P.N. 03 Review

  • First Released Sep 9, 2003
  • GC

You'll almost certainly be unimpressed with the repetitive and cumbersome shooting action at the heart of this game.

The zero in the title "P.N. 03" is silent, and the whole thing stands for "Product Number Three." That's pretty generic, and suitably so for this simplistic and forgettable shooter for the GameCube. Capcom tried to make this game alluring by making the main character a shapely woman who gyrates like she's at a warehouse party instead of in a combat zone, but as you guide her through one identical-looking corridor after another, shooting one identical-looking robot after another, you'll almost certainly be unimpressed with the repetitive and cumbersome action at the heart of this game.

As Vanessa Schneider, you'll shoot your way through one robot-filled corridor after another. A girl's gotta make a living!
As Vanessa Schneider, you'll shoot your way through one robot-filled corridor after another. A girl's gotta make a living!

In P.N. 03, you'll control Vanessa Schneider, a futuristic bounty hunter who apparently likes to dance. She'll be working for a mysterious employer who charges her with eliminating a renegade robot threat on some outpost. This means you'll be blasting robots through nearly a dozen different levels. These are all relatively short, and each is composed of a number of small rooms or passageways that take only a matter of seconds to get through before you're given a sort of report card telling you how you did on that little section--as if you didn't know. This both disrupts the game's pacing and cheapens the feel. You don't see Vanessa actually open any doors--the screen just fades out and fades back in.

There's nothing inherently wrong with a pure shooter. P.N. 03's simple premise and design seem as though they're meant to be reminiscent of old-school arcade games, where the faster you pounded the fire button, the more quickly you dealt damage to your many mindless foes--and where the object of the game was continued survival and a high score. The thing is, many of those old games offered extremely precise controls and smooth, colorful graphics.

P.N. 03 offers neither of these things. The controls are probably the biggest culprit. You can get used to them in time, but it's still a serious problem that Vanessa controls like a slug rather than the lithe, highly trained mercenary she's supposed to be. You run her around by using the analog stick, but she turns widely and imprecisely. Fortunately for her, she auto-targets her enemies, though this means she's unable to lead moving foes (not that the majority of enemy robots in the game move around much). Vanessa can only shoot while standing perfectly still. She can't shoot while jumping, running, side-stepping, or crouching, so gameplay pretty much boils down to intermittently firing away at enemies and using the shoulder buttons to dodge left and right to avoid their attacks. Dodging isn't easy either. A single tap of the shoulder buttons makes her sidestep, while a double tap makes her somersault a little farther. Neither of these options works very well, and it never ceases to disappoint when you can't return fire while dodging. Once in a while, you might accidentally hit the Z button instead of the right shoulder button, causing Vanessa to turn her back on the enemy rather than dodge its lasers. Control issues notwithstanding, the enemies follow simple patterns (after all, they're mindless robots), so, in time, the action becomes very predictable.

There are at least a couple of twists worth mentioning. Vanessa has a limited supply of power with which she can use energy drives--powerful special moves that can destroy or seriously damage multiple enemies at once. If you're a fan of classic shooters, consider the energy drives your smart bombs. You're also rewarded for destroying robots in relatively rapid succession by means of the game's combo system. Basically, after you destroy one foe, you have a window of opportunity, spanning several seconds, to destroy another. The more busted robots you can line up in a row, the more points you get. These points are used for powering up your suit, buying new suits, or buying extra lives. The various suits Vanessa can wear mostly affect her maximum health, her maximum energy drive reserves, and her maximum firepower, but they also determine which energy drives she'll be able to use. Unfortunately, none of the suits make the game control any better.

You'll run into the occasional boss robot, and, in between the main missions, you can attempt "trial missions." These are randomly generated scenarios in which you can rack up more points. The trial missions are based on territory you'll have already seen, and their random nature will only slow you down from memorizing how to blast your way through them without too much trouble. Likewise, the main missions are an exercise in memorization. Robots spawn in at precise moments, and, between this and their predictable behavior, you'll find that P.N. 03 is more of a trial-and-error process than a game of skill. It's not an easy game, but that doesn't mean it offers a satisfying challenge.

P.N. 03 is styled after classic shoot-'em-up games from the '80s and '90s, but it offers none of their smooth graphics or gameplay.
P.N. 03 is styled after classic shoot-'em-up games from the '80s and '90s, but it offers none of their smooth graphics or gameplay.

The game's bland look certainly doesn't help matters. P.N. 03 runs at a rather sluggish frame rate, which contributes to the stilted feel of the controls. The environments are, in a word, sterile. There's very little color or definition to anything you'll see in the game, yet the environments are heavily aliased--hardly up to the standards of quality you'd expect from an action game for the GameCube. At least Vanessa looks and animates all right, though it's not like she's worth the price of admission all by herself. Similarly, the game's audio is no cause for any excitement. You'll mostly just hear your basic lasers and explosions, all set to the beat of a plain and understated techno soundtrack. The game does support Pro Logic II surround sound, but that doesn't do much to help the quality of the audio.

P.N. 03 is a short, uninspired game that's yet another would-be imitator of Capcom's own Devil May Cry. Like that game, P.N. 03 wears its sense of style on its sleeve, as though having a main character with feathered hair and sunglasses is enough to make a good game these days. Unfortunately, unlike Devil May Cry, P.N. 03 neither looks good nor plays well. Fans of old-school shooters could do worse than renting this game--and they might even catch a glimpse of promise somewhere--but it's nothing to keep them interested for long.

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P.N. 03

First Released Sep 9, 2003
  • GameCube

You'll almost certainly be unimpressed with the repetitive and cumbersome shooting action at the heart of this game.


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Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Suggestive Themes, Violence