Monday, 9 September 2013

GameCube: Gotcha Force

Hey kids! Did you ever really enjoy Pokémon, Digimon, any dumb fucking cartoon where some young kids run around with super powerful beings obliterating and destroying the planet in the name of happy love fun times and general Japanese sub culture? Yes? Would you like to do the same for an entirely unknown brand? Maybe...?

That’s something I never got about these cartoons. Kids aged around 6-12 years old end up befriending super powerful beings that can obliterate planets. If it’s not small living flame throwers, it’s creatures that can shift and switch time and space, break planets and cities apart like nothing and generally I think it’s going to be fun as hell to see out my window and watch little Timmy from down the road incinerating half a city with a small green turnip looking thing that has a perpetually happy face on its so-called features.

That’s what Gotcha Force is themed on. Small, young, kids (paedo’s, fuck off, now) that live in Nowhere Suburbia (because all kids live the in best places with great families and easily affordable rents and mortgages... no wait, they own the whole place) where one day a star falls, the new kid to the town that is instantly relatable for the outcast new kids at schools, finds a tiny robot “toy” that talks to him. No bigger than his hand and a conveniently marketable size should some company pick up the merchandise.

Turns out his next door neighbour got one, as did some girl down the road, and conveniently, only a few kids at school. Oh yeah, and these robots are great at kicking seven shades of shit out of each other in over sized arenas. So day 1, going to your friend’s house and it goes like this.
“Hey, I found this alien talking robot!”
“WOW! So did I!”
“Let’s make the fight to see who is stronger!”
“Yes! Let’s!”

Notice any bullshit here because it REEKS to me.  Here’s how it should have gone.
“WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH” and the kid runs off down the street to be horrifically scarred for life while everyone laughs at his pissed and/or shat pants.

But enough of my social commentary, there’s a game here.

That’s the pretext to the game, you’re a new kid, find toys that fight and go up against your opponents. As you fight them you realise there’s a “Death force” (strong names for a kid game I know) that puts up more than just 1 on 1 fights, so you have multiple opponents that are weak but there’s backups.

You start each round/fight with your main char (at first, but hold on) and your opponent in a 3D arena that’s been scaled up because you’re scaled down. So there’s arenas like a marketplace, kids bedrooms, gardens with picnic tables and such. You move around the 3D arena while always looking at your opponent, until you switch targets to other enemies. But you’re always locked to an opponent and seeing them through things. So the stealth element in multiplayer does exist but you can still hide behind cover... sometimes. Combat depends upon the “bot” you’re using. The one you start with is a rather powerful system with melee combos, long range attacks and beam attacks. Combos can be changed up and range can dictate which combo/move you use. Fully aerial combos are different to ground ones that are different to launchers and such. For the more developed bots, there’s a LOT of potential and exploitative measures to be used in combat.

The choice and selection of bots is staggering. From your bipedal combat (Not ripping off transformers at all) bots to tank bots, walker bots, girl bots, soldier bots, nurse bots, flying bots with wings, walking cannon bots, aerial bombardment flying airship bots, ninjas, cowboys, samurais, actual transforming bots, bombs, NUKES there’s a LOAD of different bots. Some bots fly with jet power for a while, others can jump, double and up to quadruple jump. Others have wings to keep airborne, others are dragons. Some can fuse together for even more chaos and death. Every single bot has its own attack(s) some can charge shots for other attacks, melee specials or beam attacks, homing missiles to bullets, growth/shrink attacks there is a HUGE variation.

Though the eyebot has one shot and 10hp.

As you progress through the levels, you gain power points that can limit your maximum team. Each bot has a cost and the more powerful tend to be more expensive though some of the cheaper bots have very lethal potential. For example the walking laser cannon of one hit death is about 1500 points but it takes a while to charge that laser. While the main hero is 500 points and upgradable (and only he is...) to 800 points in a plot device. Your group can have as many bots as you want but you can only put out the first bots until that limit is hit. So you can start with a ninja at 150 points and have an orbital platform with laser cannons and reflective bullets at 1000 points next, but only if you have a power score of 1150, else it’s ninja and nothing else after.

Once a bot has lost all health, you lose the bot for that round and your next bot comes out, lose all the bots and you’ve lost. Losing either means a re-fight or you take a plot course to a different storyline, except in the first time you play. Later replays let you win over more friends you can choose as a partner in the fights so you and an AI pal (Multiplayer is just deathmatch games and nothing to do with the main plot) take on various opponents from friends to alien enemies and so on in a growing plot that would sit perfectly at home on Saturday mornings. A few friends are enemies, you fight and win, they back off, then you win them over eventually, then you win over the more hardcore friends, then everyone takes on the last kid who becomes possessed by the reason the bots are there at all and it becomes all balls-to-the-wall fight fest with giants running across the planet.

Pretty much like most anime day time shows.

As you play through, you unlock bots by beating them, or parts of bots, which you can trade with other players adding a nice touch to the whole “catch them all” section of the series that would fit in well with any Pokémon game. Gathering more bots to use and then use again in replays though each new bot has that inherent risk of not knowing the full potential straight away and some matches are VERY one-sided if you’re not ready. Most people won’t beat Sho the first time he shows up and even with replays it’s STILL tough to get something to match him. The AI gets a bonus 33% discount on their bots. So you’re fielding a 3000 point team, they’ll have 4000+ depending upon the level.

The first time you fight dragons... could be entertaining with most of their moves being one hit kills if you’re not high enough on HP for that bot. So you might take a ninja in with low health and your first opponent for the fight is a space station that hits you straight off with a cannon that kills you outright. Especially with instant beam attacks. But the flipside is you’ll find a bot that can slaughter whole armies without batting an eyelid and for not many points. Solar Samurai as a quick charge, cut through beam attack that does huge damage. Metal Hero has a sword attack with a charge time, but is invincible to most stun locks and tanks damage, killing everything with the beam sword attack especially if he lands on them, including the final boss if timed right. At 380 points and can jump 4 times and transforms whenever he needs at no charge or ammo cost.

The truly skilful can take down space stations using just a ninja at 150points thanks to its high mobility. So there’s quite the imbalance from one bot to another.

The storyline though is absolutely cringe worthy with the voices and overly young aimed audience, combat can be a butcher if you don’t realise the huge threats when they arrive but you’ll re-think it for the next fight and 4 player death matches are difficult on split screen. Interestingly there’s the co-op mode where players take on armies of enemies in easy, medium, or hard mode and take their largest possible group with them to fight off armies of well over 8000 points, some of the fights can be huge and epic or you can drop a nuke on someone for 400 points (just make sure the nuke isn’t the last bot... twat)

The game tends to take about 17 hours to play through and can be a chore in the middle sessions when invasion after invasion means you’ve to fight every single level against similar waves of enemies while annoying ones turn up and you have to switch out your group for a more capable one to deal with the threat. Some would argue this is called “tactics” but the implantation of the switching is a joke.

Getting too many bots will bug the game out too but like Pokémon, you want them all. Just to royally fuck with your head, there’s different “skins” for the bots from glass, to black, to silver and gold, each with different stats and levelling up differently to give boosts. There’s a lot of replay value but not enough to warrant wanting to get them all and with the limited scope of combat falling down to having flawless combatants rather than being forced to use specific bots. A few things could certainly have been improved like being able to unlock from opponents, giving a stealth element to fights that is completely removed if someone has a full beam attack that hits THROUGH objects and lets them whittle down damage until a cheap victory is won.

Acquiring the bigger and more powerful bots can be a long and arduous task particularly for ones that take 4 or more parts to build, as can hunting down the named bots that the key characters use for the bonus stat boosts they gain and in some cases, it’s not worth the damn effort. Especially when comparing a ninja to the named ninja, both still get wiped out by some of the more casual attacks from other bots, so why waste the time.

This is a game that’s good, but not great. Great would be with better variation in battles, an online mode for team plays of 2 vs. 2 be it AI or Humans, online trading with people to get more bots and such.  

But certainly, no annoying kid voices and synth robotic growls during the cut scenes.