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|A.O.T. Wings of Freedom screenshot - Mikasa|
|A.O.T. Wings of Freedom screenshot - Erwin readying a blow|
|A.O.T. Wings of Freedom screenshot (from PCInvasion.com) - chilling in the wilderness|
|A.O.T. Wings of Freedom screenshot - Armin spotting a new enemy|
|A.O.T. Wings of Freedom screenshot - Mikasa making use of her 3DMG|
|A.O.T. Wings of Freedom screenshot - Environments are hit or miss, with far more hits than misses thankfully. Here's a hit|
Attack on Titan was THE anime of 2013. So much that back in the day, it was like there was only a single anime airing each week. The show's frightening and unsettling 'monsters', the human-eating Titans, made their debuts as most scary antagonists the anime industry had created in a looong, long time.
What really sold the show, beyond its large cast of likeable characters and its carefully designed setting, was the incredible action scenes, which featured the main characters fighting the titans by flying around them using a twin grappling hook coupled with aluminium bending blades and gas bottles for extra speed - a now iconic equipment called the 3DMG (tridimensional manoeuvering gear).
And in 2015, the honorable developers of Koei Tecmo, proud makers of the Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors series, were suddenly tasked with making a video game for the franchise.
Now, video game adaptations of animes are often thought to be subpar. And it was thought and said by many that it would be near impossible to render this particular anime's sense of speed and thrilling fight scenes in a video game frame.
Yet, against all odds... KeoiTecmo succeded in doing so.
Gameplay-wise, at its core, Wings of Freedom is an action game the likes of which is rarely seen nowadays, but was frequent in the 90s-early 2000s. However, it plays differently thanks to the 3DMG, which all playable characters are equipped with.
You technically *can* run around on the ground like in any other games -- but why would you, when you can also fly around at high speeds using your twin grappling hook?
Most importantly, the whole gameplay revolves around using the 3DMG, making the game fast-paced as well as very precise. Indeed, effecient use of the 3DMG requires the player to become familiar with the equipment. The game is NOT overly accessible, unlike 90% of recent games, and it will take 1 to 3 hours to learn the ropes (no pun intended) of the game.
This is worth it though. Once you get the hang of it, using the 3DMG to move and to fight titans becomes very natural as well as immensely satisfying -- the kind of satisfying I hadn't felt in years. Speaking of fighting the titans, these 20+ meters monsters have only one weakpoint: their nape behind their necks, forcing the player to circle around the enemy until they find a window of attack, all while avoiding being grabbed by other titans walking around.
Eventually, this is an action game which does not revolve around firing guns or engaging in melee swordfights -- though it's closer to the later than the former. The fact that the whole system forces you to make use of your grappling hooks and your blades to strike the titans makes the game feel unique and thrilling.
KeoiTecmo's feat doesn't stop there though. A surprisingly great lot of ideas were thrown into the game, most coming from elements from the anime.
While flying around the battlfield slicing titans, the player must always keep an eye on their gas gauge, as well as the state of their blades, and must often resupply -- something that adds to the gameplay, and which is taken straight from the anime, where the main characters sometimes found themselves short of gas, preventing them from fleeing titans with their 3DMG.
Some titans use their limbs to cover their nape, forcing the player to cut off their arms or legs; there are smoke signals signaling side missions, of different colors depending of their nature and importance; the player can not use their 3DMG if there's no high enough scenery clusters around, making them vulnerable in open terrain; I could go on and on. Everything from the anime has been thrown into the game to make a tight gaming experience.
The games also comes with dozens upon dozens of stuff to unlock as you progress through the game, and as your skills improve. The three elements of the 3DMG (blades, hooks and scabbard) can be upgraded using funds and materials found on the battlefield and received after each mission. Each element of the 3DMG has three stats (blade length, sharpness and durability, gas pressure and capacity for the scabbard, cable length or reeling speed for the hooks, etc).
There are a dozen of characters to unlock, each with their own strengths, performances and weaknesses.
Besides the Story Mode (called Attack Mode), there's an Expedition Mode with dozens of missions to unlock, as well as a True Attack Mode acting as a New Game + of sorts to lenghten the game's longevity.
KoeiTecmo either took or were given the time and money to make the game stand out. The graphics, while not mind-blowing, emulate the artstyle of the anime, and the 3D models of the characters look great.
The most important scenes of the anime have been rendered in the game engine, meaning the devs didn't take the easy way by just shoving excerpts from the anime. These 3d renditions of scenes from the anime make the game feel seamless and well-put together, as the visuals remain the same at all times, giving cohesion to the game.
The game also features new music, and is not just content with re-using assets from the anime. In fact, there is NO music from the anime in this game. Which is almost sad because the music from the anime was so good.
Needless to say, the Japanese dub is great, and seyuus (voice actors) from the anime have been re-employed for this game. There is NO English dub for this game, thank God. I can't believe some people complain about this blessing.
The game is also filled with little details like loading screens with information about the world and setting, akin to the eyecatch in the anime.
For a game adaptation of an anime of that nature, all of this is truly remarkable and worth of praise.
In recent years, I have been plainly satisfied with a lot of JRPGs, sims and strategy games, but playing this game made me realize how scarce actually good action games were in recent memory. That's why it's so cool to think that there will be a follow-up game to this one planned for March 2018.
Beyond expending the story and follow the 2nd season of the anime, or engaging in side-stories (which would be cool), I don't see what content they could really add that is not already in the first game.
However, I see what they could correct, as the game does come with a few flaws, although overshadowed by the genuine quality of the product.
First, the HUD. The HUD is functional, but also clustered. Therea are icons everywhere, the subtitles takes a lot of screen room, and the overall HUD feels crowded. Seeing a titan in the distance is not as frightening as it should be when there's a big red icon covering its silhouette. An option to disable the HUD altogether would be welcome.
Second, but this is a nitpick, I would like it if the player could stay anchored to a wall or object once the hook has reeled.
Third, well, improve graphics I guess, even though I don't think this should be a priority.
Fourth, oh yeah, please add the option to remove the slow-motion when the player kills a titan. It gets frustrating after a while.
And five, maybe make the story more understandable for those who have not seen the anime. I think that from what the first game explains, newcomers to the story can follow the basics, but I think it can seem to fly over important plot points very fast. But I wouldn't know, having seen the anime several times myself.
Besides these nitpicks that I threw randomly into the mix, I can't wait to play this game's sequel and see what's in store for the player. We already know there's going to be some more playable characters, but that's the extent of my knowledge for now.
It should be noted that this game is available on basically every platform except Switch,(PS4, Xbox One, PC and Vita), and that the sequel will be the same, except it will also be available on the Switch, and the Japanese version will not be available on Xbox One.