Been a long while since I took the time to review a game, but it’s games like this one (unsung and underappreciated) that usually inspire me to say a few words. I never watched the anime or read the manga (I believe there’s also a manga), but I always liked the look of the artwork and premise. Plus, the gameplay just looked cool to me. The mature content and Spider-man-like navigation was definitely something that attracted me to the game.
Obviously, a lot of folks didn’t like the game, and well, there are good reasons to criticize it. That being said, the scores are, as is typical these days, exaggerated in my opinion. The quality of the game, despite its repetitiveness, is pretty good. For someone like myself who never dabbled in the story, it’s really a great way to jump in.
From what I understand, the game uses anime sequences lifted straight out of the show, which was knocked by existing fans, but for me, that worked out great. I could quickly get up to speed on the story without having to invest hours into watching episodes.
And the premise is pretty cool, though to be honest, the protagonist is, to me, just another angsty, over-the-top underdog hero that is difficult to root for. Though the story setting is quite interesting, the relationships and dialogue between the various characters is very cliche. It’s basically Naruto set in a post-apocalyptic, bizarro world. That’s okay, really, as the vibe was cool enough to keep me interested.
The gameplay is also cool enough to keep me interested, even though you’re basically doing a lot of the same things in each mission. Yes, it’s a mission-based game, and truly, it works quite well in terms of both conveying the story quickly and for the gameplay on offer.
There’s a Story Mode and World Mode. The Story Mode has five character paths to play through, and it jumps around a bit in order to, I would presume, keep the player moving in line with the show’s story. It’s a bit weird, to be honest, and can be a little confusing. It can also be a bit problematic in terms of difficulty spikes, since some of the other characters’ missions seem to present a significant jump in challenge.
But I liked it. I had trouble with some of the missions, and since you’re graded on your performance (based on damage taken, completion time, and other factors), it can be frustrating when you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall. But you can just move to another character’s story path and pick up difficult missions later. That is, of course, if other missions are unlocked. In an effort to keep you on track with the story, missions in each character’s path open up only in a certain order.
The difficulty of some missions, however, seemed unnecessarily frustrating, and to me, that was almost always due to a lack of clarity regarding what was required to successfully complete the mission. For example, early on you’re told to collect five potatoes (yes, potatoes), but there are half a dozen cadets lying on the ground waiting to be revived and titans quickly making their way to where the cadets are located. If the titans infiltrate that area, it’s mission failure. Really, all you need to do to complete the mission is find the potatoes hidden in the level, but it’s hard to not feel like there’s a reason for being able to revive the cadets. The game doesn’t explain why they’re there or if reviving them can help in any way. In that way, the game felt a lot like the Musou games I’ve played (Samurai Warriors, Dynasty Warriors, etc.), where you’re presented with tons of stuff on the battlefield but none of it is of any real importance other than the captains on the field. And like those games, none of that is explained at the outset to newcomers.
The same can be said about the mechanics. The missions do a good job walking you through the basics, such as the swing mechanic, strikes, basic attacks, etc., but they don’t cover healing items or what to look out for when it comes to the titans attacking. After getting swatted a few times, though, you quickly learn to use spin attacks when coming at the titans from the front.
And really, that’s where Attack on Titans shows its worth. Critics who only spent a fraction of time with the game are going to quickly sum it up as a repetitive romp created as a quick cash-in of a beloved franchise. There’s depth here, but it’s not in the mission variety – that much is for sure.
The depth lies in mastery of the few mechanics that are here. Strike attacking (the meat of the gameplay) is similar to a lot of rhythm games in the way the attack is executed, as you need to time your button presses to hit markers that appear when making your strike attempt. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and because it’s based on distance, amount of gas in your swing gizmo (called ODM gear), and your current health, the speed with which you home in on a titan varies. Watching gameplay of it doesn’t make it look all that difficult to execute, but when you’re surrounded by titans trying to grab and eat you and the screen’s turning red and grey because you’re almost dead, it ain’t as easy as it looks. It’s even more difficult to pull off spinning-strike attacks, since the critical markers are much smaller.
Additionally, you’ll need to keep track of your weapon’s sharpness and the gas in your ODM gear. If you run out of consumable items, you can usually search for more hidden throughout the level. Attack on Titan is a frantic game with a lot of variables to be mindful of.
The titans are slow, but they don’t just stand there. If you’re in the air and coming at them from any direction other than their rear, they will almost always swat and/or grab you. If they get a hold of you, your only saving grace is another player (either human or A.I.). If they can’t save you in time, you get eaten in a gory, meat-sandwich animation.
You’ll need to stay mobile, utilizing the game’s other main mechanic, the ODM gear, which swings you around when in the town. Mastering the gameplay, as well as the finicky camera, takes time, but again, it’s rewarding. “Get gud,” as they say. That’s where you’ll find the game’s depth, and you’ll either get enjoyment out of that or you won’t. Just like the Tenchu series, which is based on a few simple mechanics that are difficult to master, so too is Attack on Titans 3DS an acquired taste.
The camera, however, is one of the other main issues where criticism is well deserved. It’s not broken, but it is very, very disorienting at times. You will typically land facing where you’re supposed to, but the way the camera swings around, it doesn’t always feel that way. You’ll also get stuck a lot behind titans, boulders, and other objects, making it very frustrating when trying to negotiate an already frantic scenario. I used the CPP attachment, which gave me full control over the camera, and you can use the L-button to quick zip the camera behind your character. It worked fine.
So, we’ve got the Story Mode and most of the mechanics squared away, I better mention the World Mode before I wrap this up. The World Mode is also a mission mode, but it’s designed as a sort of RPG-lite. You create a character, and unlike the Story Mode, the character levels up, allowing you to boost various stats, earn and unlock new gear, as well as research facilities and recruit A.I. teammates. It’s also a place where you can play multiplayer.
Missions can be taken on alone or in local or online multiplayer, and even now there are some stragglers still enjoying the online mode. I spent a couple of hours last night playing with random folks, and the gameplay was really, really good. I experienced zero slowdown, and the match-making process is seamless and quick. Multiplayer offers communication using a short list of preset phrases, which get the job done. The whole mode is a great, fun way to expand your time with the game. Tons of cool outfits, emblems and other goodies to unlock – lots of fun.
Visually, the game is fun to look at for the most part, though forest and field areas are pretty bland. The character models are good, but honestly, the titans look kind of goofy to me. That’s not so much a reflection of the 3DS graphics so much as the art design itself. I think they look weird and silly in the animated parts as well. None of the model animations, though, are all that spectacular.
The framerate was fine for me, but I played with the 3D effect turned off. The effect itself is actually quite good, but it comes at a price. It’s not necessary to enjoy the gameplay, and I’d much rather have a steady framerate. The sound effects are decent, and there’s a lot of cool voice blurbs, but the music is absolutely phenomenal. It’s fitting the game was published by Atlus, as the music reminds me a lot of the soundtracks from P3 and 4. Really good stuff!
I know this game isn’t for everyone, and it does have some actual technical flaws. I wouldn’t even necessarily recommend it to fans of the franchise, since it’s my understanding that everything here is stuff they’ve already seen in terms of story. But I do think it’s going to be fun for folks who enjoy this kind of arcade-type gameplay and setting, and for me, it was a really fun way to introduce me to Attack on Titan.
Like a lot of Atlus’ games, it’s a niche title. However, it’s not a bad title, and folks should know that. Scoring it is difficult, since it has real issues. There’s some clumsy design and very little variety in terms of missions and gameplay, but the fun factor was high and undeniable.
If it looks fun to you, I say give it a try. Though very much its own thing, if you like series such as Onechanbara, Dynasty Warriors, or Tenchu (or even Resident Evil Mercs 3D for that matter), you’ll probably like this game as well.
Score – 6.5 (Guilty Pleasure)