Ape Escape: Million Monkeys Import Hands-On

We monkey around with a Japanese retail version of Sony's latest Ape Escape game.

Currently scheduled for release in North America and Europe later this year, Ape Escape: Million Monkeys is a game that--at least judging by its title--promises to be far more epic in scale than any of its predecessors. Ape Escape 3 had only 400 monkeys, so can we really expect Sony to increase that number to a million in its latest offering? We recently imported the Japanese version of the game, titled Saru Get You: Million Monkeys, to find out if the game is as ambitious as its title suggests.

Million Monkeys is more combat oriented than any of its predecessors.

If you're thinking of importing it, the first thing you need to know about the Japanese version of Ape Escape: Million Monkeys is that its numerous menu screens can take a while to figure out if you don't understand the language. In addition to the requisite story mode, the game boasts a 40-stage survival mode and a number of multiplayer options that support up to four players on a single screen. For the purposes of this preview we've been playing the story mode exclusively, which is much more combat oriented than any of the previous Ape Escape games and can be played as any of six different characters from the outset.

The story mode can be played either in Kakeru mode, named after the game's hero, or Specter mode, named after the villainous white-haired simian who's attempting to conquer Earth with his army of monkeys. When playing as the good guys, you can choose to play as Kakeru, a boy with blond spiky hair; the professor, a scientist who specializes in time travel and monkey-troubling gadgets; Charu (or Casi), an artificial girl created by the professor; or Natsumi (or Natalie), the professor's feisty granddaughter. When playing as the bad guys, you can play either as Specter or as one of his monkey minions. All of the missions that we've beaten have played out the same way regardless of our faction choice (as a monkey, you go around beating and catching other monkeys), but the cutscenes in between missions appear to be putting a slightly different spin on the story.

From what we can gather, Ape Escape: Million Monkeys' story revolves around a large-scale invasion of Earth, which Specter has masterminded with help from a mysterious alien race. The only time we've actually seen an alien thus far is in the story mode's intro movie, but many of the weapons and technologies that the monkeys have access to in the game--which include tanks, walkers, and flying saucers--certainly look like they might have come from another planet. The monkeys in Million Monkeys aren't only better equipped than their counterparts in previous games, but they're also more aggressive and intelligent. In previous Ape Escape games your primary concern has been capturing monkeys using your net, and although this is still the case to some extent, you'll be spending the majority of your time battling with the troublesome primates rather than chasing and netting them.

Your arsenal at the start of the game when playing as Kakeru will include a lightsaber-like stun club, a net, a gun, and a pair of roller skates that can be used both to evade enemy attacks and to charge into enemies at speed. The appearance of these gadgets changes according to which character you choose to play as, but functionally they're no different. When playing as Specter, for example, the stun club is replaced with dual stun batons and the roller skates are replaced with a jetpack. The professor, on the other hand, wears a giant frame at all times, which incorporates twin guns and replaces the stun weapons with a large hammer on the end of a robotic arm. It's also worth noting that many of the monkeys in the game wield similar gadgets, and they're never shy about attacking you when you're already in the middle of a fight with one of their colleagues.

The cel-shaded characters look great against the subdued backgrounds.

All of the environments that we've seen have been set in and around Tokyo, and they've typically felt like quite sterile re-creations of shopping areas, warehouses, and such. The art style employed for the environments is quite subdued and leans toward realism, which makes the cel-shaded characters and weapons stand out. Although the majority of the monkeys that you encounter will attack you on sight, a number of them in each level are quite proficient at hiding, and often the only way you'll even know that they're in the area is because they show up as red dots on your radar. You'll occasionally catch monkeys who are sleeping, using public telephones, or fishing, but on the whole the monkeys in this latest offering appear to lack the personality of those in previous games. It's conceivable that the monkeys will become more interesting and varied as you progress through the game, of course, but the appearances of those that we've encountered lead us to believe that Specter has amassed his army using some kind of cloning technology.

One of the few things in Ape Escape: Million Monkeys that doesn't represent a significant change over previous games is its control scheme. Ape Escape was the first PlayStation game to require a dual analog controller, because you used one stick for movement and the other for controlling whichever weapon or gadget you had equipped. This is still the case in Million Monkeys, where you'll have a different gadget mapped to each of the four face buttons and will use shoulder buttons for jumping, guarding, and targeting enemies.

We've enjoyed our time with Ape Escape: Million Monkeys, and we're pretty intrigued to see how the game progresses. One thing we're certain of at this point is that, unlike previous entries in the series, this isn't a case of "more of the same," which may or may not be a good thing depending on how you feel about its predecessors. We'll bring you more information on Ape Escape: Million Monkeys as soon as it becomes available.

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Discussion

20 comments
Smashking02
Smashking02

whoa... when does this hit gamestops near me? NJ

mrcong
mrcong

Can't wait for this game! I loved all of the first three(especially Ape Escape 2=), but I was really hoping for a next-gen Ape Escape game on the PS3...I guess this will have to do. I really like the art style, but I'm worried a tad about a few things... I really hope a lot of the monkeys hide rather than attack you bluntly; having to seek out hidden apes was rather fun, and gave you a better look at their personalities. Also, I hope the monkeys are lively and varied like past games(with individual traits and practices), as they look like clones right now. I just want a solid release date at this point, though.

Metystic
Metystic

Well I'm glad Spike is back (I hope it's Spike). Jimmy had the most annoying voice EVER, and the kids in Ape Escape 3 seemed to really have no place in the series. It's nice to know they're not excluding Spike. I kinda like the whole world crisis idea, but I hope the monkeys don't lose their funny attitudes, especially since Ape Escape 2 and 3 weren't as funny, and the ape cinema movie things were stupid. I definitely want to see the monkeys goofing off often or just doing something funny.

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

W00t! W000000t! LONG LIVE APE ESCAPE! The Ape Escape games are my favorite games for PS2.

kaworu1986
kaworu1986

Woot!!!!! This may be a new beginning for the series: the first game was awesome (best platform on the original playstation) while the two sequels were total crap (I actually couldn't bring myself to finish Ape Escape 3).

Reetesh
Reetesh

Cool. I thought Million Monkeys was about APe escape's Giant Moneky Mech Fighting(Now why did I think that??) Good To see that its Still on the Monkey catching side:D GOTTA CATCH EM ALL!!!!

ApeEscapeExpert
ApeEscapeExpert

This is awesome, I cant believe tat Axel Dark Key is an ALIEN!!!!! AIIEE! It almost made me panicked! I WANT THIS GAME VERY BADLY!!!! and i still have to wait for 29 more days!

X-7
X-7

I can't wait! If it is more fighting than previous titles I will love it even more. Chasing monkeys was getting old, but fighting them is much better.

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

This seems cool. Can't wait for more info.

timts
timts

I love this series too, but I have to admit this version is hard to play without japanese language knowledge.

yugimasa9999
yugimasa9999

F.Y.I. Strike009, This isn't a stupid series. I'm going gaga over this one...but I would hope for a next-gen APE ESCAPE

Hervae
Hervae

WWWWOOOOOOOOTTTTTT!!!!!!!!! i cant wait for the new ape escape

CT-Link
CT-Link

Cool, at least they've changed something, I hope this game gives more life to the PS2, since it's it last year... SOB

gungravebeyond
gungravebeyond

who thinks that the controls in the Ape Escape Pumped & Primed were the best because you could actually make urself jump further and faster with the combination of the hoola hoop and propeller.

azafirster
azafirster

looks like some wierd catch all the monky kind of thing you might find lying around.

gangsterKJ
gangsterKJ

^Well, it's clear you've never played these games before. I dunno about this whole alien thing. It sounds like an attempt to make it seem more edgy and mainstream. I hope I'm wrong about that.

Strike009
Strike009

1st? crazy monkeys....stupid series...