Armored Core is one of those franchises with an abnormally high concentration of hardcore devotees. That means that if you scour the internet, you're bound to come across reviews praising the series for its allegedly compelling combat and seemingly endless garage of mech-building parts.
This is not one of those reviews.
While the mech battler may well enthrall those with the patience to decipher its deep customization, the game's transition to PSP won't hold much appeal for series neophytes - after all, the PS2 original is seven years old at this point, and its portable incarnation makes no effort to ease newer players into the experience.
Armored Core 3's brutal mission structure is hardly the game's only offense in that regard, but it's certainly the most obvious one. Success is all about procuring the necessary cash to purchase new parts, so in order to upgrade your mech, you need to complete missions. But in order to complete missions, you need to upgrade your mech. And in order to upgrade your mech, you need to earn money. But if you fail a mission, you'll end up actually losing a decent amount of cash because it costs money to use your weapons when attempting a mission.
Needless to say, this ensures a headache-inducing, PSP-flinging vicious cycle. Not exactly the best tactic to win over newcomers to the franchise.
And should you actually succeed in using the game's clunky controls to complete a series of missions, good luck figuring out what to do with your new parts. For example, your mech's generator includes a statistic known as "calorific value" ...whatever that means. You'll actually have to resort to Wikipedia to decipher some of the terms - Armored Core 3 Portable offers no in-game customization guidance, a ridiculous oversight considering the complexity involved.
Armored Core 3 Portable also feels extremely dated - it's akin to going back to the unsophisticated laugh-track sitcoms in this era of smart comedies like The Office and Arrested Development. The typo-riddled translation is straight out of the PS1 era, the visuals are muddy and simplistic, and mission objectives and explanations are unclear and frustratingly vague.
It's possible Armored Core 3 may well have offered something during the PS2 generation, but whatever relevance it might've had seven years ago - especially given its inelegant transition to the PSP - has long since passed.
Nov 10, 2009