Thursday, April 9, 2015

Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo (PS Vita) Review

Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo hit the PS Vita's store recently.  Why did it catch my attention?  Well, it had robots in it, and it was listed as a hack and slash game.  Sold!

It is pretty much as described.  The game is an isometric view with lots of hacking, slashing and shooting.  Kind of like Diablo.  However, your character pilots around a mech that is built from parts and weapons you select.  Kind of like Armored Core.  So, the game is really a fusion of those two, and it is pulled off pretty well.  It also has a story unlike either of those.  The world of Damascus Gear is an almost post-apocolyptic world with small enclaves of human survivors that battle sentient battle mechs.  The standout for me, character-wise, is the operator Mirai.  She's so pessimistic, but somehow makes it seem cheery.  I really like her lines.  They make me smile.

Note that the game uses the Japanese conventions for buttons, so Circle is accept and X is cancel.  It's not the hugest problem in the world, but it does take some adjusting, since in the US we frequently use it the opposite way of that.  In combat, however, that isn't a problem.  Square and Triangle are the weapons in your left and right hand respectively, and the Circle button is your back weapon, if one is equipped.  The hand held weapons can be stuff like rifles, laser guns, swords and pile bunkers.  The back weapons tend to be the heavy hitters like missile launchers and big laser blasts.  I favored a sword for hitting multiple enemies up close, and a rifle for  some distance attacks.  Once I got a back weapon, the stronger, the better!  It was really helpful to deal with the pesky life bar of bosses.

In keeping with the Armored Core style of play, the game is divided up into many missions, separated by rank.  The higher the rank, the harder and more powerful the enemies.  There are a lot more missions then I thought there would be, and some of them are optional.  The higher ranked missions are definitely harder, even with better equipment.  That said, I learned pretty quickly and after an unsuccessful run, I would then come out ahead.  Plus, you seem to keep what you picked up in a mission, even if you fail, so there's no reason not to push onwards.

Fights can be a little clunky, since enemies don't have many tells before they attack, just a time frame where they won't.  So when an evil robot slashes at you, dodge first, then you can get a free hit or two before it can attack again.  It's not foolproof, since you often fight multiple enemies, but trying to get the timing down is essential for the boss-like fights.  These enemies can do a lot of damage really quickly.  In general, it's easier to get hit than you think at first, so make sure to watch your health bar.  Thankfully there are repair kits you can find/buy/use to refill your health.  They aren't the cheapest, so frequently I took the chance that I could finish the mission without using one.  I was usually correct.  Aiming at certain enemies with ranged attacks is also a bit tricky, but you don't have ammo, just a recharge meter instead.  I like that.

One of the best aspect of games like this is assembling your mech.  Granted, some parts have better stats than others, but you do get a fair amount of freedom in what parts and weapons you want.  Also, it can be tough to just load on all the best stuff, since you need to pay attention to the power limit of the torso you pick.  But enough about that.  You can paint the various pieces!  The colors of each part and weapon can be changed individually, and you get a good selection of colors to do it with.  When I first started messing around with the paints, I was looking for a good blue on the legs.  Then inspiration struck and I made the top and arms red.  I nicknamed it Prime, and the boxy robot sort of resembled the Autobot leader.  I will admit that made me smile more than it should have, but it was cool.  I even made the sword orange to mimic the blade from the Bay movies.

Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo is a fun game with many missions to complete.  However there doesn't seem to be much more to it than that, so replay is toward the lower end of the scale.  Since it's a budget download, you easily get your money's worth if you go through the story and do all the missions.  I like the game and I think it would be even better if there was some ability to play it in co-op (even though none of my friend have the game), or if the game had more adventure elements and was less mission-like.  Still, a fun game for hack & slash and mech fans!

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