Friday, May 8, 2015

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion was originally released for the DS in Japan in 2007, from Namco Bandai Games. I've never watched the anime or read the manga adaptations, so I can't comment on the accuracy of the story here, but my feeling is that it kind of mirrors the first anime series. Lelouch is at the Ashford Academy in Japan, and is in the process of leading his rebellion against the empire in the guise of the masked leader, Zero. While the game includes a small cast of 4-5 other students in the school that you can talk to a little, the main group is the gang of rebels that you can choose from for the fights. When you go out to the "fields" (warehouses, or city ruins) to explore or do battle against the Britannians, it's as a party of up to three members in mecha suits, and generally Zero's right-hand fighter is a girl in the school, fellow classmate Kallen (at one point, you have to switch between 3 teams of 3 in one chapter).

(Zero: Welcome to the game. What are you waiting for? Let's kill Britannians.)

Technically, Code Geass is an RPG, but there's not a lot of real role-playing going on. Instead, the game is more like an interactive pick-your-own adventure novel with little bits of controlled combat in between. Zero literally guides you through some of the fields ("go north", "go west", etc.) and if you make a mistake, rather than getting into a battle that could help you level up, you're sent to the beginning of the field and told to be more careful. Fortunately, there are a few cases where you can get into random battles for churning purposes, so you're not completely exp. starved when you go up against a boss.

(In the ruins of Tokyo with one of the teams.)

One thing I find amusing is that when you turn the game on, Zero, Kallen, C.C. or Suzaku will greet you with the name you registered in the Gameboy. Even better, you get to play one of the faceless rebels under that name, and join in on some of the fights when asked to pad the team out to a full 3 members (I'm registered on the Gameboy as TSOJ). Unfortunately, fighting is very straightforward and repetitive. There are only 4-5 character designs for the enemy, and you keep fighting the same battles over and over again. You can kind of tailor the mecha, based on the types of upgrades you use for them, and each mecha has its own attacks, which is good. But, your choices are limited to a straight attack, one of three skills associated with that mecha, to use healing items or to try to escape. Skills are activated by your power meters: when you attack or take damage, the meter advances a little. The meter levels are "1", "2" and "3", which correspond to the strengths of the three skill attacks.

(Doing battle with the enemy. The Skill Gauges are at the left of the screen.)

Overall, the artwork and character animations are really good, as is the voice acting and music. Although, the sprite animations when the characters walk through the academy look very "8-bit". And, you can unlock certain wallpaper screens that get displayed when the NPCs converse with each other. I'm not sure just how much money Pizza Hut paid for product placement, but their name and logo are everywhere in the game, from a Pizza Hut store in one ruins in Tokyo, to all of the pizza boxes scattered over all the fields. In fact, power ups and recovery items are referred to as "pizzas" (as in "you found a strength pizza"). When C.C. visits Lalouch in his room, she's always shown eating a slice of pizza.

(You get experience based on the strengths of the enemy. But, the game tracks how many hits you put in, and the total amount of damage in one round. The team members each require differing amounts of exp to go up a level, with Kallen and TSOJ going up the fastest.)

If you like the rest of the series, you'll probably like this game, otherwise, probably not. I picked it up for 500 yen ($4 USD) and even at that I consider it overpriced. Still, it's not an absolutely abysmal game. You can make some decisions as to what commands Zero issues people with his geass power, and there's a couple storyline choices allow you to recruit certain NPCs (like Suzaku) into your team. There's very little in the way of online walkthroughs, which kind of demonstrates how popular it was when it first came out. You can play "star" and "plus star" games after getting past the final storyline boss (multiple times). So, there is some replay value and you can try experimenting with different outcomes when presented with a command choice. (The GameFaqs site says that the story changes the first three times you go through the game, and you can choose your path during the fourth time through.)

Notice that I said "get past", not defeat. At the end of the game, Lelouch and Suzaku go toe to toe and appear to be about to shoot each other with pistols, and one of two supporting girls (Kallen or Lelouch's sister) seem ready to jump in the paths of the bullets, when the screen goes blank and the words "to be continued" show up (meaning you're supposed to keep going in the star game). And then, you're back to starting the game over from the beginning. You do get to keep whatever you had in inventory, and all of the experience you'd gained, but you lose your mecha and all of the upgrades you'd put into them. It's a decent way to kill a few hours, if so desired, but it's a very "talky" game and there's no way to skip past the conversations. I have finished it 3 times, and I still haven't managed to recruit one remaining NPC into the team. The story changes somewhat in the second and third playthroughs, and you get more opportunities to recruit the same NPCs in the third game. Then it resets to the first storyline. To get the remaining NPC, I have to play 3 more times again and try new geass commands. Maybe I'll do that later.

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