: Another Century’s Episode R”, a mech simulation game developed by From Software and published by Bandai Namco Games, which was released in Japan in 2010.
This game features a number of playable mecha from series that range from Overman King Gainer to Macross Zero and from Macross Frontier to Super Robot Wars, without forgetting the Gundam Saga (Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam,
Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Char’s Counterattack etc) or other anime series like Code Geass R2, Genesis of Aquarion, Super Dimension Century Orguss and Full Metal Panic.
[Additional note: Be advised that Pastajensen has a nice introductory article on Gundam saga here …]
Putting all these robots together with a decent story is no easy task, so Bandai set this episode in a different universe where everyone is summoned away from their respective worlds.
You start the game on mysterious planet Aria, where the protagonists eventually find and meet up with the girl who summoned them, Autumn Four,
and her battleship, the Ark Alpha. The world of Aria is filled with ruins of an ancient civilization, but at present appears to be completely uninhabited. To make things more confusing, Autumn Four has lost all of her memories.
The Ark Alpha (above depicted with a Mobile Suit) is under constant attacks by AI weapons, controlled by a group of people calling themselves the “Seasons,” led by Winter One.
Your mission will be to protect the girl and her ship while trying to recover the girl’s memory and unveil the mystery behind Winter One.
In time you will learn a lot about the plot behind the story, which is too articulated and convoluted to be explained here, but just know that this plot lets you impersonate all your favorite Mobile Suit pilots and fight with their mechas.
Every won battle will give you skill points which can be used to enhance pilots and robots abilities.
Interwoven within the main plot are various narrative arcs from a handful of the series’ involved, mostly dealing with the storylines from Macross Frontier, Genesis of Aquarion and Macross Zero. Each independent series starts at a separate point, but eventually, they all converge into a single super-route. Each route has a total of 18 stages, and once you fulfill certain conditions, you will unlock special bonuses like additional stages.
Once you begin your second play-through of the game, you will have access to the mission-tree menu, so don’t worry about getting confused as to which routes access which missions … the more you play, the less it will matter. As you play the game, you’ll gradually unlock new combo attacks, used to increase your XP “harvest” and powering up your hero.
In case you are wondering what ACE means, just notice that this acronym is addressed as “Another Century’s Episodes”, which apparently means something like “a tale from another world” (hmmm, kind of “Ni no Kuni” stuff.. see my post#126). Inside the game though, “System ACE” is used to define “Aria” (the planet itself) + “Cage” (the defensive barriers that protect the planet against alien AI weapons attacks) + “End” (each one of the single barriers).
In the end, I can tell you that I liked to play this game, even in its untranslated version. Controls are not too difficult to master, even though they are sometimes pretty harsh, mainly with robots that can transform and fly (like Z-Gundam, Aquarion or Macross Valkyrie).
Due to the high variety of storylines involved, the game has a high replay value. Unfortunately, the lack of localization makes this true only for a fan or a Japanese speaking player …… [End of part 1]
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