Ring of Red proved to be one of the more interesting games Konami had on display at its 1st Annual Gamers Day event, which the company held in San Francisco this afternoon. Ring of Red is a strategy game set in an alternate-reality post-WWII Japan - a Japan which never surrendered to the Allies. This unique political atmosphere resulted in a partitioning of the country - Japan's northern territories aligned themselves with the Soviets, while the country's southern half pledged allegiance to the Third Reich.
Aside from the obvious historical fantasy the developers are indulging in, the game's most marked break from reality is its inclusion of mechs. Called Armored Fighting Walkers (AFWs) in Ring of Red, these constructs act as the central units in the world's armies. Very unlike the swift, graceful exosuits brought into mass consciousness by Japanese popular culture, the mechs in Ring of Red are thick and bulky, more closely resembling a Sherman tank than a Valkyrie.
In battle, the AFWs are supported by all manner of ground troops, from infantrymen and artillerists to medics and engineers. Each type of ground unit has a specific function - infantrymen, for example, are ideal for taking out ground troops, artillerists are good at bringing down walkers, while medics and engineers are geared toward healing and repairs, respectively.
The actual battles occur in real time, from a close-up third-person perspective that is centered on your walker. The interface allows you to control the actions of your accompanying ground troops as well as your mech, and the overall look of the battles is very fast-paced and dynamic. When it comes time to fire your walker's gun, the perspective drastically changes to a first-person view of your targeting reticle. The effect is rather impressive; the sight will grow increasingly steady as you zoom in on your target, and your accuracy increases the longer you wait. Naturally, both ground troops and enemy walkers can be targeted. Battles last for a set amount of time, and both sides retreat when that time expires in order to minimize losses. The victor is determined after the damage and casualties inflicted by each side are gauged.
While the actual battles are a bit frenetic, the tactical movement leading up to the battles is anything but. Taking place on a large grid populated by cities, towns, and other settlements, these slower-paced sequences really set the tone for the pitched skirmishes that follow, allowing you to control several squads at once and thus effectively mount various types of offensives. It is also on this map that you acquire additional troops; friendly settlements allow you to cull soldiers from their populations.
Ring of Red, for the most part, is easily the most interesting strategy game that has emerged for the PS2 this year. The game is scheduled for release this coming March. Keep your eyes on this space for massive hands-on coverage later this week.