Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: April 17, 2007
With the inception of the Gundam series, the more realistic giant robot, or mech, became a staple of Japanese entertainment, and although that was well and good for a while, viewers eventually grew tired of the politically salient mech diet. That's when Neon Genesis Evangelion stepped in. Without a doubt, NGE contained 100% of the robo-battling action needed in a good diet, but it washed down those battles with a healthy dose of psychological drama. That innovation birthed the "high-brow" mech anime sub-genre, of which Eureka Seven is a part. Eureka Seven Vol. 2: The New Vision is based on the Eureka Seven anime, but sadly, that's where the similarities end. Whereas Eureka Seven is a thought-provoking, character-driven work of art, Eureka Seven Vol. 2: The New Vision for the PS2 is an obvious cash-in that hardly works.
My description of Eureka Seven as "character-driven" wasn't without reason. The series' opening 15 episodes hardly focus on a central plot at all; instead, it takes its time to flesh out each member of the Gekkostate crew in entertaining and often hilarious ways. ESV2, then, is less like the series upon which it's based and more like a grave robber that took only one Gekkostate crew member and zero character development before hastily retreating from the scene. As far as I can tell, that crew member, Moondoggie, was sloppily neutered and tossed into a bad fan fiction — or at least, that's the impression that you get from ESV2's plot.
Apparently, ESV2's incredibly flat lead, Sumner, was responsible for providing the Gekkostate crew with a very important mech in the prequel (thus the connection with Moondoggie), but the game doesn't let you in on anything like that. In fact, if you didn't play the prequel, you have one extra reason to avoid this title.
The plot goes something like this: Sumner has taken up professional lifting (an extreme sport involving hoverboards) to drown the sorrows caused by events in the preceding game, Eureka Seven Vol. 1: The New Wave. After an arduously simplistic race, he wins a sparkly new LFO (read: giant robot), and his real adventure begins. Before long, Sumner's old pal Moondoggie appears out of nowhere, and they fight a bunch of other robots. "Out of nowhere" is a recurring trend in ESV2; at one point, you're forced to battle almost every enemy you've faced in the game as well as some new ones and a Gundam, while the plot struggles to justify their presence. Later on, Sumner's old love interest appears — again, out of nowhere, and for no apparent reason — and, without knowing why, you slaughter a bunch of military men for her. As you've probably inferred, the plot has a bad habit of keeping you in the dark.
So the plot is completely absurd, but hey, a nice presentation could mend a few wounds, right? In theory, yes, but you won't find one here. Menus look cheap, and the graphics are atrocious. As a result of the aforementioned grave-robbing, the anime's art style is absent. Even worse, those generic, non cel-shaded anime graphics are plagued with slowdown. Sumner's life slows to a crawl when he gazes upon more than three of his equally bland counterparts; such an error can most likely be attributed to sloppy programming. Keeping in line with that trend, the game's score sounds like it was created by a first-time synth-board user, while the voiceovers will give you flashbacks of old Godzilla flicks.
Now, if you're considering an anime-based game, odds are you're doing it for the story, and gameplay is secondary. ESV2 follows this rule of thumb — right off a cliff. Gameplay is broken up into four chunks: grounded mech combat, air-based mech combat, grounded human combat, and air-based human ref board races.
Have you ever watched Rollerbladers careening off ramps and thought, "Hey, I wish those guys would start hitting each other repeatedly"? Well, give them some heavy artillery, and you've got ESV2's grounded mech combat. It's not abjectly unplayable or anything; it just looks silly and is broken. If you want, you can sit back and laser blast your enemies to death; their bots are apparently so structurally incompetent that a weak projectile will cause them to stumble for the time you need to deliver a finishing blow.
Air-based mech combat fares slightly better. Really, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that it's the best part of the game. It's sort of like Zone of the Enders, but with surfboards and tedium. See, in ZOE, you engaged enemies quickly and precisely, but in ESV2, you perform the role of a near-harmless house fly, circling your enemy ad nauseam and occasionally chipping away at their health. Then you repeat that process on multiple LFOs while their friends take cheap shots at your unguarded body, and if you die, you replay the entire level. Padded-out gameplay, meet your new king. Egregious as those issues are, however, flying around in a giant robot is undeniably amusing, and on some level, fun. That's something, at least.
If flying around in an LFO is the best part of the game, out-of-LFO combat is the worst. It's like watching a schoolyard fight where two kids fall awkwardly to the ground instead of duking it out, only in slow motion. Tip: mash the attack button, and you'll win. There are a few guns available as well, but they completely ruin the schoolyard spirit while failing to enhance the fun factor. Guns aim terribly and only cause appreciable damage when in the hands of an enemy. It's as if the developers knew their AI was terrible, so they had to toss in some kind of equalizing factor. Again, it's disappointingly amateurish.
Ref board races are equally bare bones as mech-less combat, but in a different way. Basically, racing boils down to steering Sumner around bland courses while pressing and releasing the boost button. In order to stay true to the anime, no items or weapons can be used in races; unfortunately, the incredibly elastic rubber-band AI has no such excuse.
Do not buy Eureka Seven Vol. 2: The New Vision. Even if you're a Eureka nut, your time would be better spent re-watching the anime. Aside from flight that's entertaining for about 10 minutes, ESV2 has few redeeming qualities. It's quite disheartening, too; just as I was beginning to think licensed games were experiencing a renaissance, ESV2 came along and lowered my expectations to an appropriate level.
More articles about Eureka Seven Vol. 2: The New Vision