Developer: From Software
Publisher: From Software, Agetec & Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 1
Release Date: Japan – July 10, 1997 / Europe – July 1998
Before From Software rose to prominence with modern-day critical marvels Dark Souls II and Bloodborne, they first conceived and pioneered the Armored Core series back in the fifth generation of gaming, and brought it to the PlayStation in a time when the console’s controller posed some issues. To me, this game addressed those issues in some style, and brought to gamers a lot of entertainment in the process; including myself.
For the time, the visuals of this game were extremely impressive. Aside from having very few visible glitches (something very rare in early PlayStation games), its conceptual design quite diverse, taking place in a wide variety of locations, such as oil rigs, deserts, city streets and futuristic enemy bases. Things did start out questionable on the PlayStation in this respect, especially with the game Bubsy 3D, which had the frame rate of a children’s pop-up book, but this game was able to effective showcase what the console could do in it’s early stages.
As one of the earliest third person shooter games, gameplay involves the player having to customize and maintain their own robotic soldier, and blast their way through each stage as they come. The level of customization in this game is quite phenomenal for one of its kind at the time, and makes me think why its no wonder why From Software would later venture into RPG gaming. On top of that, its incredibly satisfying to take down as many enemies as possible, and there’s also quite a lot of strategy involved, since if the player can manoeuvre efficiently enough, and dodge as much enemy fire as possible, they can afford to sacrifices armour upgrades in favor of weapons upgrades.
There are no issues with the control scheme whatsoever, which again, is particularly impressive for a 3D game not developed with the use of an analogue stick on the controller. Targeting enemies is also pretty akin to Ocarina of Time as players can manoeuvre around enemies whilst aiming and firing, making the game surprisingly much more simpler and easier to cope with than many of their latest efforts.
To complete every stage of the game will take around 4 to 5 hours, which for a game with so many customization options available, is fairly underwhelming. From Software would go on to address this issue with the four sequels that were released, but it all started out much shorter than what either many gamers may have liked at the time, or what was genuinely possible, since CDs were capable of holding much more memory than cartridges.
There wasn’t much in the way of an established storyline in the first game; only relying on a basic premise to keep players interested. It basically involves the player character working his/her way up the ranks of an army called Raven’s Nest. In all honesty, however, I don’t think the game should lose too many marks in this respect, since it would be later on in the fifth generation when aspects such as story would be much more built upon than ever before, with story primarily existing in RPGs, as opposed to other genres of game.
In terms of originality, there weren’t many games at the time that could have players controlling robots and fighting them on battlefields, and ever since, it has set a very stable trend within the industry. The game went to be a major influence on other series’ such as Lost Planet, Hawken and most recently Titanfall. Huge robot soldiers had been a recurring thing prior in Japanese entertainment with programs such as Gundam Wing and the Power Rangers, but it has been extremely interesting to see their inclusion in video gaming over the years, and this game can be seen as the catalyst for that.
Overall, Armored Core was not only an extremely unique game for its time, but also an incredibly enjoyable one. It has been ported to a number of modern consoles, making it very easy to get hold of, and I would recommend anyone with any console it was ported to, to download a copy.