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Well, after ten long months of hints and teases, it’s official: God Eater 2: Rage Burst has been announced for a Western release (literally less than a week after I imported it, not that I’m bitter), courtesy of Bandai Namco (Namco Bandai in the US, but I’m just going to use Bandai Namco for simplicity) themselves (EDIT: We now have an official release date; see below for details). This was by no means the only game they announced, of course; in addition to this announcement, they also graced us with an announcement for Tales of Berseria, a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure game dubbed Eyes of Heaven, an internally developed Mobile Suit Gundam game dubbed Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs-Force, and another God Eater game, dubbed Resurrection, so it was a pretty stacked announcement all around. While each of those games is, in its own right, worthy of some degree of unpacking, Sean, Crystal and DTN are our resident Tales experts, Joel and Aaron would be better equipped to discuss a JoJo’s game, and Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs-Force literally came out less than a week ago in Japan, so there’s not a lot to talk about yet. However, being that I have been eagerly awaiting this announcement since the second game released in February of this year, I am all about telling you, in great detail, why this is a really big deal, and why you should be putting in your pre-order pretty much the moment you stop reading this article.
So let’s get down to business.
Okay, so what is God Eater? Explain it to me like I’m five.
Well if you’re five you shouldn’t be playing the games, but okay, I’ll give it a shot.
When Monster Hunter came out back in 2004, the response in the US was decidedly lukewarm amongst all but a small subset of fans, though as we continued to see more and more games in the series dribble out, most of them native to the PSP, the response over here slowly improved. Japan had no such reaction; at some point between the launch of the original game and the PSP releases, the reaction by the fanbase was nothing short of magical, and Monster Hunter became a major player for Capcom in Japan, to the point where we’ve seen maybe half of the releases in the series Stateside overall. Suffice it to say, when you get beyond a certain level of popularity, other companies want to make their own version of that successful thing done their way, so in short order Japan saw all kinds of Monster Hunter inspired games (dubbed the “hunting action” genre in Japan, apparently), including Soul Sacrifice, Freedom Wars, Toukiden, Ragnarok Odyssey, Lord of Arcana and even Phantasy Star Nova to a certain extent, even though that series probably inspired Monster Hunter more than Capcom would care to admit. Among the earliest of those games to come to the US was a surprisingly under-represented title dubbed Gods Eater Burst, brought to the US PSP in 2011 by D3 Publisher, back when they were releasing crazy console games instead of mobile phone games, and it drew a small amount of attention for being, basically, one of the very few US released Monster Hunter inspired games of its time.
Wait, so why didn’t Bandai Namco release it in the US?
Well technically, they did; Bandai Namco bought a controlling share of D3 Publisher back in 2009, essentially taking the company over, and at this point owns somewhere around all of the company’s stock. As to why they didn’t release it under their own banner, well, that’s a little more complicated and beyond my knowledge, but it’s not hard to guess: until the past couple of years, Bandai Namco wasn’t really investing a lot of effort into bringing their in-house developed anime-inspired games to the US marketplace, because we hadn’t been buying them, and it wasn’t until fairly recently that this market massively opened up for the company. At the time, it was easier to release games based on existing franchises (Ridge Racer, Pac-Man, Tekken, Soul Calibur) alongside Gundam, Naruto and One Piece games, along with the odd Tales title to keep that particular fanbase happy, because that was much less of a risk than launching a whole new IP on the PSP, which is… not the most well received handheld in US history, shall we say.
There’s also the matter of Monster Hunter more or less being exclusive to Nintendo platforms at this point for whatever reason, leaving a fairly large gap to be filled by whoever is most interested into stepping into that role, and with the Toukiden series doing fairly well by all indications, Bandai Namco might as well take a crack at it. At the time, though, Monster Hunter Freedom was all over the PSP in the US, and Gods Eater Burst and its ilk had a lot more competition against them because of it than they do now. It also doesn’t hurt that the PS4 is the leader in the current generation, installed user base-wise, so even if the Vita version doesn’t do gangbusters, the PS4 version might.
Okay, fine, so it’s a Monster Hunter clone then?
Well, sort of, but not exactly; the best way to describe God Eater as a series is “Monster Hunter for people who like the idea of Monster Hunter, but not the actual experience.”
That sounds… weird.
It is. This gets a little involved, but try to stay with me, I promise it’ll make sense.
The main appeal of Monster Hunter as a concept is pretty simple: you small person, they big monster, you slay monster and make stuff out of their parts. It’s a Skinner Box style power fantasy built onto a framework based around ruining giant monsters, and as an idea it’s really awesome. As a game, however, it’s very much the sort of experience that is not for everyone; between the challenging difficulty, the heavy grinding needed to get the parts for new gear, the time-consuming nature of gathering and fighting and the very precise mechanics the game utilizes, Monster Hunter as a series can be… oppressive for new players, and I know more than a few players who are completely turned off on the series because of it. Capcom has added in concessions to those sorts of players over the years beyond the online component, including the Cha-Cha and Palico companions, free zones for gathering and random monster hunting, and so on, but the reality is, Monster Hunter is a Souls level experience, where you either learn the game or hit a wall eventually, and it’s really not for everyone. I love the franchise, but I also know a lot of people who don’t, or are tired of what it does, or just outright suck at it, but love the idea of it, and in the same way some players wish there were an Easy mode on various Souls games, they wish there was an Easy mode on Monster Hunter.
God Eater, as a franchise, is going to be the game that gives them this thing, to a certain extent.
Now, I do want to note that while God Eater in general, and God Eater 2: Rage Burst in specific, are easier than Monster Hunter, they aren’t easy in the strictest sense. The games use the same basic concept of the genre, IE hunting down giant monsters with weapons, but it’s how they do it that makes the difference. God Eater generally allows you to go into battle with a full complement of fully loaded allies who are (usually) as buffed out as you are, and are often capable of performing basic functions when needed; for example, allies with healing options will generally heal you when you hit below a certain threshold, while allies with buffs will use them routinely in battle as needed. Grinding is much less of a concern; while there are some cases where rare items are needed to craft a thing, often you can get all the crafting items you need in one or two runs against a particular monster without it being a huge RNG hellscape, so you won’t be left swearing into a pillow after the tenth time you didn’t get a specific drop. Also, the game in general makes crafting and its benefits a lot easier to understand, meaning that you won’t feel overwhelmed trying to understand the skill system or what benefits you’ll want in battle; in other words, it’s much better about easing you into character improvement, so you won’t need to consult a wiki or Gamefaqs constantly to understand what you’re missing. That said, if you want a challenge, it’s certainly there for you; you can choose to remove your allies from many battles altogether if you’d rather test your skills, and plenty of mid-to-late game monsters are more than capable of putting a hurt on you even with a full party, so it’s by no means a cakewalk.
So is it better or worse than Monster Hunter?
Honestly, it’s not really either; it’s not so much better or worse as it is a different animal with similar component parts. The core concepts are the same but there’s a lot that’s different here.
Okay, so what else is really different from Monster Hunter?
Probably the most significant change is that there’s an actual, significant plot, featuring developed characters and a fairly robust world. Monster Hunter has a world all its own, but ninety percent of the plots in the series amount to “X monster is going to attack us eventually, you better get stronger so you can kill it!” which is… the opposite of robust. The God Eater universe, on the other hand, establishes itself in a world that feels distinctly like the universe of Attack on Titan before that series existed; it takes place in a ruined future Earth where monsters, dubbed Aragami, have mutated into the world’s top predator, and humanity lives in specific cities, fending the Aragami off as best they can. You can’t just take up arms to do so, of course; characters who are compatible with special Aragami fighting weapons, dubbed God Arcs, are given the role of God Eater and sent out into the world to fight the Aragami, to protect the world, upgrade their God Arcs, and so on. This is a fairly important part of both games, as your created protagonist interacts with their squad members as well as various important NPCs in the facility you work from, and the game puts a decent amount of weight on those interactions. In other words, there’s an actual plot to both games, as characters go through actual plot developments during the course of the games, and you’ll be directly involved in their lives and how their storylines progress.
There’s also the matter of the God Arcs themselves to discuss. In the majority of Hunting Action games, you’re given a series of weapons you can select from, of which a small variety are ranged weapons; for example, Monster Hunter has two bowguns and a bow and arrow, while Toukiden: Kiwami offers bows and rifles. God Eater instead opts to give the protagonist (and various NPCs depending on the version you’re playing) the ability to transform their God Arc between a melee weapon and a gun as needed, so they can act as both a melee and ranged fighter as the battle dictates. Swapping is easy, and one of the more involved mechanics in the game is that of building specialized ammunition tailored to your needs at the moment, as while melee weapons are set in their elemental affinities (if they have any), you can swap between different equipped bullets more or less on the fly, so you can exploit an enemy weakness easily if needed. The downside is that you only have a small amount of bullets available at any one time, but you can replenish bullets easily enough through damaging Aragami via conventional methods. Oh, and the God Eater name isn’t just for show; your God Arcs also act as consumption tools, meaning you can summon a ghoulish monster mouth from within the weapon itself to bite into Aragami, dubbed Devouring, harvesting resources from the dead and dealing extra damage to the living on top of boosting your abilities if you can pull it off.
There are other notable distinctions aside from the above, as well. Zones are set to one location of medium to very large size, so you don’t have to deal with zone loading during hunts, and Aragami only respawn if the mission dictates it, meaning that you won’t have to constantly worry about smaller Aragami ruining your battle plans unless the mission is set up as such on purpose. The game also has more of an emphasis on visual style of the player over Monster Hunter, so you can equip clothing rather than armor, which changes your visual aesthetic to your tastes, while also customizing other elements to dictate your survivability. From a combat perspective, there’s also a lot of depth here beyond the core “smack/shoot Aragami until dead” concept, as you can customize your bullets to have special effects, like homing or status ailments, and there are seven different elements to consider on all weapons, between damage type (Sunder, Crush and Pierce) and element type (fire, earth and so on). The game also gives you a shield at all times in case you want to block damage instead of dodging it, as well as Control units that add on additional perks, and each piece of gear you get has its own special skills built inherently into the device for even more perks in combat as needed. Oh, and the games all support online play with up to three friends if you’re so inclined, as well as DLC missions and such, so really, fans of the genre will more or less be at home here even with all the changes to the mechanics they’ve come to love.
So if I’m new to the series, should I purchase Gods Eater Burst?
Probably not. If you have played it already, it’ll be helpful, but honestly, the game feels a bit archaic to play at this point due to the limitations of the PSP versus what it was trying to do for its time, and while it’s still enjoyable, it’s not a good first impression four years removed from release. Also, doing so is going to be a bit onerous at this point; while it was available on PSN for some time, it was pulled from sale sometime this year, so your only option to play it now is going to be playing it on a PSP with a physical UMD unless you know someone who has a digital copy you can visit. That said, this isn’t a big problem for a few reasons. For one thing, if you just want a basic understanding of the plot, you can watch the God Eater anime online to get a decent idea of the events of the first game, and if you want to play through it, God Eater Resurrection is a Vita/PS4 remake of the first game anyway, featuring updated visuals and the weaponry options from God Eater 2: Rage Burst. There’s also a “Predator” system in Resurrection that allows you to use the Devour function more quickly and even in the air.
So wait, Resurrection is a remake of the first game? So if I’ve never played a game in the series I can just play that, right?
Yup! I suspect Bandai Namco did this thing because the franchise had a popularity spike in Japan after the release of the second game, complete with an anime series, and they wanted to capitalize on that with a game on current tech rather than the five year old PSP game, but either way, it means newcomers can catch up pretty quickly just by playing that.
So let’s say I did play the first game; what’s new in Rage Burst?
Oh, lots. The visual improvement is extensive, for one thing; the original game was perfectly fine on the PSP but is clearly outclassed at this point, while Rage Burst looks absolutely top-tier for a Vita game, which makes the whole experience better. As a PS4 title, on the other hand, it’s still pretty solid looking, and while you can clearly tell it’s an upscaled Vita port, it looks nice enough that even if you don’t have a Vita or Playstation TV, it’s worth considering. Beyond that, though, the game has a lot of interesting mechanical improvements over its predecessor that not only improve the experience, but also kind of cement it as a “must have” in its genre. The weaponry selection has improved a bit, offering players three new melee weapons and a new gun type to play around with, plus a larger variety of upgrades to choose from, so you’ll have a lot of weapons to pick from when fighting. You can also select support allies to assist you during battle, which impart additional bonus effects to your team in battle depending on who you pick and what their skills offer, so you can customize your support options depending on the Aragami you’re facing more or less at your leisure (to a point, as there’s a set point count involved). There are also a good deal more Aragami to face down that don’t appear in the first game, and the game does a good job of sprinkling them throughout the campaign so you won’t have to wait until the late game to see them. The game also features all new maps to do battle in, so you won’t be seeing environments from the first game exclusively; rather, you’ll see a mix of old and new battle zones to play in, so there’s some added variety to how combat works. Finally, the cast of this game is almost entirely new, and while there are some returning cast members (most of the main cast, actually, sans Sakuya and the protagonist), there are also a lot of new cast members to play along-side. Best of all, they’re all New Type God Arc users, so they have both guns and melee to work with.
There are also several important new mechanics to be aware of when you’re playing that make the game much more interesting than it used to be. For one thing, there are now Blood Arts and Blood Bullets to contend with to upgrade your already formidable arsenal. Blood Bullets add new and interesting effects to existing bullet types, giving you plenty of new damage and effect options for modifying your shots. Blood Arts, on the other hand, are skills that are unlocked early on in the campaign and essentially allow your character added damage abilities, such as Oracle Damage (basically anti-Aragami damage), elemental boosts and so on, and they level up during missions as you do damage in combat. At the end of every mission, you’ll also be rewarded with two special gifts on top of the normal rewards, in Personal Abilities and Skill Installs. Personal Abilities allow you to bestow buffs to your allies and purchase them new skills that improve their performance in battle in various ways. Skill Installs, on the other hand, are special skills that can be imbued into your gear for added effects, so you can improve your performance in battle. Best of all, you can even collect lots of lower level Skill Installs and fuse them together to create more powerful Skill Installs if you don’t like what you have already. Finally, as a special addition to the Rage Burst version of the game, you get the skill of the same name, which essentially works as you’d expect: when activated, it sends you into a Rage state, allowing you greater damage, damage immunity, infinite bullets and more, but only for about thirty seconds. It’s not a skill you’ll be seeing a lot of, but it’s fun to play with when you have the chance, and it’s a nice novelty for late-game play.
Okay, Rage Burst sounds neat, but if I’ve played the first game, why would I play Resurrection?
That one’s kind of iffy. Obviously, if you haven’t played the first game, Resurrection is a great game to get you into the storyline good and proper, and if I’m being honest, I’d sooner see Bandai Namco release Resurrection first, ideally with a one or two month delay, before Rage Burst so that the games don’t have to compete with each other. That said, I played around with the JP demo a bit, and the game functionally feels like Rage Burst more than it does the original, so if you want to acclimate yourself to the series, Resurrection isn’t a bad place to start. Further, it adds in some mechanics from Rage Burst that the original game didn’t have, such as Personal Abilities, the full weapon selection options and more, as well as the Predator mechanics discussed above, so it’s got a lot more meat than the original, as well as a whole new mechanic you won’t see anywhere else. The game also gets some bonus story content at the end of the game to tie it into the events of the second, as well as some upgrades to the Aragami, so you won’t quite be fighting the same Aragami from the original game or Rage Burst, though the demo doesn’t give you access to so much that I could tell you if there’s a significant difference or not.
All told, from playing around with the demo a good bit, honestly, there are good and bad points to playing through Resurrection. It’ll fill you in on the story of the series from start to finish, so even if you did play the original release, this will likely have both a more complete plot to offer and more of it due to the additions announced for the plot overall. I also found that Resurrection feels like its pace is a bit more acclimated to easing into things, in that it pairs you off with your teammates slowly to get you used to things (similar to how Monster Hunter does business) and has a more reasonable pace to its story than Rage Burst, so unless you’ve played through the original recently it’ll probably be better to work with Resurrection first before getting into blood rain and Ciel dragging you into battle alone constantly. On the other hand, Rage Burst feels a little better in battle, partly because it offers a full tutorial instead of multiple missions to encourage play growth, and partly because everyone is a New Type God Arc user, and you’re more likely to have multiple healers on-staff to work with who’ll keep you alive when you’re getting into a hairy battle. Resurrection, in comparison, only offers you Sakuya until Alisa shows up, and Sakuya is inconsistent as all get out when it comes to regular heals on her own. It’s not a major problem, and in the end I still feel like it’s worth playing Resurrection if you’ve played the original, but it’s not mandatory.
Anything else I should know?
Well, the first thing I should put out there, as we’ve mentioned the games are going to be released on both PS4 and Vita, is how the compatibility works between consoles and games. So, from what I’ve been able to research, both the Vita and PS4 games will feature Cross Play support, meaning you’ll be able to swap saves between games if you have both systems and want to take the game with you on the go and play it locally. Further, both games can be played online together, meaning that PS4 and Vita players can play the game online with each other, so if you have one and your friend has another you’re still good to go. Also, the game fully supports the PSTV, so if that’s your only option, don’t worry, you can still play the game normally, online and off, with no problems whatsoever. Beyond that, the only other things of note worth mentioning are that we don’t have a concrete release date for either game at this time (though if Bandai Namco is listening, Resurrection should really come out first), and both games will be releases in the US entirely in dubbed form, so those hoping for subtitles will be out of luck. I expect the dubbing will probably be pretty good, since the Tales series has shown there’s a distinct degree of care invested in getting good voice casts for Bandai Namco games, so honestly, I wouldn’t expect a dub at the level of Chaos Wars so much as one at the level consistent with the publisher’s other works.
That said, while I know this comes across as a bit “I love this game and you should too,” there’s a reason for that: while I can’t confidently review the game due to not understanding the plot, I’ve played more than enough of Rage Burst and the Resurrection demo combined to say, these are both good games, and unless the story is somehow absolutely atrocious (and in the case of Resurrection I can guarantee it isn’t) that opinion isn’t going to change. I’m open about being a fan of the Hunting Action genre, and I try to enjoy every game we get from the genre, but honestly, of the games in the genre that we’ve received so far, this may well be the very best one to come out that isn’t Monster Hunter, and I say that as someone who enjoys Toukiden and Freedom Wars a good amount. It’s accessible enough that someone who finds Monster Hunter too onerous can still enjoy it, but polished and refined enough that it’s arguably best in show when compared to any other game in the genre, and the fact is, if you’re at all a fan of the genre, that should make you very excited.
Bottom line: God Eater: Resurrection and God Eater 2: Rage Burst will be arriving sometime in the summer of 2016, and if you’re at all a fan of the genre, or you’re not but you could be, you should mark that on your calendar. As more details become available, we’ll keep you posted, and hopefully the games will be out sooner rather than later.
(EDIT: we now have official release dates: Resurrection will be coming to the US on June 28th for PS4 and Vita, while Rage Burst will be coming out on August 30th. BOTH games will be arriving August 30th for PC. You’ll also have the ability to get DLC costumes for Rage Burst if you get the Day One Edition, featuring Sword Art Online, Tales of Zestria and Tokyo Ghoul costumes, AND you’ll get a download code for Resurrection on top of it. This is an… interesting way of handling things, as it might end up hurting their Resurrection sales since you can get it free for pre-ordering Rage Burst, and it’s not certain if this only applies to the PS4 version or not, but either way, mark your calendars for the version of your choice and we’ll update with more information as it becomes available.)