Armored Core: Nine Breaker Review

Developer: From Software Publisher: Agetec
Release Date: September 13, 2005 Also On: None

From Software has just released its newest addition to the long-running Armored Core franchise. Armored Core: Nine Breaker is quite unique to its mech-fighting predecessors, not by what’s been added to it, but rather what’s been taken away. Nine Breaker has been completely ridded of any sort of plot or storyline, leaving the game solely to combat. I personally don’t think you can have a truly good game without a decent story. Nine Breaker is no exception.

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There are two main modes of play in Nine Breaker. There’s training mode, which allows you to play through 150 missions (more like exercises) testing your skills in marksmanship, defense, and time efficiency. They are relatively easy in the beginning, giving you tasks such as shooting slow-moving drones out of the sky, but gradually get harder, making you blast your way through a labyrinth of barriers before the time limit expires. You get a rating based on your performance during the training, but these missions are extremely monotonous, often turning you off from the experience.

The other mode is Arena, in which you enter your custom-built robot (“AC�) to battle against other AI-controlled AC’s. Once you get into the Arena, you’re given a list of opponents that you can pick from to face off against. You gain points for getting victories, and lose points for suffering a defeat. Through gaining points, you have a chance to be invited to official matches that let you gain rank and work your way to the top. Sadly, that’s all there is to Nine Breaker. Build your AC, enter the Arena, duke it out, get your points. This system quickly gets repetitive and a bit annoying.

As for the actual combat, it’s pretty simplistic. You’re set up in a one-on-one match with an enemy AC in one of the game’s 20 different arenas. These levels, unfortunately, offer very little variation, only adding more monotony to the mix. There’s the occasional obstacle in the level that you can shield yourself from enemy fire, but the majority of the time will be spent in the air using your boosters to dodge the enemy’s seemingly-endless spray of fire. The battles move at a fairly quick speed, requiring quick thinking as well as quick fingers. Other than that, your main concerns during battle come from managing your ammunition gauge, power gauge, and heat gauge.

Most strategy for battle actually comes before the battle when you’re choosing the best equipment to put on your AC. To do so, you merely go to the Garage option in-between battles, where you’re free to go ape shit on your robot, decking it out with different body parts, heads, weapons, and much more. The customizability is pretty impressive. You can even equip different targeting computers and upgrades to up your shooting efficiency, cooling system, and much more. There are over 400 different interchangeable parts, allowing for over thousands of custom ACs. While this is good, most Armored Core newbies will be quite confused as to how the systems work, and which buttons do what. There are a lot of numbers that mean nothing to a newcomer. The system isn’t explained very clearly in the manual and the in-game interface is extremely vague and unhelpful.

Another thing that’s been stripped from the series is unlockables. All of the parts I’ve mentioned are there from the very beginning of the game. This makes the game fairly open, knowing that you can make an ultimate AC right off the bat and commence the trouncing of your opponents. However, it gives you no incentive to play through the Arena. There’s no need for money or any form of currency in the game either, which means if you need to change something, you can just head to the garage and switch it up. This gives you even less incentive to go through with the game.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, there is no online multiplayer mode. You can hook up multiple PS2s into a hub for four-player combat, or you can just play standard split-screen. This aspect of Nine Breaker is probably the best in the game. Strategically customize your robot and test your skills against your friend. The only problem here is that giving up half a screen in a game where you’re constantly trying to track down your opponent is more than a disadvantage.

The graphics of Nine Breaker delivered as well the rest of the Armored Core games did. The HUD is well organized and clear. The AC’s are fairly well detailed as well. Sadly, the explosions are fairly quick and dull, and the weapon graphics are a bit boring. The sounds of the game are pretty recycled, and the music lacks creativity and sounds repetitious. The menu music gets very annoying when scrolling through your slew of body parts.

All in all, Armored Core: Nine Breaker is a decent arena fighting game, but lacks much of the content needed to make it truly worth buying. If you’re a hardcore Armored Core gamer whose favorite part of the games was making scrap metal out of your opponents, this game might be right for you. But even the veterans may be displeased with the simplicity and lack of content in the game. If you’re a newbie to the system, you should most likely look elsewhere, or at one of the older editions in the series.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 4.5
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 3
Replay Value/Game Length: 4
Final: 5.3
Written by Matt Evangelista Review Guide

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