The perfect halfway mark between Sega's too simple Virtual On and Activision's too complex MechWarrior 2, Armored Core is a mech game that carries over arcade-style action while still retaining the ability to configure a vehicle that is at once your weapon and ride. Quite simply, it's worth getting and worth getting excited over.
You take on the role of a mercenary pilot of a large robot who can be hired out for missions varying from straight-out assaults and guarding convoys to bug extermination and classic one-on-one mech duels. These all take place within or above a number of terrains, such as underground installations, desert bases, downtown cityscapes, helicarriers up in the clouds, and space stations up even higher still. Nearly all are knee-deep in fun, and they culminate in a super hard final stage in which the developers at From Software really used their game designing skills for evil: You must pilot your mech to the top of a skyscraper-high complex via 3D floating cubes armed with guns mounted on both top and bottom - and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Almost as charming as the gameplay are the upgradable options for the mech, which you'll be able to afford after successfully completing a few operations with the rig you start out with. These options include different functioning heads, cores (or chest units, thus the game's name), arms, legs, arm weapons, back weapons, radar, boosters, generators, chipsets, and more, all of which must be balanced out with armor class, weight, energy drain, and several other functions. A test stage is available to test out your mech after it has been assembled in the garage, to make sure that you're happy with the new setup. If you're not, the shop buys back used parts at full price. Different patterns and a custom palette are also available to paint your wagon with, allowing for everything from camo to plaid to your own personal shades of neon.
The game's basic controls are very intuitive, and even the advanced techniques are easy to grasp relatively quickly. As in Super Mario 64, you don't need to know every move early on, but the game gives you the chance to get them all down by the time they're absolutely necessary. Its graphics and soundtracks are fitting and workable.
All in all, Armored Core is a good, solid title that will eat up many hours of playtime for most gamers. Hopefully Armored Core Phantasma, From Software's Japanese release add-on to the game, will make its way out to the States in time for when they're through.