Sequels are all fine and dandy, but cashing in on a sequel just seems a tad cheeky surely. Armored Core 2 Another Age falls into this slightly capitalist category. Set directly after the events of Armored Core 2, the Nerves Concord is undergoing drastic changes and the purpose of the Ravens is becoming less and less clear, now that the warring corporate factions have exhausted their resources. More importantly, we are back on Earth now, or what is left of it. Armored Core 2 is a bad game. Armored Core 2 Another Age is, therefore, an equally bad game. On the surface, this is true to a certain extent.
However, for all the game’s faults, Armored Core 2 Another Age has a few surprising tricks up its mechanical sleeve. Armored Core 2 Another Age is a mission based game through and through.
The Arena has gone, but in its place are double the number of missions(about a 100). Mission selection is done by navigating a world map. The further you progress through the game the more parts of the map, and consequently more missions, you unlock. Another big development for the series is that of the game’s difficulty. It is hard, damn hard.
Many veterans of the series may recognise the return of old foes, but in the original games they were easily conquered. In Armored Core 2 Another Age they will hand you your battered metal ass on many an occasion. Even the regular missions are tough too. Thankfully the use of parts (and money!) that you acquired in Armored Core 2 are transferable. So unless you want a hard fight ahead of you, purchasing of the previous incarnation will be a must for most players.
It goes without saying that unbalanced parts have been, partially, tweaked. The Karasawa Mk.2 is not quite the cheese fest that it was in Armored Core 2. There are also a swathe of new parts too particularly the “turn booster” extensions, which are a welcome addition to the franchise. It is also worth noting that all the parts from Armored Core 2 are instantly available in the shop (even the secret parts). “Human Plus” is also present, but only if you have transferred it across with your original Armored Core 2 game save.
The game also includes, in the Japanese release at least, direct dial Modem VS. In short, you dial into a friend’s PlayStation2, or vice versa, and battle it out. The lag is pretty poor though and you need a USB modem in order for it to work. Another interesting addition is Mission VS. This is, essentially, two player missions where you can either be friend or foe. Unfortunately there are only a few missions available in this category. The fact that you cannot choose from the 100 or so missions available feels, to this reviewer anyway, like a lost opportunity. Naturally iLink VS is still available, for those with the requisite hardware anyway.
Despite the sub-par game engine, Armored Core 2 Another Age still has its own bad points. The loss of in-game e-mail is particularly unfortunate, simply because there is very little left to explain the intricate narrative (of which there is a lot). Another bad point is that of the loss of the Arena. Admittedly the large number of missions available partly counteracts this but most veterans will realise that the Arena is the perfect testbed for new designs (the “AC Test” simply doesn’t cut it), and it’s absence will be sorely missed by those who take their mecha tweaking seriously.
In closing, Armored Core 2 Another Age tried to innovate but fell short due to a now defunct game engine. Admittedly the graphics have been, marginally, improved but Armored Core 2 Another Age is merely more of the same which, in this case, is not a very good thing.
[spoiler show=”Final Level Video”]