Believe it or not, there are a lot of PlayStation 2 games I wouldn't mind seeing ported to the PSP. For instance, I would love to play Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 on the go. Obscure gems like Bombastic and Sky Odyssey would really shine on the small screen. And even though we already have Rock Band Unplugged, I definitely would pay money to get either Amplitude or Frequency on the PSP. Of course, there are more than a few PS2 games that don't need to hit Sony's handheld. Among them, From Software's outdated Armored Core 3.
As luck would have it, today's review is of Armored Core 3 Portable, the entirely unnecessary remake of the middling 2002 game. For the most part it was a smooth transition from a console game to handheld release, and the original game's short mission structure makes it easy to play on the go. Unfortunately, it turns out that Armored Core 3 isn't all that memorable of a mech action game, which translates into a painfully dull exercise in repetitive missions and boring battlegrounds.
Like most of the Armored Core games, you are expected to pilot your way through a series of missions collecting money that you can use to build and customize your giant mech. There's a story here, it involves a bleak future where large mega-corporations are raping the world. Instead of playing a pilot looking to change the system, you are really only here to make a few bucks. You'll be asked to take on a series of missions for money, which will flesh out the so-called story in boring and predictable ways. The truth is, mech fans aren't here for a plot full of political posturing and talk about the socioeconomic effects of decades of war. No, mech fans are here to blow crap up. And Armored Core 3 Portable delivers ... for the most part.
Not unlike many games in the mech sub-genre, the main focus of this game is customizing your robotic suit and taking it into large scale battles. The good news is that there are tons of choices for legs, arms, weapons, etc. Gear heads will no doubt find a lot to love in the garage. The problem is that there's very little for you to do with these giant mechs. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of missions to take on, but few of them are exciting enough to make you want to invest valuable time customizing your mech.
The missions are diverse, if not a little too straight forward. Most missions involve you planting bombs, defusing bombs, killing all of the enemies, protecting a friend and so on so forth. If you've played an Armored Core game you will no doubt recognize many of the mission types that show up throughout the game. The missions start easy enough, but it won't be long before the computer will all but force you to upgrade your equipment. Thankfully by that time you will have earned enough money to go crazy in the garage. These missions are generally short, usually taking no more than a few minutes each. I like the quick pacing of the missions, it makes a good argument why this would make for a great portable game.
Early on many of the missions have you fighting underground, usually in similar caverns and tunnels. After battling through a crazy amount of enemies, you finally reach more interesting areas, including a bunch of outdoor environments. While I like the change of pace (the underground stuff feels limiting when you're piloting a giant mech), I wish the levels were better laid out and easier to navigate. Many of the areas are too small and don't offer enough coverage. Other levels are too large, making navigate them a real chore. A lot of these problems were resolved in sequels and updates, unfortunately you're not playing one of those sequels or updates.
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