Another Century’s Episode 3

September 26, 2007

Another Century’s Episode (ACE) 3 was released for the PS2 in Japan early this month. I finally got mine late last week partially thanks to a routing mistake by our beloved United States Postal Service. The ACE series is a collaboration between Banpresto and From Software (makers of Armored Core). The premise is simple, make the 3rd person mecha shoot-em-up equivalent of Super Robot Wars. I wasn’t really expecting much from the franchise, a typical licensed game designed to grab money from the fans. Boy, did I ever underestimate it.

ACE 2, when I brought it back from Japan last year, blew me away. It was the best mecha game I had ever played, better representing Gundam, Macross, etc than those franchises own games. When I saw ACE 3, I preordered immediately. Featured series this time out are: Aura Battler Dunbine, Macross: Do You Remember Love?, Metal Armor Dragonar, Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, G Gundam, Macross Plus, Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, Macross Plus, Gundam X, Brain Powerd, Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness, Getter Robo Armageddon, Turn A Gundam, Overman King Gainer, Gundam Seed, Eureka Seven, The Wings of Rean, Gundam (First Gundam), and ACE Originals. Whew! All these mecha and characters come together in an epic storyline that pulls elements from most of their own stories, with an original plotline to tie it all together. What could easily read like a bad fanfic comes off surprisingly well. One thing ACE avoids doing is acknowledging that they’re from many different worlds and trying to reconcile it. It just presents things as if all these people and organizations exist in the same world and that’s that. ACE 3 does add the concept of a second Earth in another dimension, and the collision of the two being the driving force to its story. The other Earth is treated as the first one was though, many series’ characters and events blend seamlessly into its world.

As for actual gameplay, the controls operate in the manner initially laid down by Zone of the Enders. Unlike most licensed mecha shooters though, everything is very polished and tight. Controls respond as expected and are highly configurable. Subweapons are controlled by a fantastic shift system where holding L1 remaps each face button and the right shoulder buttons to a subweapon or transformation. This allows instant access to your unit’s entire arsenal without clumsily selecting a weapon before firing. Additional special abilities for some units are mapped to pressing L3+R3, usually this is to abandon extra armor or call for a support unit like the Meteor or G-Falcon. Units are launched in teams of three, with one player controlled unit and two CPU controlled wingmen. When the “Friend” meter fills, you can initiate a combination attack. Certain groups of characters (with some relation to each other) will trigger a powerful EX attack cutscene at the end of the combo. As you complete missions you earn experience for your units as well as ACE Points. ACE Points buy stats for your units as well as purchase extra units not introduced by the story.

The decision to buy ACE or not is very simple. If you have the ability to play Japanese PS2 games and you like mecha, this is your game. In fact, if you like mecha, this is a very good reason to look into ways to play imports. The ACE series shines as an example of how licensed games should be made. The only downside is that after playing ACE, games like Gundam: Encounters in Space and the PS2 Macross game seem clunky by comparison.

If you need more convincing, just check out the cool opening footage featuring “Shinku” by Shimatani Hitomi:

One Response to “Another Century’s Episode 3”

  1. […] while back, I talked a bit about Another Century’s Episode 3, a game which along with its predecessor A.C.E. 2 I feel is one of the best shoot em ups ever. […]

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