I love Mecha games, I’m eagerly awaiting a new Gundam Warriors game to come out and I really need to pick up the Gundam game which came out a few months ago – once I have some free time. However, Gundam isn’t the only Mecha game in town. Back in 2012, there was a game called Assault Gunners which came out only in Japan and only on the PS Vita – Marvellous Games have not only brought the game to the west, but they have also ensured it has been fully translated, had an increase in resolution and textures and ported over to the PS4.
Not everything is as peachy as it should be though, with the absence of multiplayer and the lack of a handheld edition, is Assault Gunners HD Edition worth picking up?
It’s the Year 208X, Mars is in the process of terraformation with an expected timeline of 300 years until completion. Back on Earth, a great war erupts and millions of migrants look to Mars to flee their home. The Planet Remodelling Project is accelerated with the aid of ANTS, a completely robotic automated system. Migrants build large dome-shaped colonies in regions with now stable climates and rush to construct cities within them to sustain the flow of refugees. Time passes and the World Federation has set up military colonies on Deimos and Phobos, and the dwarf-planet Ceres is being moved to Mars’ orbit to help create an ocean for the planet. One day, communication is suddenly lost with the surface of Mars, a peacekeeping force called DAT who are currently training on Deimos are sent to investigate…
The main campaign for Assault Gunners HD Edition will consist of working your way through mission-based levels which vary in length from a rather shockingly low under one minute to about seven or eight minutes. Like similar games, the whole thing is delivered in a third person perspective with your usual movement and combat controls but what I found interesting was the weaponry. Basically, you can assign various weapons to your fist, shoulder, main weapon and sub-weapon slots which can all be swapped between using the four face buttons (square, cross, circle, triangle). You fire with the R1 button and the L1 button allows you to run and dodge.
This is an unusual setup as usually, you would have different buttons for different attacks but I can see it being like this because it was originally a Vita game – however, this HD version isn’t on the Vita, so why not upgrade the controls to use the controller to its fullest? L2/R2 aren’t even used due to them just simply remapping the controls.
As you work your way through the 35 missions one thing will become clear – this game is from an era of simple drop in/drop out combat mechanics where anyone can pick up the game, play it for 10-20 minutes then come back to it later. Upon playing Assault Gunners HD Edition, I instantly got an Earth Defence Force vibe where you enter a level and upon destroying the robots you will either get health packs or new weapons which you don’t examine until the mission ends. The downside is that there aren’t hundreds of weapons like in EDF, there is around five per mission, which are handily listed on the mission select screen so you know which you have and haven’t got.
If you can’t proceed on a level due to you being taken out too fast or your weapons aren’t causing enough damage, then you need to visit the hanger. Here you can swap all of your weapons around, use gained points to unlock new bodies, paint the SATs, and create your perfect team. That’s right, team… Every mission consists of you and three other CPU controlled Mechas, which you can fully kit out and name in the hanger – which is why I’m not sure why the multiplayer was scrapped (the PS Vita original had it). I do like the fact you can customise every single Mecha though as it means you can create an army of 10+ Mechas and pick the ones you wish to take into battle with you. You can even clone them so you don’t have to remember what you picked if you want them all to be the same.
Even though there isn’t a tonne of weapons, there is a lot of types ranging from assault rifles, shotguns, melee weapons, plasma-based, cannons and more. So the variety is there with millions of possibilities in terms of the loadout. You can also equip certain boosts and enhancements to your weapons and body to beef you up a little. Not everything makes a drastic change, but cranking up your defence points and ensuring you have a weapon that packs a punch really helps in later levels and the rather difficult DLC.
Unfortunately, the main crux of Assault Gunners HD Edition is its missions – the game has come from a portable system which had in mind that the gamers playing the game would probably play it in short bursts and not for long gaming sessions. As such, Assault Gunners HD could possibly be fully platinumed within 5-6 hours due to the length of the missions and how you can easily win by equipping the latest unlocks. Also, the mission variety isn’t huge – usually they will consist of a small arena environment with various objects like buildings or mountains and set groups of enemies. It’s your job to proceed and take out all of the enemies before the timer runs out.
The problem is, if you have equipped all your partners with the best gear then they will run ahead of you and usually do about 80% of the work for you – which sounds great, but it can lead to a situation where you are wondering if you are playing a game or just watching the CPU play with itself. As I said above though, I found playing about 30 minutes here and there kept this game enjoyable – If I was to play about 4+ hours in one go, I can see myself getting a little bored of it.
Assault Gunners HD Edition does mix it up a little with some of the stages as it introduces bosses and hacking stations. However, the bosses are frustratingly hard if you don’t have the right gear as they can take you out within a few hits and the hacking stations simply consist of standing next to a post for 3-5 seconds and then moving on. So a little variety but not a lot. One mission that really annoyed me had me take out a load of enemies in a colony – that was fine. Then a boss battle started with an enemy SAT – also fine. However, then it had a brief cutscene and moved me far away from the enemy I just took down and it tells me it has a bomb on it that’s about to explode, then proceed to fill the town with ANTS again. So, you need to work your way through them fast and get to the downed enemy to stand on him for a few seconds until you turn off the bomb – this level annoyed me as a few times I ran out of time by about one-two seconds. I’ve never been a fan of timed events though.
Assault Gunners HD Edition also has a survival mode which has you fending off wave after wave of enemy units. Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of this mode as I managed to get to wave 35 within 35 minutes yet around wave 20 I was hoping the enemy would kill me as I wanted to move on! The enemies were too easy and it was simply a case of hitting the fire button and moving to the next level – until wave 36 which had me surrounded by machines a lot stronger than me and I instantly lost all of my health within seconds. It’s a decent enough mode but it takes a long time before any challenge is introduced.
Graphically, Assault Gunners HD Edition isn’t bad – it’s not your usual PS3>PS4 style remaster but it’s a good PS Vita to the PS4 version. If I look back at other games that have made this transition such as Tokyo Xanadu and Akiba’S trip then I can see the similarities, the textures are less detailed than a native PS4 game, yet they are still clean and pristine and look pretty good in full screen on a big TV with no blockiness or oversized text. I see a lot of people compare them to PS2 graphics but I think that’s a little unfair – they do look like PS4 graphics at the full 1080p in 60fps, but you can tell they were originally a handheld game. Sound-wise the music is really fitting – it pumps you up and matches the action on screen. All the vocal audio is Japanese with English subtitles, but you do have the choice of changing the narrator’s voice, albeit another Japanese voice.
Assault Gunners HD Edition isn’t a bad game, I had a lot of fun playing it and I can see myself playing it until I get the platinum. However, it’s clear to see the PS Vita origins and it’s sad to see that the full potential hasn’t been grasped here as they could have done so much more with this remaster – they don’t even use the PS4 controller as well as they could have. My recommendation would be to play the game in short bursts, maybe five missions or less at a time, in order to keep the game enjoyable and fresh and also to turn up the difficulty a bit. Mecha fans will love the number of customisations on offer and people who like Koei Tecmo’s Warrior series’ will enjoy the mindless combat in play, but don’t go into the game expecting a deep enthralling story and unique gameplay mechanics. For the price, I would say give it a go if you like the look of it as you get a decent amount of content for the price.
Assault Gunners HD Edition£7.99
- Tonnes of customisations options for you to unlock and play with
- Ability to name and also customise the three CPU controlled Mechas
- Fast gameplay and simple combat mechanics
- Enjoyable soundtrack and voices (even though they are Japanese)
- Cheap price for the amount of content you get
- Can get a bit monotonous - best played in short bursts
- Very easy until the difficulty spikes which is fixed by swapping weapons
- No multiplayer even though the original Vita version had it
- Graphically it isn't super impressive, but looks as good as other Vita-> PS4 ports