Review: Gods Eater Burst (Sony PSP)

Gods Eater Burst
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Release Date: 03/15/11

Well, we knew this was coming sooner or later; with the massive popularity of the Monster Hunter series in Japan, it stood to reason that other companies would start making similar games, and that, eventually, someone would bring these similar games stateside. While Monster Hunter isn’t even remotely as beloved in the US as it is in Japan, it certainly is selling well enough over here to make for a convincing argument in favor of bringing similar titles over, and we’ve seen two in the past three months already, both on the PSP. The first, Lord of Arcana, tried to crossbreed Monster Hunter with Valhalla Knights, in essence, but a lack of substance and unbalanced difficulty rendered it an unfortunate product that was really going to appeal to people who felt that Monster Hunter simply wasn’t challenging enough. Gods Eater Burst is our second kick at the can, and it goes in the completely opposite direction. Instead of making major changes to the mechanics, it takes the concepts and tweaks them enough to be interesting, and instead of jacking the difficulty in one direction or another, it allows the player options that allow them to decide how easy or hard they want the experience to be. As a result, instead of being a game that’s only going to appeal to a small subset of fans of the game it’s borrowing from, Gods Eater Burst ends up being “Monster Hunter for people who like the idea of Monster Hunter, but not Monster Hunter itself”, and while it’s not quite as polished as it needs to be out of the box, it’s a much better effort all in all.

There is actually a fairly detailed plot to Gods Eater Burst, though whether or not that’s a good thing will depend on the individual player. You take on the role of a recently assigned New Type Gods Eater, the first one assigned to the Far East Branch of the Fenrir Organization, a group devoted to hunting down the monsters populating the world, dubbed Aragami. The short story here is that the world has come to its end, the Aragami are basically running rampant, and Fenrir is trying to find solutions, both short and long term, to this problem so that humanity can survive. The plot is significantly more detailed than all of that, however, as various subplots dealing with love, betrayal, the nature of the Aragami, and so on pop up throughout the game as you play, and they get more involved and complex as you go along, going in some surprising directions you won’t expect. The plot here is, honestly, pretty good all in all, and if you’re receptive to the idea of a plot in your giant monster slaying action RPG, you’ll enjoy the plot as the game offers it up, as it’s pretty solid. That said, you can also skip past it entirely without it really affecting the experience if you’re opposed to the idea of an involved story interfering with your monster slaying. So for those who are uninterested in long scenes of exposition and character development, you’ll still be able to enjoy the game just fine.

Gods Eater Burst isn’t one of the most technically proficient games on the PSP, but it’s nice looking all the same on an artistic level. The game goes in a more anime-inspired direction with its visuals, featuring characters with big eyes and more abnormal designs, making for a style similar to that of Phantasy Star Portable. The characters themselves are generally well animated and look diverse enough compared to one another to be interesting. The game environments look appropriately technologically advanced and ruined by an apocalypse, coming together in a fashion similar to Fallout by way of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, with the deformed, warped buildings and ruined overpasses and sewers and such. The Aragami themselves mix Japanese mythology concepts with the occasional technological modification and some good old fashioned scariness to make for monstrosities that are impressive and powerful looking, both stationary and in motion. The game music is a mix of orchestral swells and electronic hooks that fits the futuristic theme of the game nicely and sounds great all in all, and the voice acting that pops up in cutscenes and in battle is actually rather good. Your character generally plays the heroic mute in cutscenes, though you do have a voice in battle situations (which you can choose from one of several), and most of the voice actors and actresses in the game know how to emote and speak without inspiring feelings of rage in the player, which is honestly the highest compliment I can offer, given how this could have turned out. The sound effects are also quite good, all in all, mixing more classical weapon striking noises with more futuristic gun and laser sounds together to make for some powerful effects in battle and beyond.

Now, at the risk of sounding like a broken record (people still know what those are, right?), if you’ve played any of the PSP Monster Hunter games, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how to play this game, though it does a lot of its own thing to make it special. Most of your game is spent out on the field of battle, and there, the stick moves, the D-pad moves the camera around, Square and Triangle allow for weak and strong attacks, respectively, and the Circle button allows you to dodge around while moving. The X button allows you to jump, in an interesting departure from the standard conventions of the genre, the left trigger allows you to adjust the camera behind you and lock onto enemies if you wish, and the right trigger allows you to sprint as needed. You can also tap the right trigger to convert your God Arc between gun and melee mode, which we’ll touch on shortly, or you can hold the right trigger and Circle to bring out your shield. Pressing Start brings up a menu that allows you to organize your inventory, check mission objectives, or pause (THANK GOD) as needed, while pressing Select allows you to sift through your consumables to use one in battle. You can accomplish the same thing for changing bullets by drawing your gun, then holding down either Square or Triangle (you can map bullets to both buttons) to bring up a menu for changing the bullets as needed. When not in battle, the controls are simple: the stick moves you around, and X interacts with any things and people you might want to interact with. Menu interaction is similar; the stick moves through menus, X confirms choices, and Circle declines choices or backs out as needed. On a base level, none of this is very hard to understand at all, and the game offers you plenty of tutorials to get down the basics with little trouble.

Now, the jumping and lock-on options are significant changes for Monster Hunter fans, but Gods Eater Burst adds and subtracts a few things to make the experience its own thing. For one thing, instead of several smaller zones separated by a loading segment every so often, combat zones are just one medium or large sized area with no loading breaks in between. For another, whatever zone you’re playing in has a set volume of enemies to fight, so instead of dealing with a zone constantly respawning smaller, annoying enemies, once you wipe out all of the smaller Aragami, they’re gone, leaving you to your task. In fact, the vast majority of the game is greatly simplified in a lot of respects. Instead of having to find various different item-dispensing locations in the zones, each of which dispenses a specific type of item, you just run up to flashing spots on the ground and get whatever’s there. Instead of needing specific items to harvest things from certain spots, you can just collect whatever’s available and move on with your day. When taking items from the bodies of the dead, simply performing the action needed to harvest one time will net you all of the loot on the enemy, instead of having to pick up their drops or carve their remains. You don’t need to keep large amounts of items on hand to combine things on the fly, as combining items is done from the terminal at home, as is forging and upgrading weaponry, and there’s never really a failure rate to speak of when making goods so you don’t have to worry about things breaking, and you don’t have to worry about running out of space in your item box at home with collectibles, as it’s nearly infinite in size. From a mechanical standpoint, Gods Eater Burst is streamlined down to a point where players don’t have to worry about the exhausting and difficult to follow minutia of gathering and collecting, so casual players or those who found this annoying will approve.

Outside of these elements, combat is also somewhat noticeably different in a lot of respects. As was noted previously, your character is a New Type God Arc wielder, which means that unlike the old types who can wield either guns or melee weapons, your weapon acts as both. You can flip between them at the press of a button, and you’ll find yourself doing so frequently throughout battle to make the best use of your skills. Bladed weapons allow you to make use of combo attacks by repeatedly pressing the Square button or more damaging single attacks with Triangle, based on the element damage of the weapon in question, which we’ll address later. Guns, by comparison, can fire off bullets based on whatever bullets you have in your inventory, meaning that instead of being locked into whatever element you’ve chosen, you can swap between them based on whatever bullets you have. On top of that, bullets can be modified with all kinds of other neat effects, like gravity descent, explosion effect, homing, and so on, so they offer a lot more options than melee by default. So why use melee at all? Well, the thing is that shooting bullets decreases your OP meter, or “Oracle Points”, instead of expending bullets, meaning that once you deplete the meter, you can’t fire until it’s recharged. Wailing away on enemies with your melee weapon is the fastest way to recharge your OP meter, all in all, so you’ll find yourself alternating between bullets and melee attacks to exploit enemy weaknesses and charge up your ability to shoot as the situation dictates. You’ll also always have a shield of some sort of another on your person at all times, and while dodging is a good way to avoid attacks, many higher level Aragami don’t really leave much room for you to dodge their assaults, making blocking a worthwhile thing to learn as quickly as possible, as it dramatically reduces the possibility you’ll have of losing massive amounts of health in a hurry.

Next, let’s talk about the “Eater” part of the game. Your God Arc is also capable of summoning a Control Unit, which is basically a moving pair of jaws, from the base of the unit, which can be used to bite into an enemy. As a damage dealing tool this isn’t especially effective, but you can use it to harvest items from dead enemies, and enter Burst Mode when fighting live ones. By biting into an enemy that’s alive, your character will get a significant boost to their physical performance, dubbed Burst Mode, as well as a bullet type related to the bitten enemy. Burst Mode allows you to deal added damage to a foe with attacks and double jump, among other things, while the bullets you receive can be fired off into an enemy at no cost to the OP meter for damage. You can either charge up a full bite, which gives you a full Burst Meter but takes a while, or take a quick bite after a combo, which is much faster but burns out the Burst Mode much quicker, depending on the situation. You can also send or receive Aragami Bullets (the term for bullets received from a bite) to other allies, putting them into a Link Burst mode. This also boosts character stats, but has the added benefit of giving the character a massively powerful bullet they can fire off into the enemy, again, based on the enemy type. Unlike Aragami Bullets, however, firing off the Link Burst bullet ends Link Burst mode, and if you don’t fire before the meter drains, you lose the bullet. Link Burst bullets can be charged up to three levels, meaning more power and bigger effects, and you can do this with other players or NPC’s, so it’s not limited to one play mode or the other.

Each gear option (shields, melee and guns) has a specific way that it works with one of the seven elements in the game. There are three combat element types, in Sunder, Crush and Pierce, and four elemental element types, in Blaze, Freeze, Spark and Divine, and in the same way that each enemy is weak or strong to a specific type, each weapon and shield works in the same way. There are three types of melee weapons to use: Short blades, which usually combine Sunder and Pierce damage in smaller amounts, Long blades, which tend to focus on Sunder damage in larger amounts, and Buster blades/hammers, which often combine Sunder and Crush damage types. Each melee weapon may or may not also have some type of elemental plus, depending on the weapon. Guns also come in three categories: Sniper, which fire lasers most effectively, Assault Rifles, which work well with any type of bullet, and Assault weapons, which work best with explosive type bullets. Each gun can work with any kind of bullet, however, and each element type may or may not get an additional bonus, depending on what the gun offers. Shields, as you’ve likely guessed, also come in three categories: Bucklers, which guard the fastest and with the least Stamina decrease but also reduce damage the least, Shields, which have a small starting delay to block and are mid-range otherwise, and Tower shields, which have the longest starting delay and deplete the most stamina but also block the most damage. Each shield also has specific defense bonuses against each element type, relative to the shield in question. Every piece of gear, as well as all optional upgrades and Control units you can equip, also can potentially come with enhancements that can improve or weaken your abilities overall. These range from improving or increasing Stamina, Health and OP loss to improving or increasing element damage to muting your movements or making you more noisy and beyond, allowing you additional boosts or detriments based on the gear you equip and your personal needs at the time. You can also change your clothes and hair as you see fit, though this does nothing but make you look pretty.

One of the biggest and most interesting elements of the game, however, is the ability to craft your own bullets. The game gives you a handful of various bullets to use to start with, in various elemental flavors and ranges, but you can make up your own at any time so long as you’re willing to pay the price to do so. You can customize each bullet based on its elemental type and the size of the bullet effect, which then in turn allows for additional customization options, such as the trajectory, impact effect, travel effect, and so on, meaning you can craft a homing laser bullet that explodes on impact or whatever if you’re so inclined. The actual crafting system allows you to link up to six effects after one another, based on your needs and how you want to build the bullet, but each addition to the bullet costs more money to add on and will drain more OP once you fire it, meaning that a short range small impact bullet can be fired many times in succession, while a high power multi-effect bullet might only give you one or two shots before you’re back to hacking into the enemy or using items to boost your OP. You can carry nearly twenty bullets into battle at any time, mind you, so you can build a pretty large variety of situation bullets to deal with nearly any circumstances you’ll encounter in a battle, as the case dictates, and the bullet building system even offers a test range so you can experiment with your creation to see what it does or even if it works in the first place before you burn your cash.

The single player and multiplayer modes are essentially the same mode, so there’s no missions specifically set up for one mode or the other here. When multiple players join a game, whoever has the lowest progress in the storyline is basically made the “leader”, insofar as options for play are concerned, meaning that a player who has unlocked up to difficulty seven missions will be banged down to, say, difficulty four missions if the lowest level player only has those. You don’t lose your stats or gear or anything like that, mind you, but you can’t bring players into higher level missions than they can take on, either. That said, you can take on essentially any mission in the game with multiple characters, even story missions, so aside from being able to help friends clear out the extra missions, you can also help them clear out the storyline, though that means waiting as they watch cutscenes and whatnot. Once a character is met in multiplayer, that character is accessible for use in the single player campaign at any time as a Gods Eater, meaning you can bring your friends into battle with you whenever you wish, and they can do likewise with you. This isn’t just for show, however, as the next time you play together, they’ll get items for having their character help you out, and vice-versa, so playing with friends is about more than just killing tough monsters. In the absence of friends to play with, however, you can bring along up to three CPU controlled allies to help out, either choosing from people you meet in the storyline of from friends you make while playing with others, allowing you a posse to help take out tough Aragami. Alternatively, you can go into battle alone if you want a greater challenge, meaning you can make missions as easy or hard as you want them to be when playing alone, which should be satisfying for the Monster Hunter crowd.

You can plow through the storyline missions in around twenty to thirty hours, as there quite a few of them. The “Burst” part of the title refers to this being the second revision of the game, meaning that there are about ten tiers of difficulty for missions, meaning you’ll have plenty of missions to unlock and plow through. For those who preordered the game, you also got access to several “Challenge” missions meant for late game play, allowing you access to new Aragami (Venus and Caligula) as well as higher level missions featuring familiar foes, which I suspect will be available to download eventually even if you didn’t preorder. Hopefully, this means that, as Capcom does for Monster Hunter, D3 will be offering more DLC mission packs for fans to grab and play with, as that’ll help keep the game interesting for a long time to come. Even if you don’t work with the DLC, though, between the different visual customization options available, weapons and gear you can collect, and missions you can plow through, you’ll find a good amount of variety in the game itself. This sort of game lives and dies, not just on its gameplay mechanics, but also on what it offers to players in the long term, and Gods Eater Burst offers plenty to keep the game interesting if you’re a fan of the genre, or even if you’re just a new player coming in for the first time. The game also works well with things like AdHoc Party, so players can play online or off with little issue, and the challenge of the experience is well balanced all in all.

Having said that, while as a first effort Gods Eater Burst is a good attempt, it’s not as developed as it needs to be if it expects to compete for the attentions of genre fans. While there are different melee weapon and gun types, only having three of each is somewhat limited, as is the fact that there aren’t really any weapons that change up the battle mechanics that much. Compared to something like Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, with its eight different melee weapons and three different ranged weapons, when the vast majority of the differences between your combat gear here comes down to, aside from the somewhat noticeable attack patterns of the melee weapons, bullet effects and frame counting, that’s a bit limiting after a while. This limited feeling extends over to the actual gameplay itself as well, both in and out of combat. In combat, you’ll largely just see variations of “kill this many enemies to win”, usually consisting of a couple smaller Aragami and one or more bigger Aragami. This probably wouldn’t be too bad, except that there’s not really as much strategy to the battle as in, and I hate to belabor this point, Monster Hunter. You don’t vary combat strategy much from one battle to the next except in the very high tier missions, and most of your tools you can use to fight enemies are limited and require little effort to employ. Outside of battle, except for building bullets and talking to NPC’s, there’s really nothing exciting to do either, and there aren’t any missions you can take on outside of the “kill everything that moves” variety, which can get repetitive after a while.

Despite its somewhat limited nature, however, Gods Eater Burst is a fantastic attempt at the genre all in all, one that offers up enough challenge and multiplayer fun to be worth picking up for fans while also offering a good learning curve for new players. The storyline is both interesting and enjoyable while being easily skipped for those who simply don’t care about it. The game is artistically pleasant to look at and the audio is all around great in every respect. The game is easy to learn how to play for both newbies and veterans of the genre alike, but retains its own different combat mechanics that make it more than just a “me too” effort. The ability to craft your own bullets and go into battle with a team or alone also makes for some interesting depth and challenge, depending on your skill level and personal interests, and it’s neat to be able to bring anyone you play on ad hoc with into battle in solo play, especially since they get rewards for you doing so. The game is somewhat limited in its depth, as there is a limited amount of variety to the weaponry and the mission types, and there’s nothing to do outside of fighting monsters of various shapes and sizes. Despite this thing, however, Gods Eater Burst is a very solid first attempt from Namco Bandai and it’s well worth checking out, whether you like the genre or not, as it’s very fun and well balanced all around.

The Scores:
Story: GOOD
Graphics: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: CLASSIC
Originality: MEDIOCRE
Addictiveness: GREAT
Appeal: GREAT
Miscellaneous: CLASSIC


Short Attention Span Summary:
Gods Eater Burst is a good attempt at a Monster Hunter style game from Namco Bandai, and I’m certainly grateful D3 brought it stateside, as it deserves a shot in the US market, even if it’s got some kinks to work out. The storyline is surprisingly in depth and interesting, and it’s honestly pretty good, though it’s also completely skipable if you’d rather. The game looks interesting artistically and sounds great all around, and the presentation overall is quite nice. The game is easy to learn on a mechanical level for both new and old genre fans, but offers some fun changes to make the game its own animal. Being able to craft your own bullets and bring allies into battle are both very nice as well, and the ability to play with friends online and then bring their avatars into battle in solo play to give them rewards later is a neat addition as well. The game could stand for some more depth, as the weapon variety is somewhat limited all in all, and there’s not a lot to do outside of the eventually repetitive combat missions, unfortunately. However, for genre fans and those who are new to the genre, Gods Eater Burst represents a good first effort from all parties involved, one that’s easily recommended if you’re interested in the concept at least, and hopefully there will be plenty of sequels to come.



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One response to “Review: Gods Eater Burst (Sony PSP)”

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