When I went crawling back once again to bow at the altar of the PSP, one of my main motivations was the longevity, and ultimately the frugality, of my investment. Since I'm not exactly made of money, I was to update my catalog with games that offered not only a decent length, but gameplay addictive enough to provide some decent replay value. Thankfully, with Gods Eater Burst, this seems to be the case.
Read the full review after the jump!
First things first: Gods Eater Burst is a distinctly Japanese game. As such, you'll immediately notice some familiar features: A stylish anime intro, preposterously large weapons, fantastic hair, the token little girl annoying enough to rue the day you were born, and everyone's favorite, comically large breasts concealed by none too battle-friendly attire. The game offers a decent array of options for character customizations, most of which will be immediately familiar to those that have played Monster Hunter. You can pick your outfit (more styles are available later), choose facial features, and of course pick that particular hairstyle that best defines you as a person. Starting out, you're offered a series of brief tutorials to familiarize with the gameplay. Should you forget something or need clarification about a particular topic, fear not; the database, which can be accessed from any computer terminal, offers an utterly obscene amount of information, while also allowing you to check your email.
Unlike Monster Hunter, Gods Eater Burst has a story. You and your fellow God Eaters, humanity's defense in the ravaged world in which you find yourselves, gathering resources for the remnants of civilization while waging battle against the Arigami: Monsters that mindlessly devour all living (and non-living) things, going through a sort of quasi-evolution as they take on the characteristics of their meals. Due to this trait, many of the Arigami bears a vague resemblance to something in the real world. For example, one has the appearance and mannerisms of a sort of ghastly, cancer-eaten ape (incidentally, said Aragami is a shameless copy of the primates from Monster Hunter, right down to some of its attacks), whereas another looks like a deformed, living tank. Without giving too much away, the natural fear of The Director and his crew is that the Arigami, through their ever-evolving ways, will one day develop human-like characteristics. Thus, a plan is hatched to solve the Aragami problem: creating a utopia to keep mankind safe from the scourge of the mindless horde. Needless to say, things aren't quite what they seem, and soon enough you'll find yourself in the midst of a struggle to uncover the true agenda of your employers at the Fenrir Branch -- the facility at which you and your fellow God Eaters are stationed. One might fear that in the context of a Monster Hunter style game, the story may simply be a tacked-on feature to distinguish it from its influences, and for the first few hours these fears appear to be validated. It starts out rather dull and seems to descend into the inane, but those who trudge through the initial missions will find a story that is, while nothing epic, surprisingly satisfying. While your character remains largely static throughout the course of the game (uttering not a single word of dialogue outside of the "Let's go!" battle cry during missions), the supporting cast is likable, providing enough character growth to find yourself invested in their fate. The story does have the occasional hiccups -- the ending in particular came a quite the letdown for me -- but for the most part it's a satisfying experience. In spite of my initial cynicism, I often found myself forsaking the side-quests in the interest of finding out the next twist in the storyline.
The game's voice acting isn't terribly done. It's par for the course for video games; there are some groan-worthy moments, especially from a couple of key characters, but on the whole it's serviceable -- much more than I would have expected from a portable title. Graphics look sharp -- I would immediately make the comparison to Crisis Core -- showing that despite Nintendo's next-gen wunderkind, the PSP is still no slouch. The environments are fairly well detailed; while the limited number of maps may make your quests seem repetitive, it's so much window dressing for the gameplay which, on the whole, is quite excellent. You're outfitted with a gun and a blade, each of which has three different categories. The blades come in your basic light, medium and heavy varieties, and each offers it own special attack. For example, heavy blade offers a charge-up attack, whereas the medium blade (which I used for most of the game) offers a quick shot -- think Squall's gunblade from Final Fantasy XIII. The guns offer a few different varieties; aside from the obvious (such as firing speed), each gun works best with a certain category of ammo, such as laser or explosive. Aside from a variety of damage types (such as piercing or crush), you'll be met with the familiar elemental qualities, as well as those that affect an enemy's status. The neat thing about your ammo is that it can be crafted after it has been purchased from the local vendor. I spent much of the game using shots that inflicted both elemental damage and paralysis, but you're free to craft to your heart's content. The only downside, and it's a biggie, is that crafting is far from perfect -- in fact, most of the combinations will fail because the individual elements (say, fire+poison laser) will be incompatible and cause the shot to fizzle out as soon as it leaves your gun. Thankfully you are able to preview your potential creation before committing to it -- the game's database does also offer some clues -- but it amounts to interminable bouts of trial and error that will probably cause you to stick with only a few types of custom shots, if only for the sake of convenience.
While you're free to wail on your enemy until you're blue in the face, you would be wise to use the "Burst" mechanic. Holding down the triangle button will cause a bizarre and rather hallucinogenic charge attack, in which a monstrous mouth your weapon and bites the enemy. In addition to doing damage, this causes you to enter Burst Mode for a limited time. During this, you gain quicker attacks, better recovery, and the ability to perform double-jumps, which prove extremely useful when battling taller foes. Arguably the most important feature of Gods Eater Burst's gameplay is (prepare the choir of angels) the lock-on system. On the whole it works quite well; locking on to your foe will allow you to select key body parts to attack, an extremely crucial tactic, since aside from the fact that each enemy has its own weak spot, each body part has limited armor which, once broken, allows you to deal some major damage. However, the system isn't perfect. I did run into problems when selecting a particular target, causing me to use the dreaded "claw" technique (operating the analog nub with your thumb while using the d-pad with your index finger) to shift the camera so as to lock on to the correct enemy. It's a bit annoying, but despite the problems it's a welcome addition, one that the PSP incarnations of Monster Hunter have inexplicably lacked. Gods Eater Burst features no online play (an annoying trend with PSP games) but you AI companions are more than formidable in a tough fight. In fact, they're a bit too formidable. Far and away my biggest complaint with God Eater is that it's simply not all that challenging. Monster Hunter arguably took the difficulty level to an obnoxious extreme, but for those of us who were able to weather the dazzling array of misery sure to befall one upon meeting a new foe, the payoff more than made up for the frustration. You would have to learn the habits of this new, daunting enemy, study its habits, and adapt your tactics accordingly. Ultimately, if you failed it was either because of the ignorance or, often times, it was simply your fault. Gods Eater Burst lacks this approach; if for whatever reason you find yourself unconscious on your back in some god-forsaken hellscape, one of your three allies can simply revive you. Failing this -- should all four of you run out of HP -- you're given multiple respawns before the mission is aborted. It may make the game more accessible, but I found that it heavily detracted from the frantic sense of urgency that games like Monster Hunter have done so well.
Gods Eater Burst probably isn't one of those games that's going to stand out in your memory, but it's well-conceived gameplay and sheer length makes it a good but for PSP owners. The gameplay and general structure of the game might initially cause you to declare it little more than a Monster Hunter clone -- comparisons are inevitable, and definitely warranted -- but give it some time and you'll be rewarded with a game that, despite some criticisms, is an enjoyable experience. Like Monster Hunter it's a grind-fest through and through, and thus will find its main appeal with those of us in the OCD crowd who are quite content to engage in mission after mission, slaying monsters, upgrading weapons in order to tackle larger monsters, further upgrading weapons, and etc. into absurdity. Simply put, if your into this genre, it's a worthwhile investment. Gameplay is addictive, the story is enough to give you the motivation to press forward, and chances are it will be one of those games that will pop back into your PSP from time to time when you get the itch to slay something giant.
The reviewer completed the game in roughly 40 hours, playing the main story as well as most side-quests.