Ring of Red Review
In the long line of strategy games, they have always been released on the PC. If you wanted to pick up an excellent strategy title, you would be forced to turn to a PC in order to fulfill your desire. But in this day and age, as our technology progresses every so rapidly, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. First day on the job (the PS2), gamers were able to pick up a copy of Kessen for Playstation 2, and not only enjoy some of the best looking strategy game visuals to be found, but also some of the most innovating gameplay. More and more PC developers are pursuing console development, because they are aware that videogaming technology has finally caught up to PCs, and in many cases surpassing. One example would be the port of Theme Park Rollercoaster, BullFrog's incredibly bright and wonderfully entertaining theme-park creator made an excellent PS2 game, and proved that a console is well worthy of a strategy title. Now we have Konami, they've been with the PS2 since day one, releasing games like Silent Scope, Gradius III & IV, ESPN X-Games Snowboarding, ESPN Track & Field, Shadow of Destiny (Memories), ESPN NBA 2Night, ESPN National Hockey Night, just recently the amazing release of ZOE, and just before that, a strategy game for the PS2. Ring of Red is what certainly is the best console strategy game I have ever played. Continue to read the full review and find out why.
Ring of Red may not be a visual demographic for the PS2, but it certainly gets the job done very well. The game has a very plain board-game like interface, and a Final Fantasy Tactics like chart table where you will move the highlighted character anywhere within his range of movement. The battle map of the of game is fairly simple, it just features miniature models of the in-game mechs that you will be using in the battles, and you will have a choice of turning the squared surface on or off. The environments during the battles aren't exactly what were used to seeing from the PS2, with games like The Bouncer and ZOE in the vain of the PS2, but Ring of Red's backgrounds still look good and fare quite well in my book. Throughout the game the setting will change from, day, afternoon and night time. To make this evolving feature come alive, Konami has made the sun rotate between the day and afternoon settings, while at night the sky is dark and the atmosphere looks great. Another feature is the changing environments, in one battle you can be fighting in a field that is mostly sand or gravel, with a tree here and there. On another occasion you may encounter and find yourself in a town or village of some sort, all dismantled, with debris from demolition on the asphalt. Ring of Red may not "wow" you in its environments, but I still appreciate the well done effort that Konami put in.
Of course this being a mech-fighter and all, I have to tell you all that the mechs look absolutely great. They are huge, and I mean huge, they literally take up the whole screen, and who knows how many polygons they take up. My firm estimate, and I know I do this a lot, would be approximately 6,500-7,000 polygons per main mech, while the enemy mechs may feature roughly 4,500-5,500 polygons. The mechs move just like a real mech would, slow and stumpy but at times agile and reflexive. Take a look at the screenshots of these mechs and see decide for yourself. Now along with the mechs, you have human troops that will help you out in your combat, and believe it or not, they're quite useful. The human troops look average for the most part, probably something along the lines of the best character model on a PSOne game, which would be about 600 polygons. Overall Ring of Red's huge mechs and changing environments really do help out the visuals, and this is a solid 8.5.
While it does take sometime to get used to, Ring of Red is easily the best console strategy game since Final Fantasy Tactics. It's hard to describe Ring of Red since it plays nothing like any other strategy game I've played, the action is unique and so is the general interface of the game. Believe it or not, Ring of Red actually has a very deep story that's part fictional and part non-fictional. You see, the game takes place during 1964, I believe shortly before the Vietnam War began. But instead of just fighting the wars with humans, mechs were put into action as well. Which just makes this game more desirable than it already is. Japan is still split into two, Communist and Democratic, so there was still a lot of feuding going around. And this is where Ring of Red comes in. A mech was stolen by a communist soldier who stealthily infiltrated the mech base of Southern Japan (Democratic) and stole the most powerful mech called the Type-3. You will be forced to go after the mech and the tactical action begins here.
As you enter the field map, the game will then explain to you that walking over a building will give you possession of it and you will recruit any soldiers inside for your advantage. To enter a battle either the enemy or you has to approach the target and confirm an "attack" operation. Once this is done you will then have to assign the positions that you want your troops to take. You can select a 'ground' placement or a 'crew' placement. If you choose 'crew' then the selected group of troops will be on top of your mech providing assistance and even aid it. The ones you didn't choose to be 'crew' will assume 'ground' and you can order them to either move up and take action, or to retreat and avoid fire. As you progress through Ring of Red, you will become more stable with the game, you will acquire EXP points that will grant you level ups, you will learn new MAX attack moves, and improve your machine in general. In order to attack an enemy you have to wait for your attack gauge to reach full capacity and then press X. Your mech will assume position and a scope-like view will appear on the screen, it will tilt around on the screen, so you have no control over it. You have to wait until the percentile mark reaches at least 60% until you can be sure that the shot is more accurate, every 10% after 60, the scope will zoom in more and more until it reaches 99.9%.
Ring of Red isn't only one of the most innovative strategy RPGs out there, but its 50 hours of gameplay makes it the longest for sure. When on the scene of approaching action, you will have to control 4 different mechs, but only one can go into battle. You will assume the role of Masami Von Weizegger, who is the game's main character, Ryoko Minakawa, John Caster and Kenichi Kinasato. Each character has his own background, and it would be too lengthy to describe it all, but because of the deep character development, ROR gets extra points. Before you enter a map, you will be given a mission briefing in text, at the end you will be told when the mission must be completed, if the mission goes over the requirement it's game over. If the leader of the squad (Weizegger) is killed it's game over as well. Now I must also mention that each mech is different looking than the other mechs. Weizegger's mech is a Standard AFW, Ryoko has a Light AWF, John Caster has a big beast which is a 4-Leg AFW, and Kenichi has an Anti-AFW. I honestly cannot complain about a single aspect in the gameplay of Ring of Red. Its true strategy gameplay mixed with true events of the 1960's certainly make it the best console RPG to date.
I would have definitely given Ring of Red a perfect 10 for sound if Konami had included voice acting in the game. To be honest, voice acting is literally the only thing missing from this game's overall package. Every time I'm about to get a briefing or a conversation starts, I get ready for voice acting but then remember that Konami hadn't put in any, sadly. Besides the voice acting issue, I must say that the soundtrack is fantastic, not since Final Fantasy VII have I heard tunes as memorable as those in Ring of Red. Konami has truly triumphed with the soundtrack and I praise them, in a game such as ROR, a soundtrack is key to enjoying the game even more. The sound effects such as gun-fire and explosions sound great, Konami's audio department has certainly done the job well, but overlooking voice acting cost Ring of Red a perfect 10 in sound an a mid 9 in overall.
The control is not an issue at all! This very limited movement is involved, you'll hardly find yourself using the analog stick to move your mech around. So getting used to controls takes absolutely no time at all, which just makes this game even smoother playing and relieves any worries of troublesome controls. The Dual Shock responds properly to minor damage to mid-damage and to crucial damage, the controller really lets you feel it. Your mech will not always be stationary, you can move your mech up and down by pulling the lever, using the analog stick, up or down. I'll say it again, there's really nothing to the controls and judging by the nine and a half I gave the grade you should be well aware.
After playing Ring of Red for countless hours and even breaking sweats at times, I will safely say and go on record to tell you folks that Ring of Red is the best console strategy game to date, it can even compete with the big boys on the PC such as the recently released and highly anticipated Black & White title. Ring of Red's visual state may not be screaming with flash but it still holds up well, well enough to be referred as a PS2 title. The action is some of the most satisfying I've experienced in years, not since Final Fantasy Tactics have I enjoyed a strategy RPG as much as I did Ring of Red. Fellow PS2 owners I urge you to purchase a copy of ROR, rent it if you are a casual gamer or buy it if you are a hardcore gamer or strategy gamer. A purchase of Ring of Red will not be regretful.
4/18/2001 Arnold Katayev