Just as the PlayStation 2 was on its way out, Banpresto commissioned From Software to make one more Another Century’s Episode game for the system. Dubbed “The Final” it was meant to be the end of that console’s line of games.
Like the time between the first and second games was very short, it was no different for the third game. Though the vast number of improvements seen in the second game made way to a more modest set in the third game. Much of this was down to the fact that the core game was thoroughly excellent by this point, so making drastic changes wouldn’t have made much sense. In any case, this was and still is one of the finest games in the Another Century’s Episode saga.
Set as a direct narrative sequel to the first game, it was based around two versions of Earth with one’s forces trying to overcome the other. Even characters from the second game made an appearance too. It was also host to some truly fantastic bespoke mecha designs by the talented Takayuki Yanase, in the form of the multiple Ixbrau units.
The main game itself also had some improvements made too but the main handling and combat setup seen in the second game are pretty much unchanged. However, the transforming units received some love in terms of their flight mode controls. Resulting in more responsive and fluid handling and the ability to dogfight properly.
The biggest change was to how the missions were structured overall. Originally you would have straightforward linear objectives that had to be completed in order to proceed and whilst these are somewhat present in the third game, the main set of objectives were more territorial and open ended.
In that, there are often impromptu bases dotted across the map. Leaving these results in more enemies spawning, so they have to be dealt with. Capturing a base means clearing out the enemies around it. Sometimes these are also guarded by tougher mini-boss mecha. The other type of base are that of force-field generators. These are used to block off areas of a level, as flying into an active force-field causes substantial damage. By destroying these generators, often by flanking them, the force-field is nullified and you can progress accordingly.
Like the second game, the environments can get a bit bland and whilst this new territorial approach to objectives helps it doesn’t solve that. Thankfully the combat and handling of the mecha are still as compelling. The latter is especially true as the newer units from Eureka Seven and Overman King Gainer result in some interesting handling. Sadly, though the likes of Layzner have been dropped from the playable roster.
Talking of unit roster, this game plays host to the first super to join the ranks in what is effectively a real robot game. Specifically that of the beastly Shin Getter Robo, which towers over pretty much everything. Despite being hugely powerful, it is rather unwieldy.
The production value is a bit of a mixed bag though and whilst we have some cel shaded characters and cockpits it’s primarily in the first third of the game. After that, it’s pretty sparse and the launch sequences are far more understated too (though that’s more down to the use of the Nadesico B really). That said, songs from the host anime now make an appearance for each of the various mecha and that’s very nice indeed.
In general, the playable roster is slightly reduced and there are fewer missions but overall this doesn’t feel like a small game (in fact it’s pretty gargantuan). Couple that with the more accessible upgrades, as the grind has been greatly reduced, the whole game feels much more focused.
So yes it is reduced in content compared to the second game but it is all the better for it. As the playable mecha roster is more interesting and varied, missions have to be approached more strategically and the grind has been practically removed entirely.
What results is a game that is much more confident in what works, whilst still being hugely challenging without being merciless. Whilst the second redefined the series and did so in such broad sweeping strokes, this game takes stock of that and finds the core of what makes it all work well together. As such it’s probably the best game in the series and comes strongly recommended to any and all gamers alike.