Eureka Seven Vol. 2: The New Vision presumably closes out the video game-format prequel to the nearly year-to-the-day-ended anime series Eureka Seven. Apparently oblivious to the potential gold mine that is robots exploding robots in close-quarters combat miles high in the sky, Namco Bandai again mostly sidelines the gameplay in favor of watching its story unfold. To that end, as long as New Vision is approached as an interactive anime, fans of the series mourning the loss of Renton and Eureka should find some solace in the further pursuits of Sumner, Ruri, and Moondoggie. And with its evened-out presentation and more focused storyline, you'll have an infinitely easier time getting into that story this time around. It's just a shame that you'll need to subject yourself to the first game to make heads of the second.
As with New Wave, story plays front and center in New Vision, and the game picks up a few years after where the last left off. Morose as ever and prone to waxing philosophical, Sumner is now a professional lifter, which, 10,000 years in the future, involves not tossing kegs or running with anvils but flying on surfboards--go figure. With Moondoggie in tow (self-styled "looks cool and totally with it"), Sumner wins a mech, or LFO; has said mech promptly stolen by none other than Ruri; recovers his old LFO from a friend's bathroom; and then joins up with team Azure, a lifting sponsor not unlike, say, Billabong--that is, if Billabong were militant and headquartered in a well-armed flying fortress. From there, a tale of love, friendship, treachery, and ramen unfolds, occasionally seasoned with wanton acts of mechanized destruction. Eureka Seven's brand of teenage melodrama plays out much the same way here as in the anime series, where Sumner and Ruri's relationship mimics Renton and Eureka's. Fans who thrive on this kind of unrealized sexual tension spiked by fatalistically insurmountable odds will undoubtedly wolf down everything New Vision is dishing up.
New Vision's story is made all the more palatable by a completely overhauled presentation. Whereas New Wave resembled a madman lost in the wilderness, occasionally climbing a tree to proclaim his moral superiority over the marsupial, New Vision has a clear direction and delivers its message in a well-structured and coherent way. It has...a vision, one might say. It also helps that all of the dialogue is now voiced, eliminating the need to quickly scan the dialog box before the text poofs, and all of the cinematics are now in the same resolution, as opposed to flipping back and forth between high- and low-res scenes at will. The voice work is at an anime-standard level, and it's complemented by a good mix of likewise anime-standard synth rock tunes. Those cinematics also look pretty good considering the platform, as characters exhibit more natural and less repetitive animation, faces are emotive, and environments are varied and have a fairly clean look. Further, the loading times and save prompts have been drastically scaled back, though they're still prevalent enough to functionally act as commercial breaks. It's also a bummer that you still can't pause the game during these prolonged cutscenes. Really, the improvements made to New Vision merely elevate it to a level you'd reasonably already expect from a game, and they only bear mention because of how vastly improved they are over the previous game.
A little less than half of the eight or nine hours it'll take you to hit the back of New Vision can be considered actual gameplay. For the most part, New Vision plays to its strength by focusing on aerial mech combat, though it doesn't execute well on that concept. Occasionally you'll be deployed in your LFO as either Sumner or Ruri to clash with enemy LFOs while riding your surf board, known as a ref board. LFOs are of the Gundam ilk, which means combat is often melee-centric and fast-paced, at least in theory. While the far horizons of the land below and the sparse clouds and ample particle effects give you a decent sense of speed and the feeling you're thousands of feet up in the air, combat isn't as exciting as you might think it would be. More often than not, these monumental clashes devolve into boring WWI fighter-pilot tactics, where you jockey for position by circling the enemy, who is also circling you.
But you're still fighting with heavily armed robots, and it's still miles in the air, and those two elements together are an undeniable formula for at least mild amusement. Combat can get interesting on those occasions when the odds are stacked against you and the sky fills with missiles and golden sparks from your ref board, and the frame rate almost surprisingly holds steady throughout. These sequences are far from difficult, though, and you'll probably hit on a cheesy strategy right quick. If you do happen to hit a challenge, you'll be able to retry missions with more and more health, which is added on unbidden, as if the developers were openly conceding that combat is just something to get through so the story can progress.
Aside from a few minor but beneficial tweaks, ground combat in your LFO is mostly the same as it was in New Wave, which is to say it still isn't particularly good. Evading enemy attacks isn't difficult, and it's still pretty easy to systematically destroy each of your opponents by mindlessly skating in circles while pounding on them with a heavy weapon until they explode. Fighting and surfing as Sumner and co. while not in their mechs is also slightly improved over New Wave, which is to say it's gone from pathetically bad to just moderately terrible. There are a myriad of problems here too long to list, so suffice it to say that the game is made worse by their inclusion, especially since these sequences could very easily have been omitted. If the brief interludes between chunks of cinematics don't scratch your robot-mongering itch, all of the various venues for fighting are available in a situation mode, which has stages and characters unlocked as you progress through the game.
While not a particularly good mech combat game, New Vision plays out as a decent-enough anime that further fleshes out the Eureka Seven universe. However, fans of the series should note that, as studly as he is, Moondoggie is the only substantive link between this prequel and the actual show. Ultimately, it's difficult to recommend an otherwise decent game that relies heavily on backstory supplied by a mostly poor game, so newcomers will be better off letting this one slide. However, if New Wave left you wanting more, then by all means New Vision is worth a look. Of course, if that game managed to not turn you sour to all that is Eureka Seven, you'd probably be picking this one up regardless.