Brave Shot 2 Hands On

We try Square Enix's gutty new shooter on for size.

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Brave Shot, which was released in early 2004, was Square Enix's first foray into the US mobile games market. That overhead space shooter certainly wasn't anything fancy, but it had a lot of solid design work behind it, and it was generally a pretty fun little game. It seems that Brave Shot did well enough on Verizon to prompt a sequel. Now that a year and a half has elapsed, and Square Enix has several more US releases under its belt, the Japanese publisher has decided to pull out all the stops for Brave Shot 2, which will become available on Verizon's V Cast very soon. Judging from our brief play time, this game is far more technically ambitious than the original Brave Shot, and it's also more apt to provide gamers with a real, console-style challenge.

This isn't your daddy's Brave Shot.
This isn't your daddy's Brave Shot.

In a somewhat surprising move, Square Enix has dispensed with the space shooter model entirely for Brave Shot 2. Instead, Brave Shot 2 is much more like the side-scrolling hoverboard sequences in the Contra games. You control a cybernetic commando atop a rocket sled of some kind; you're speeding ineluctably toward your destiny along roads and through tunnels, cleansing Earth of evil robots as you go. You can move forward and back, jump, crouch, and aim your autofiring assault rifle in eight directions. Hordes of 3D-rendered enemies descend on your lone solider from all angles, and you've got to fill them full of lead before they bash into you or shoot you. Square Enix tried to make the game a little easier on cramped mobile screens by making the cyborg's torso the only area vulnerable to enemy attack--but a single shot in the right place is enough to kill you instantly.

Many, many video games have made use of this premise over the years, primarily on the 16-bit and 32-bit consoles, but the ol' hoverboard scheme still hasn't lost a step. Brave Shot 2 throws robots onto the screen at a terrifying clip, and you've really got to be on your toes to stay on your board; we went through three quick continues (of three lives each) in our first five minutes of playing the game. You'll only get a single weapon to defend yourself, but the gameplay focuses much more on agile dodging and keeping your gun trained on the baddies than it does on firepower. Luckily, Brave Shot 2's innovative aiming system helps to keep things manageable. Your gun's locked in place, and you can adjust the angle 45 degrees at a time in either direction at the touch of a button.

Brave Shot 2 is one of the best-looking V Cast games we've seen yet, and we don't expect that assessment to change in the month before its release. The 3D modeling adds a huge amount of excitement to the experience, especially when drones start to do barrel rolls toward you. The game's large assortment of boss robots look particularly intimidating; they're fairly cliché, but still quite nasty. For instance, one miniboss sports a giant pair of legs, and it jogs up to attack you from the background. During another boss sequence, the camera swivels so your character speeds headlong into the screen. At this point, another Gundam-type robot swoops down on you, periodically transforming itself into an assault helicopter. Brave Shot 2 appears to make great use of parallax effects and 3D animation, and it suffers from none of the slowdown usually associated with such effects--the whole thing runs at about 20 frames per second.

By and large, we were very impressed with our preview copy of Brave Shot 2. There isn't really another game like it on V Cast at the moment, because very few mobile developers attempt to put fast-twitch gameplay in their games. We're betting that hardcore gamers will leap at the chance to test their reflexes on their phone. Stay tuned for the full review in a few weeks.

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