Replay Value: 7.8
It's obvious that mech games are going to be through the roof in this new generation of console gaming. With the power of the PS2, developers will now be able to utilize the system's technology to create robots on how we would visualize them in our minds. Mechwarrior was among the first wave of mech-bot games to hit the PC back in the mid-90s, the game was a first person based game with some very deep gameplay, that didn't only consist of fragging the life out of an enemy bot. While no games were really released on consoles that shared the caliber of Mechwarrior games, Game Arts commitment to the Sega Saturn made it release a great first person mech game in vain of the Mechwarrior series, and this game was called Gun Griffon. The game was never released in the US but made it to Japan where the Saturn was still alive and well kicking, it's safe to say that Virtua On is actually the only game in the nature of Gun Griffon that blended first person action with robots and a deep overall atmosphere. With the recent release of Virtua On 2 for Dreamcast, future PS2 fans were hoping that a game like Virtua On would be released for the new wonder, and Game Arts has come through for us, with their US sequel to the Japanese game Gun Griffon, entitled Gun Griffon Blaze. Under the publishing of Working Designs and development of Game Arts, see how the PS2's second mech game fares against the veteran Armored Core 2.
On a visual standpoint I would have to say that it's a coin toss between the two games. AC2 has got sweet textures and great looking bots, but very limited areas, while Gun Griffon has huge environments with nice looking mechs and marvelous looking textures. But if I would pick one I would go with Gun Griffon Blaze for a few reasons. Although GGB dosn't let you see your own bot, since you are after all in a first person view, but besides that fact GGB's bots are still superbly detailed with great looking body parts, the bots are different sized, you've got little weak bots and then you have those large and intimidating bots. Overall the detail is killer from head to robotic toe. Then we arrive at the atmospheres and environments, the structures are nicely polished and are very smooth thanks to the game's use of anti-aliasing. The areas are huge, far bigger than anything you'll ever see in AC2, the reason for that is because you've got hundreds of enemies and enemy objects to destroy through one vast area. There are some sweet looking areas with mountains, trees and other sweet looking structures to behold. Special effects may not be Star Wars, but they are something nice though, the explosions, gun fire lighting and enemy fire looks just so pretty, this is definitely next-gen material. I would pick GGB's visuals over AC2's.
It's a hard choice between picking AC2, Virtua On, or Gun Griffon, but I'll stray away from talking much about Virtua On, seeing how it's a Sega game. First of all GGB is less deep than Armored Core 2, you can't buy parts and upgrades for your bots like you can in AC2. Instead you need to unlock them by playing the game for a good amount of time, you've got different crafts to choose from such as Tanks, Bots and even air planes. After you're done picking a mech for your journey you'll be asked what kind of guns and other equipment would you like to use along with your bot, and of course the usual selections such as gatling guns, shotguns and explosives made the list along with many other weapons. Also there will be numbers that indicate how much power your mech will gain from the selected weapon. Just remember when your screen becomes snowy, that means that your mech is slowing being destroyed and its circuits are out of place, real huh? Sadly though I wish Gun Griffon Blaze was a bit longer, there are just six missions in the Story mode, all with their individual difficulty settings, so with this little slip up, that hampers the gameplay and replay value scores, but not drastically since the game is incredibly fun, and has a neat package too. What really makes me prefer Griffon's gameplay over AC's gameplay is the way the controls are set up, they are unlike any other mech game or PS2 game out there, and anybody who has played most of the PS2 games will agree with me that the way the controls were done, were very clever and really make the game's gameplay that much more enjoyable. I would definitely go with Gun Griffon in the gameplay, the action is just more smooth and smarter done.
With a drop of some top notch voice acting occurring while battles proceed, Game Arts also included an enjoyable and not too repetitive soundtrack with a great variety of techno/rock beats, which I really appreciate. The military feel is really brought out with the game's voices and I salute Game Arts for a job well done here. But I'm afraid that the sound would have to go to Armored Core 2 since there is just so much more voice acting -seeing how it's on DVD format and all-, and the sounds aren't bad, but the slight edge goes to AC2.
Here is what makes GGB such an enjoyable experience from start to finish, the sleek and well though out controls make use of the PS2's Dual Shock 2 controller down to the right analog stick. The left stick is used for moving the screen and for aiming at objects, while the right is used for movement around the environment. Sounds too complicated? Try it and it'll fit you like a glove and not like OJ's glove, but you will really grow and get used to the layout, it just makes the game much more pleasing to play, sorry about the pun by the way. The Dual Shock works great and the sensitivity in the analog sticks is top notch, Game Arts big kudos to you guys.
In the end not only is Gun Griffon Blaze the best console mech shooter out there, but the best mech game since MechWarrior 3 for PC. The simulation like gameplay really makes Griffon an exciting game as soon as the disc is inserted into the PS2, the game may not be long but you'll be coming back to it quite often, just too bad there's no two player mode, that would have really shot the gameplay up. The graphics are superb, with a good attention to detail and the frame rates run at an ideal 60, so there is absolutely nothing to complain about. Fans of games such as Virtua On, MechWarrior and maybe even Armored Core, should really consider checking out Gun Griffon Blaze, it may not be the longest mech game, but it sure is the best so far.