“ Manufacturer: Encore Software / Genre: Adventure / ESRB Rating: T - (Teen) / Max. Number Of Players: 4 / Memory Support: With Memory Support / Output Signal Supported: 480p / HDTV Support: Without HDTV Support / Audio Support: Dolby Digital 5.1 / Release Date: November, 2002 „
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Well often when we discuss mech games, were talking huge monsterous machines, that are metres high and can destroy entire buildings with a volley of missiles. Not quite so in Phantom Crash.
You take control of a mech, probably not so much taller than an average human, these mechs are highly customizable, in both weapon and body parts.
The game is primarily single player, the focus of the game being the player starting with a basic robot and winning matches in order to earn cash and improve your SV (What the mechs are called).
There is a large variety of weapons you can fit on your SV, there are homing missile launchers, machine guns, pistols, shot guns and more. There are even sub types of these weapons, such as single fire missile launchers and quadruple fire missile launchers.
The multiplayer mode is a little bit of a let down, the 2 player mode isnt too bad, it allows players the play in the single player arena's, without AI characters. However 3 and 4 player modes can only be played in a single arena, a square with crates spread around the level, seperating the players line of sight. All multiplayer modes, allow the use of player-made SV's.
The game has an element of stealth, with SV's having the ability to use O.C. Optic camouflage, certain SV configurations will allow the O.C. to be active for longer, basic O.C. will last just a couple of seconds, and reaching as long as 30 seconds, if not longer. SV's with O.C. on are hard to see, and other than a slight shimmer against the background, they are completely invisible. O.C. is available in all game modes, including 3 and 4 player.
Really this is a decent game, good for a fast-paced mech game, just don't buy it for the multiplayer aspect.
Before I played this game I was a mech virgin. Now I can't get enough of the damn things. Make of that what you will.
So, now on with the review:
Setting and style:
The interesting sub-title ''Blue Sky Brings Tears'' pretty much sums up the style of the game. To wit an irreverent romp through Japanese culture that will make you realise that the Japanese are absolutely bonkers. Even more bonkers than me, and I'm British. But we love them all the more for it. Phantom Crash is a light-hearted take on the mech genre. This can easily be seen as how mechs are perceived in Phantom Crash compared to their perception in other mech games. In Steel Batallion, Vertical Tanks are merely tools of warfare and the pilots are merely soldiers. In Gundam, the mechs are works of art and all who fight in them are always noble as they are willing to fight for what they believe in.
In Phantom Crash, the mechs (or Scoobees as they are known) are cars. Except cars with a bit of Knight Rider in them. And we're not talking David Hasselhoff. All the Scoobees contain Animal Chips: computer A.I. that have quasi-feelings and emotions and take on the persona of animals. It's difficult to explain, but these A.I. chips really do add to the game's appeal. Some of the animals are completely bonkers, whilst others are just weird. However, you'll soon grow to love them.
Objective and Gameplay
Your objective? Simple. Beat everyone else. Or not. You can do whatever you want. The beauty of this game is that there are no barriers to progression. You can participate in any match you want. Actually, this is a bit of a lie. Some matches require you have to have certain equipment on your scoobee or for your scoobee to be of a certain make. These aren't any problem. Some matches require you to have some moolah to pay for your entry fee, but again this pales in comparison to what you can earn in each battle. There is the odd match that you can't participate in until you have beaten all the leagues, but as these signal the end of the game, that is only to be expected. If you honestly don't have the required scoobee in most cases you can rent one for the duration of the battle.
So, you really can do pretty much what you want. You can choose to build up and develop a particular scoobee. You can choose to go shopping. You can develop and tweak your craft to perfection. You can even buy little dolls to put in the scoobee (although you can't see these and they serve no purpose whatsoever). The end result is a scoobee that you and only you are in tune with. Only you are used to it's little foibles, it's specific max speed or jump. Only you know where it's weak spots are. You know how it is difficult getting used to a new car in real life? The same applies here. If you have a little brother or sister who likes having a go, make sure they have their own Scoobee, or better yet, their own savefile (There are slots for 3 different gamefiles). Even small things like swapping a weapon from right arm to left arm has a huge effect as the difference could prevent you from firing at an enemy from the corner of a building and then ducking back in. So imagine if your siblings were really to start customising your Scoobee. It'd be like unco-ordinated adolescence all over again. Except this time you'd be falling over your own mechanical feet. So be nice and give them there very own Scoobee of their own. Heck, why not give them another 2 (your hangar has space for 10 scoobees although you do have to pay a one off fee for each scoobee bay above the initial 3 supplied).
In short Phantom Crash suceeded where Apex failed. So much customisation is possible. For example there are 99 levels of A.I. a chip can possess. Each weapon has 198 different levels of customisation and you can have up to 4 weapons on a scoobee. Many other customisable things are present including different types of propulsion (bipedal, walker types, wheels, caterpillars, hover etc.) paint jobs and even small stickers and ornaments.
One of the most innovative aspects of Phantom Crash is the optical camouflage. ''What in tarnation is optical camouflage?'' I hear you cry. Did you ever see the movie ''Predator''? How about the famous minigun scene where the alien avoids being hit by using his hi-tech camouflage and running away? Well optical camouflage (a.k.a. ''o.c.'') allows you to do just that. At the touch of a button, the surroundings are displayed on it's armour in a manner which renders you invisible. Thus any missile targeting systems will not work against you, increasing your time in this world for a little bit longer. However o.c. does not last forever and takes a few precious seconds to recharge after each use. Also, if an opponent fires blast radius weapons in your vicinity (or bullets or missiles and makes a direct hit) then o.c. is cancelled and you become visible once again. If you move too fast, the o.c. becomes less convincing to opponents and you also kick up dust clouds as you trundle along. Also, right up close, opponents can visibly tell you are there by the distortion effect caused by the o.c. The amount of o.c. and recharge time can also be heavily customised, just like everything else in the game.
There is just one thing about Phantom Crash that you may not like. There are one hell of a lot of obscure conversations that crop up. A bit like the ones in every Gundam Wing episode but instead of touching on themes of war and the noble plight of soldiers, the characters in Phantom Crash discuss computer generated pop-stars (Macross Plus anyone?), having self respect and crushes on friends. Whilst these conversations are skippable, I wouldn't recommend doing so. They simply serve to remind us how completely bonkers games that are aimed solely at a Japanese audience are and why we love them. If you feel the need to skip them, then return the game as it will not work out for you. You'll hate all the conversations that crop up, especially earlier in the game.
If you want to customise your scoobee then there are quite a lot of customisation screens you will probably need to move through, even to make minor changes. However, if you are a patient person, you'll gladly welcome these screens as they are usually full of information.
The graphics are damn nice. Whilst out of battle the characters and the backdrops are nothing to write home about, in the arena everything is gloriously portrayed. The whole ''o.c.'' takes advantage of the Xbox's power, as does all the explosions and dust clouds and particle effects. This game is nice to look at and play. I don't know the specs or the jargon, so I won't rattle them off at you. The look is nice and bright but veers towards a more realistic style of mechs. And if that sort of thing bothers you that much, no it's not cel-shaded.
Unless you find that the original Xbox controller just fit into your large hands, you'll really need a controller S for this game, especially if you're European (we have smaller hands than our American counterparts). You'll thank me. This game requires you to be able to access all the buttons and triggers instantly. Nicely enough, you can customise which button activates which feature on your Scoobee. Once you find a control layout you like, stick with it so that you can access your o.c. or jump without thinking.
This game will last for as long as you remain interested in it. If your goal is to beat it quickly, then don't bother buying this game. Sure, it's fun and exhilirating beating a new boss (and they do appear from time to time), but it is even more fun trying to create the scoobee that suits you. There is no ''super-scoobee'', just one that feels just right when you, and only you use it. Besides you will need to keep on improving your ''harmonisation'' with your scoobee if you want to advance to the more difficult leagues. Cleverly the game prevents you from equipping more and more weapons simultaneously. Add too much and the scoobee will be overloaded and will move much more slowly, making it very vulnerable. Patience is required in order to beat this game as you'll need to upgrade all areas of your scoobee, not just weapons. And if you're patient enough to do that, you won't be in any rush to complete the game.
Whilst more arenas would be appreciated (only 3 arenas each with two time settings; day and night), this game will keep you entertained for a long time. You'll leave it from time to time, in order to play the next Metroid or Halo, but you'll come back to the game once those challenges have been laid to rest. Whilst flawed, it is just as fun to play as Halo.