Gotcha Force Preview
We check out Capcom's upcoming robot fighter for the GameCube.
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Gotcha Force is an upcoming action game for the GameCube that revolves around robot combat. We first saw the game this past September at Capcom's booth at the Tokyo Game Show. The playable demo on hand featured solid visuals and accessible gameplay. We've since been able to preview a more complete version of the game, which continues to build on that solid foundation.
The game's story revolves around a conflict between Earth and the evil Death Force. The story begins when a young boy named Kou meets G-Red, a Gotcha-borg who has come to Earth in search of the evil Death Force. Gotcha-borgs are palm-sized robots from the planet Mega-borg. It seems that Death Force, having destroyed Mega-borg, has now set its sights on Earth and is preparing to launch an assault from its recently established base in the city of Sahari. Kou, anxious to avoid his planet's destruction, teams up with G-Red in the hopes of thwarting Death Force's evil mastermind Death Buran. The pair becomes the core of the Gotcha Force, a collection of Gotcha-borgs and Kou's friends, who are dedicated to keeping the peace.
Gotcha Force will offer three gameplay modes: story, versus, and challenge. Story chronicles your attempts to repel Death Force from Earth by engaging in a series of battles. The fights serve two main purposes--taking out Death Buran's forces and acquiring more Gotcha-borgs and Gotcha-borg parts. When you first start the game, you'll begin with a modest set of Gotcha-borgs that are well rounded but not particularly powerful. As you progress through the story mode, you'll earn more Gotcha-borgs by winning battles, and you'll increase Kou's store of energy, allowing him to use bigger and stronger Gotcha-borgs. You'll also be able to use the information and items you collect to create new Gotcha-borgs for your team. Versus is an arcade-style brawl for one to four players. Finally, challenge mode lets you and a friend team up in a series of battles against AI-controlled opponents.
In addition to the gameplay modes, Gotcha Force will offer three extra options: edit, trade, and collection. The edit option lets you create a custom team of Gotcha-borgs from the borgs you earn in the single-player mode, which you can save to a memory card. The trade option lets you exchange Gotcha-borgs and items with a friend. Finally, the collection option lets you check out artwork and information on the Gotcha-borgs you earn in combat.
The gameplay in Gotcha Force has an arcade feel that recalls Capcom's Power Stone games from a few years back. You'll go into a battle with a team of Gotcha-borgs, using them one at a time. As one borg is defeated, another member of your team will take its place. Ideally you'll destroy all of the opposing team's borgs before yours go down. Combat is generally fast paced, but it varies somewhat in pacing according to the borgs on the battlefield. The Gotcha-borgs come in various sizes that dictate their speed and power. The smaller, less-powerful borgs are much quicker, while the more-powerful, larger borgs are slower.
The controls are easy to pick up, thanks to the game's basic combat system. You'll move your borg with the analog stick, jump with the A button, and perform a basic attack with the B button. The left and right triggers will switch your targeted enemy. The Y button will let you use a power boost that will temporarily increase your Gotcha-borg's abilities, while the X button will perform your borg's unique special attack. It will also be possible to combine certain borgs, Voltron-style, in two-player games to create a more- powerful borg.
The graphics in the game are shaping up to offer technically sound, cartoony visuals. The game engine pumps out clean, colorful polygonal models for the various borgs and solid environments that feature a variety of themes. The designs for the plethora of Gotcha-borgs in the game are quite varied and are anime influenced. You'll find humanoid-style borgs that resemble ninjas, others that resemble tanks, aircraft, and mechanical dragons, and even some borgs that can transform into different shapes altogether such as jet fighters. The unique art style manages to give each of the borgs a distinctive look, which keeps the visuals surprisingly fresh, considering the roughly 200 borgs in the game. The environments that we've seen so far are pretty varied although a bit bland. You'll find some interactive elements in each environment as well as structures that you can use for cover or a height advantage. The effects used for the borgs' attacks are exaggerated, over-the-top assaults that are definitely in the Power Stone vein--you'll see massive explosions that fill the screen, huge projectiles, and hails of bullets coming from the borgs in the heat of battle. The game's frame rate moves along nicely--which helps keep the pacing of battles fluid--with an occasional bit of inconsistency during some of the crazier attacks. The only rough element to the visuals is the game's camera, which can have a hard time keeping up with your borg in the heat of battle.
The audio in the game is about what you'd expect from a game with Gotcha Force's look and premise. The music is an aggressively peppy collection of catchy tunes that suit the visuals. The sound effects for the various attacks are good although a bit bland. The explosions in the game are satisfying, but some of the other projectile attacks aren't as distinct. The voice work in our version of the game featured reliably enthusiastic Japanese voice acting, which we hope will be left in for the US release. For a game like Gotcha Force, you really do need some anime-style emoting to sell the whole experience.
Gotcha Force is shaping up to be a unique action game that should be a welcome addition to the GameCube library. The game's solid visuals, accessible gameplay, and multiplayer options are coming together nicely. The Pokémon-style collection and trading elements should keep you busy, and the hefty number of borgs to collect in the game and the ability to create your own custom force should help keep the action fresh. Gotcha Force is currently slated to ship this December for the GameCube.