These Are Not the Mechs You’re Looking For
Originally released as a Japanese exclusive on the Sony Vita handheld, Marvelous has ported this mech combat sim to the American Switch eShop under the official title Assault Gunners HD Edition. Despite being priced at $10, there is a reason why this game remained exclusive on a failing system for many years.
Taking control of a mech from a 3rd person perspective, the goal is to either destroy all other mechs, hold control points, or take down the occasional boss with your three other dumb AI companions. The gimmick here is the large amount of customization options that eventually become available through finding upgrades on the battlefield, by leveling up, or enhancing stats by spending points. While this sounds decent enough on paper, its execution is poor as gameplay quickly becomes boring, repetitive, and grindy. The story also doesn’t make any sense – something about machines going haywire on the surface of Mars and is solely told through scrolling text at each mission. The Japanese-only voice acting also becomes very annoying as an exclamation is heard upon picking up anything on the battlefield.
Assault Gunners has a strange control scheme even for a ported Vita game. First, the player selects one of the four weapons by tapping a face button, then uses the R button to fire. Stranger yet, even melee attacks work this way. It is also possible to give your friendly AI orders using the other buttons below the left analog stick but it usually won’t matter as your companions will either wander off or perish quickly. Perhaps the worst part of the control is the extremely slow rate rotation speed. Although possible to increase both walking speed and pivoting speed through eventual level ups, turning just takes way too long and single handedly makes combat a slog. Enemy AI, if you can even call it that, is also dumb just like the friendly AI as they usually just stand still and shoot when you come into range. Unfortunately, enemies will often spawn out of nowhere and usually behind you. But thanks to the slow rate of turning speed, you can get cheaply cherry picked especially on horde-mode style levels.
Speaking of horde mode, the game features a gauntlet style survival option from the main menu if the player grows tired of the campaign. Here, the player is set to endure increasing difficult matches against a massive horde of enemies. It is a distraction at best and suffers the same problems as the campaign.
There are many simple quality of life issues that drag down the entire experience too. Basic things like reversing the menu’s confirm and back buttons for the American audience and having hard to read text especially during the customization screen. Most stages in the campaign contain tons of empty open space and force the player to trudge through blank valleys or open, flat fields. Visually, there isn’t much too look at other than blocky mechs and even blander environments. Luckily, each stage only takes a few minutes to complete, suitable to the portability of the Vita and the Switch.
It is cool that this game is available for American Switch owners for $10 but isn’t worth a look unless you are desperate for a mech game on Switch. There is also some optional DLC for $5 if you wanted to extend the campaign and survival stages.
Not As Good As: the Front Mission games or Armored Core series
Remember?: the Mech Assault games on the original Xbox
Wait For It: Zone of the Enders: the 2nd Runner in 4k on PS4