|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Atlus||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2, 2-4 (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
A videogame doesn't have to be cutting-edge to be a whole lot of fun. A videogame does, however, have to be cutting-edge to justify a $60 price tag.
Were Zoids Assault an Xbox LIVE Arcade download (and it most certainly could be one, with a few adjustments), it would rank as a mediocre but solid title. As a full-price Xbox 360 game, it's highway robbery.
The game, of course, centers around Zoids, the quarter-century-old animal-shaped "mecha" robot toys. They've been the subject of various games before, from Zoids: The Battle Begins for the Commodore 64 to Zoids Struggle for the PlayStation 2. There was even Zoids: Battle Legends, a fighting title, for the GameCube.
This one's a strategy RPG. Players control a group of five Zoids, leading them into battle in the context of a poorly written, poorly voice-acted, way too time-consuming, and altogether skip-able story presented through text scrolls and occasional videos. It comes off like a children's cartoon, only with lots of unnecessary "damns" and "hells" sprinkled in (they really wanted that Teen rating, apparently).
No matter how involved and ridiculous it gets, the plot always boils down to your metal monsters duking it out with (or at least staving off) enemy metal monsters, but here's a quick summary. The Republic of Helic and the Guylos Empire fought a huge war. Maroll began the war as neutral, but ended up allying with Helic when Jamil attacked them; Maroll's counterattack was highly successful. Jamil, still devastated years later (much like Germany in the wake of World War I) becomes aggressive, and tensions flare with Maroll. You're on Maroll's side.
The turn-based battles take place on a grid system, and, to be fair, the game really excels in battle mechanics. It's remarkably easy to learn; whenever one of your machines has a turn, you're shown the spaces on the grid you can move it to, and when you place the cursor over a square, it indicates which enemies are within range. Once you choose a location, you're given in plain English (no icons) the options to attack an enemy, end your turn, or execute one of the machine's special abilities.
There's only one quibble to be had with the controls: when adjusting the view, pushing left on the joystick doesn't look left, as an avid first-person shooter fan will be used to. Rather, it pivots the camera to the left and looks right, and there's no way to invert this.
The battles can become incredibly difficult, with your machines facing wave after wave of opponents, and a thoughtful plan is necessary. There are a few interesting strategic nuances.
One is that the machines have different ranges, and when an attacking machine is in the range of the defending machine, the defending machine can take its turn early and strike back. This is very effective when the attacking machine is nearly dead (you can blow it up before another machine uses its turn to move over and repair it), but other times, it's better to have your defender save his turn for attacking a different enemy. It also forces you to carefully consider which square to attack from, as shooting from the right square can put your attacker just outside the defender's range.