The controls are surprisingly intuitive. The game definitely has a lot of buttons and things going on, but it didn't take long for me to get the hang of my mech. You move your character around with the analog nub, which leaves the developers room to map the D-pad and the face buttons with all kinds of crazy actions. The "X" button makes you jump AND speed forward, depending on if you double tap or hold the button. You can also speed forward using a mighty surge of power, but you do that by using the D-pad. The face buttons allow you to look up and down, plus fire your weapon (which is really the most important thing).
Much of the targeting is done for you, thanks to the auto-lock functionality. Just as long as you're in range and looking at an enemy, you will lock on and fire directly at it. You can play around with this sort of thing by buying weapons and upgrades; finding the perfect weapons for you (and the situation) is one of the most important things you can do in the game. Thankfully the controls are easy enough so that you can spend the rest of your time target practicing and blowing crap up. Like the PS2 original, the controls feel a little clunky. Then again, that's the kind of thing you can expect from a mech game, so you should already be used to the woes of piloting a giant robot.
The graphics have been reformatted to fit the PSP's widescreen display. The graphics are about as good as what you got on the home console, although I'm not sure that's a compliment in this case. It's not that the graphics are bad, it's that they are uninspired. Eight years is a long time in the video game world, and there's no question that the original graphics look a little archaic when compared to the newest PSP games.
A large part of the problem is that there have been seven Armored Core games since 2002, including four on the PlayStation 2. In that time the series has really grown, improving on every aspect of the gameplay, level designs and narrative. If you're going to port any of the games, then why not shoot for one of the more recent games, perhaps Nine Breaker or Last Raven? Well, it turns out that Last Raven is on its way to the PSP later this year. Apparently Armored Core 3 Portable was just a warm up.
Perhaps I'm missing the point. It may just be that I haven't been following the series closely. Outside of reviewing Armored Core 4 three years ago, I have very little experience with the series. Perhaps Armored Core 3 is to the Armored Core series what Street Fighter II was to that franchise. Or what Super Mario Bros. 3 was. Or maybe even the original Halo. Maybe the problem is that I don't have the nostalgia for this particular game. If that's the case, then enjoy this portable version, it's cheap enough and controls well enough to warrant a look. But that's assuming you're already a fan of Armored Core 3. I personally didn't see what the big deal is and found the missions, story and level designs to be outdated.
Something else that rubbed me the wrong way is how little was actually added to the game. Armored Core 3 Portable is still riddled with the countless typos and strange English translation that we saw in the PlayStation 2 game. The graphics haven't changed much, the controls are basically the same and nothing has been done to address the complaints people had about it eight years ago. Maybe that's expecting too much from a cheap download game, but if Konami can go back and fix the writing in Symphony of the Night, then From Software can fix the strange "Engrish." On the other hand, the PSP does offer some new content and a multiplayer mode, so it's not like they didn't spend any time adding to the product.
There are times when I was having a great time with Armored Core 3 Portable. For the first little bit right after I mastered the controls, I really felt like I had missed something special. Sadly that feeling didn't last long and I ended up getting stuck in what felt like an endless parade of inane missions. And things went from bad to worse when I remembered that there are so many better Armored Core games that could have been ported. Armored Core 3 proves that not every popular PlayStation 2 game needs to be ported to the PlayStation Portable.
There are a lot of PlayStation 2 games I wouldn't mind owning on the PSP ... and Armored Core 3 is not one of them. If you're not already a fan of the series you won't be won over by this clunky installment. With an enhanced sequel coming out later this year, there's no reason to fuss with this eight year old PS2 game!
Page 2 of 2