Another Century’s Episode

September 3, 2008

A 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. A.C.E. 2 and 3 are certainly among my favorite PS2 games. I’d never played the original A.C.E. until I picked it up at this last Otakon. So, how does it compare to its illustrious successors?

Initially upon beginning to play A.C.E., I almost decided to put it aside and never mess with it again. The control, the part I loved most about A.C.E. 2 and 3, is nothing like the sequels. It seems the wonderful “shift” system for using subweapons, where holding L1 changes the face and R buttons into subweapons, didn’t get invented until A.C.E. 2. That leaves you with a severe shortage of both buttons and weapons. Instead of a dedicated melee button, your main attack toggles between ranged and melee depending on range. This is frustrating as hell, since sometimes you know you won’t hit with one or the other, but can’t control what happens at will.

The tune up system is also not to my liking. You can only upgrade a fixed number of stats at a time, and that number varies by unit. In addition, each stat weakens another. So, if for example you beef up armor, you lose speed. If you beef up reload rate on your main weapon, you decrease its power. That’s extremely frustrating because you’re perpetually out of ammo on any useful weapons. You can upgrade opposing stats for a net gain on both, but not nearly as much of a gain as if you’d done one stat alone. It makes me wonder why bother spending so many points upgrading the units at all? If I’m going to be penalized in another area for upgrading one stat, wouldn’t I just leave it alone to keep a good balance?

I also don’t feel the difference between the various units that I didn in the other games. My choice of unit was basically this: Wing Gundam or someone else. Wing was special because the buster rifle makes it a keen boss slayer, especially when the target’s big like Psycho Gundam or a super sized Aura Battler. That’s about all it’s good at though. When Wing wasn’t appropriate, it didn’t really feel like it mattered if I picked Zeta, Nu, Billbine or whatever.

Available units are a little disappointing in comparison to the later games as well. No Macross? It is nice to play Zeta or Hyaku Shiki, and I don’t think the TV series versions of the Gundam Wing guys have been available in any other shooter style games. However, a mecha fan would be much happier with the spread in A.C.E. 2 or 3.

After forcing myself to play enough to get used to the differences (and awkwardness) of the controls, I did find the game to be playable and decent overall. I think I would have liked it better had I played it before its sequels. Unfortunately, I didn’t, and I have a hard time recommending the game when A.C.E. 2 and 3 are out there (and probably easier to find). Unless you want to play the original Wing Gundam that badly.

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