Monday, June 12, 2017

Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo HD (PS4)

Other than the HD graphics upgrade, and the inclusion of the former PS Vita DLC this PS4 port of, "Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo" is simply more of the same. It's the same simple gameplay focused arcade-like experience surrounded by minimal lore that could be shrugged off as a borrowed idea. Like so many other JRPGs the characters involved are a part of a special organization fighting desperately for humanity's survival, and like those types of games it has you fighting off non-human entities with advanced weaponry. In this case that weaponry being mechs known as, "Gears". By piloting a Gear you are ultimately tasked, sometimes along with other NPCs (Non-Player Characters), to complete timed objectives which will be graded according to completion standards. This includes killing off the Rage (non-piloted mechs) during delivery, reconnaissance, and threat ending missions. Think of it as Pac-Man fighting off the constantly respawning ghostly trio with dual weapons for the sake of looting Rage parts, and scoring that highest ranking on the missions listing.  While the game itself is definitely unique in those regards, both in build and functionality, it still leans heavily on other gaming ideas. Details which will become obvious if you choose to buy into what Arc System Works is reselling. I suppose, in retrospect it isn't all that bad of an experience though. It's just not as story heavy, or content heavy as a lot of modern-day JRPGs are.

From the starting menu onward you'll likely be surprised that the mapped buttons adhere to the original Japanese setup. Meaning that the "CIRCLE" button accesses menus, and menu features while the "X" button backs you out of menus. A little detail I feel should have been explained as it no doubt caused confusion for new American players. Once you get that detail sorted, and get into the game you'll find you have free access to all menu options, except for the main "Hero Creation" menu which unlocks after you have completes the "S/SS" tier missions. Speaking of "Missions" this will be the first thing you'll need to do in order to get acquainted with the in-game story, and the controls. Through the guidance of Anti-Rage 4th Division's female operator/instructor via tutorial you will learn that humanity has almost been wiped out by the Rage mechs, and that the 4th Division's Gears are the only thing standing between said threat, and total extinction.

Your main goal, or goals going forward will be to complete missions in a timely fashion while minding the various listed objectives. Objectives which range from enemy clearing outings to accompanied boss battles, and even deliveries among other things. Completing the objectives will reward you with Gear parts, and an alphabetical rating ranging from a lowly "E" scoring to a prestigious "S" ranking. As you gun down, or melee the Rage mechs you'll also loot items, and parts that are governed by a color coded rarity system where yellow, and green parts have added benefits.

Outside of the missions, and at the main mode menu you'll find a "Dock" menu where you can name your Gear as well as color, sell, and change parts of it. Parts come in various forms including head, body, shoulder, legs, and arm armor. You can also equip a left, and right weapon of any combination. The weapons include everything from auto-rifles to melee saws, and even launchers. Both weapons, in battle, are activated using the "SQUARE", and "TRIANGLE" buttons respectively. The weapons not only have different functions in combat, and work more effectively against certain enemy types, but they also are governed by gauges that deplete when used, and refill when not used. The same goes for your Gear's booster which uses "X" for a quick burst in any of the cardinal directions. Moving the Gear is done with the tilting of the "Left Thumbstick" in the direction you wish to go. The setup works quite well in that the environments you'll be moving, and battling in are in a semi-top-down perspective. A view that is distant from your Gear, but not so far away that it's hard to figure out what's going on, or where exactly it is you need to go.

These environments, which sport a post apocalyptic appearance take place mostly in the cities where maze-like intersections, roads, and dead-ends keep you paying attention to the game's mini-map for direction. Time, as I mentioned earlier is of the essence, and in Damascus Gear the quicker you get the missions done the better your ranking will be. Beyond the hustle, and bustle of mission objective completion you'll find that you can take brief intermissions via the main menu in order to visit the "Shop", and upgrade your Gear's parts by buying new parts. This is a must to survive deeper into the game early on. One thing I forgot to mention is that your Gear has a set amount of base points with which to add new parts. The parts each have a listing of stats pertaining to power consumption, armor, defense, and other things. One of which will take up some of these base points. As such it is imperative you mind what you equip, and only equip the parts you can. The parts that are more powerful, but that don't eat away at your points are more ideal, but not always doable. Luckily the more you play the more your Gear will level up thus allowing for better, and better parts to be equipped.

When it comes to missions you get a fair share from both the base game, and the thrown in DLC. All of which comes in a single package deal. If memory serves me correctly I think the "Hero Creation" mode was part of the DLC. It offered a little more story, and more action with the extra missions included.

The Verdict ...

As with my first review (Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo) I'm not opposed to this game's simple setup, limited replay value, or the fact that it mirrors certain JRPG/anime mythologies. It's a decent arcade style game for the price, and works out quite well as a complete PS4 port. I'd say if you can look past the awkward menu controls, and like mech based JRPGs you might actually find something fun in this obscure Arc System Works re-release. If not then pass it up.

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