Title: Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo
Developer: Arc System Works
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 703 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Currently Unavailable
PSTV Support: Yes
One major genre of media in Japanese culture for quite a long time is the giant robot genre. Across decades, there have been countless games, anime, movies, and more featuring giant robots fighting giant robots. Various franchises that incorporate these types of battles can range from Armored Core and Gundam to Transformers and Pacific Rim. In Japanese culture, there is a ton of media surrounding this theme.
On the Vita, there aren’t that many native games available that can offer this type of gameplay. If you look into backwards, compatibility there are in the form of the Armored Core PSP games as well as the Armored Core PS1 Classic. Vita native games are shy on this, at least in the West. There are some Gundam games that have released on the Vita, but they never released over in North America.
Today, we are going to dive into this genre with one of the newest giant robot action games on the market and one of the first to grace the Vita in the West. One of the first non-fighting games from Arc System Works to grace both the Vita and PlayStation TV, here is my official review of Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo.
The story of Damascus Gear takes place in a futuristic version of Japan. The production of giant pilotable robots called GEARs has led to a lot of technical advances, but also a technical problem. Some of these GEARs have begun to pilot themselves and have attacked the population, resulting in a situation where much of Tokyo has fallen under the control of the RAGE robots. Think of RAGE like Mavericks in the Mega Man universe.
You are a new nameless pilot in the Freya squadron, a group of GEAR pilots set on assisting other humans seeking refuge in this new world as well as fighting off RAGE and taking the country back from them.
The storyline is a bit interesting with the apocalypse happening from robots but isn’t something that’s going to deeply move you. It’s mostly there to set up the world you’re in. There isn’t a huge amount of character customization or development, though each character does have a certain personality and way of acting. Nothing that’s going to deeply move you, though.
Damascus Gear is unlike most robot games in that it is an isometric-perspective action game. As you play through the game, you will be guiding your own customized robot around city and shelter environments in an isometric fashion as you search for items and take down enemies with various weapons at your disposal. Since not all of your weapons are firearms, this would be classified as an action game as opposed to a shooting game.
When you start the game or between missions, you will always be at your base. This base of operations is where you can do all of your customizing options. You have options for taking on Missions, going to the Dock to customize your GEAR, selling and buying equipment and items in the shop, and customizing your game options and settings. You main modes are going to be Missions and Dock. Missions are divided into categories, much like the last Arc System Works game, Fantasy Hero. They are separated by rank, which function as chapters and difficulty settings.
The Dock is going to be a place where you’ll have the most fun with customization. Your robot has several different parts to its armor and weapons. There are Head, Shoulder, Chest, and Leg sections as well as Primary, Secondary, and Shoulder weapons in the form of rifles, lasers, swords, clubs, rockets, and more. You can buy these parts in the shop as well as obtain them from RAGE that you defeat in missions. Every weapon looks different and plays different from each other. Even weapons of the same type are different from rate of fire, how quickly they attack, etc.
There’s a lot of customization to be done as you play through the game, as well as finding balances to how much power your collection of equipment and armor uses within your energy limit. You have a certain level of energy that cannot be exceeded. Thus, you can’t just equip overpowered pieces of every type of equipment because that limit would be exceeded and you wouldn’t be allowed to leave the screen. Sometimes, you may want to remove certain armor to use others that have various attributes, like higher defense, more mobility, etc.
Actually going out on missions will put you and some AI allies onto an isometric map where you can move around to find objective locations and defeat enemies, depending on what kind of mission it is. Some missions have you defeating enemies and finding and defeating bosses. Other missions have you carrying shipments to extraction points. There are also missions that have you escorting NPCs through areas and must protect them until you reach your destination. There is enough variety that you’re not always just doing the same thing over and over again.
The biggest thing that challenge-seekers will like about the game is how difficult it gets. Every mission is timed and these timers are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Some missions have very restricted time frames and I’ve found myself completing them mere seconds before the timer were to reach zero. And the difficulty spikes a lot. It makes it so you can’t just run and gun everything, but learn to learn enemy actions and dodge, because the bosses of one mission will be the regular enemies of the next.
There are very large difficulty spikes that will either challenge you or frustrate you because of how huge the difficulty gaps are. You can go from learning and dodging and doing fine and then a boss comes in and takes out your AI partners and you don’t have much time to even dodge before they completely annihilate you.
Across the six different mission ranks, the game should take you at least 10-15 hours to finish. It’s not an incredibly long game. But, for an action game, there’s a fair amount of length to it. There are also some extra-hard DLC missions for you to take part in as well, if you’d like to buy some more missions from the PlayStation Store. All in all, though, it has a good amount of length for what type of game it is.
The control interface for Damascus Gear aren’t hard to get used to, but the orientation isn’t something that you will expect. First of all, there aren’t any touch controls for you to use. However, the game utilizes Japan’s default control scheme, meaning circle will be used to confirm options in menus and X will be used to cancel options in menus.
Moving around in the menus is done with the D-Pad and selecting options is done with the Circle button, with X being used to cancel options. In the battle/mission screen you will be using the Left Analog Stick to move around. The D-Pad, L Trigger, Right Analog Stick, and Select buttons are not used for anything here, while start can pause the game.
The R trigger and face buttons have the most time here. The R trigger is used to use up Boost energy to speed through areas or to speed past enemies. X doesn’t do anything here, but the Square, Triangle, and Circle buttons are used for the various weapon types you can use, Circle being the shoulder weapon and the others being your primary and sub weapons.
All in all, the control scheme isn’t hard to get used to. The first mission also does a nice job of explaining the controls to you.
As far as the visual presentation is concerned, Damascus Gear looks really nice. When you see the close-up of your GEAR in the Dock menu, everything is really detailed and there aren’t that many jagged edges to be seen. It looks even better in a mission with the isometric camera zoomed away from you. There are a few inconsistencies when you use laser weapons, but nothing you’ll notice unless you’re looking for it.
A couple things to note about the presentation, though, are load times and sound. The load times for a mission can get fairly lengthy. Some missions load in 10 seconds, but others can take up to 15-20 seconds to load. If you’re not a patient person, this can get very annoying very quickly, especially since there’s not a lot of story content between missions.
The other thing to mention is sound quality. All of the sound effects and music are well-done in the game. However, some missions have mishaps and glitches where you’ll be firing off weapons and the sound will completely cut out on the same enemies, but you’ll fight more of the same enemy type later and it’ll sound fine. This happens every time you go into these specific missions and on the same group of enemies.
Damascus Gear is Arc Systems Works’ newest game on the Vita and PlayStation TV. On the downside, the difficulty flow is not very balanced, and there are a few issues with long load times and sound cutting out in certain missions. Outside of this is a fast-paced mech action game with more customization options than you will know what to do with.