This week, there weren’t a lot of anime games that actually came out on Steam. Most of the games that did come out were hentai puzzle games. But I still found a few decent buys for all of you. Hardcore Mecha, Ninja Girl and the Headless Horseman, and Zengeon. We got robots, we got waifus, and we got Chinese rougelikes.
Also, next week I’m going on a trip to Canada so don’t expect another Steam Weeb until I come back. I’ll try to cover all the games I miss in that time.
Just like last week, you can watch the video version of my reviews below or read the text version on this page.
With the resurgence of Evangelion on Netflix, now seems like as good a time as any for a mecha game. Hardcore Mecha gives you the exciting action of a mecha anime in a 2D side-scrolling shooter. RocketPunch Games has done really well to bring this game to life, which surprised me given it’s artstyle.
Hardcore Mecha’s art looks like something you’d see in a mobile game with it’s super deformed mecha designs. Usually that’s not really my thing but I grew used to it because the combat mechanics, different mechas playstyles, and soundtrack all flow strangely well with the visuals. There’s also a lot of really nice 2D rendering and 3D-like animations that add a lot.
The singleplayer story has unique missions, some really good action cutscenes, and nice voice acting when it’s there. It kind of makes you feel like you’re the protagonist of an action mecha anime. The story itself isn’t very deep but it has some really cool villains and I was surprised to find the missions weren’t generic and repetitive. There’s stealth infiltration, underwater missions, space battles, big boss fights, and more.
The mechs can shoot guns, rockets, fly around, guard, and do some physical combat. You can also eject from your mech and play as the pilot, who’s much more vulnerable but can still lay down damage and try to avoid dying if their mech does. There’s also loads of weapon and armor customizations you configure on your mech.
The multiplayer is really fun, there’s a ton of mechs you can choose from and they all have very different playstyles. There’s mechs with very high mobility and flying powers, mechs with great physical combat strength, mechs with auto-targeting and armor, mechs that are more balanced, even mechs that will cover their opponent’s screen in paint so they can’t see. The more you level up the more mechs and skins you can unlock and there’s a lot of them. You can play online or you can play locally or with a split-screen.
Right now there’s just a free-for-all game mode where you can fight up to three other people to see who can get the most points. If your mechs health gets low, you can eject from it and run to a safehouse to respawn in a new mech without dying. And every time you respawn you can change your mech, which is nice since you aren’t locked into your choice and can change to counter opponents if needed.
Now let’s talk about some of the problems.
The controls are probably the main thing in this game that could be a problem for you. Particularly with the aiming. By default you aim and move with the left stick, which can make it tricky to aim because it means you have to keep moving yourself towards your target. You can hold down the right trigger to keep yourself in place when you aim, but then you can’t move to dodge attacks. Since all the mechs have different playstyles, some might be easier to deal with than others for this, but some pose big problems due to it. To address this, RocketPunch Games released an update adding another control type that allowed players to aim with the right stick, which helps but now it makes some of the melee tricky because you expect it to hit where you’re going but it goes to wherever you left your aiming at.
One other issue I had was if you’re playing online and someone in the lobby is lagging hard. Usually if that happens it gets very frustrating so you just pause the game and leave that lobby. But when it happened to me, even pausing the game and trying to leave was lagging just as bad as everything else in the lobby. So it became frustrating to even leave the game. Which tells me even the pause menu UI is connected to the host of the lobby when it shouldn’t be.
There’s also some content that was promised with the Kickstarter campaign for this project that just isn’t there. Namely an arcade and survival mode, both of which would support co-op. Arcade would let you fight different characters and additional bosses while Survival would let you defend against waves of enemies for various rewards and gear to upgrade your mech with. Despite promising these game modes in the Kickstarter, the game is out without this content in, isn’t listed as Early Access, and the devs haven’t said anything about it yet, not even to say it’s still in development or that they were abandoned. Currently, the game feels a bit lacking in content for its $20 price tag.
All these issues aside, Hardcore Mecha is still very fun and I would still very much recommend it for the multiplayer alone.
Ninja Girl and the Mysterious Army of Urban Legend Monsters! ~Hunt of the Headless Horseman~
When you mix ninja girls and visual novels, usually what you get is something very generic. They’re only there to sell you sexy waifu CGs and not much else. That’s exactly what I expected with this next game, but it turned out to be a little better than I thought.
It’s full title is Ninja Girl and the Mysterious Army of Urban Legend Monsters: Hunt of the Headless Horseman. With its long name and bland marketing, I almost didn’t try this game out. But, hey, it’s from Sekai Project and they usually make some decent stuff.
You follow the story of Kiri and Mary who run a Japanese-style cafe in America. In their world, urban legends, magic, and monsters are real, so their cafe also runs as a sort of cafe for the supernatural as well. Kiri is a ninja girl who also has dog ears. Mary is the urban legend Bloody Mary so she’s a ghost that lives in a mirror. They both live together and run the cafe, growing a strong bond and teasing each other. Then, one night, they find a girl unconscious outside, the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow trying to capture her, and a mysterious “Kilroy was here” graffiti on their wall.
While Ninja Girl and the Headless Horseman was better than I expected, it’s still not great. It falls victim to a lot of filler scenes and really drawn out character interactions. Not to mention how underdeveloped and forgettable the characters are and the forced sexual CGs. The only connection Mary even has to her urban legend is that she can enter mirrors.
What kind of made this game stand out to me was how in-depth the writer goes with describing all the history, culture, and even science behind certain things. Usually writers only do this for their own fantasy elements in order to build their world. In this game, the writer talks about all the real weapons and techniques used as well as the magic and races of their world. It makes the game more interesting because it’s teaching you all this actual cool info while telling you a short fantasy story. Sometimes they go a little too far with it by going into vivid detail describing things that just don’t matter at all.
It’s a pretty short story with just four characters, around 20 CGs, and about 5-9 hours of playtime, depending on your reading speed. But it has nice voice-acting and does really well with getting you into the scenes and action.
What I also enjoy is how the game tries to set up a nice theme, which is something I didn’t expect at all. The headless horseman is an immortal dark being who wants to keep fighting and live forever. Kiri is a ninja who claims she isn’t afraid of death. And Mary is a ghost who exists only to get revenge on the horseman for killing her and her family. The three have to deal with the idea of accepting death after their core beings all reject the very notion of it.
Unfortunately, the ending takes this actually well done theme and throws it into the trash. They didn’t want to go for a bittersweet ending, which ruined a lot of impact the ending had on me. In the end, it felt like nothing was really learned. Instead we just start advertising the next chapter in the series after the credits like some kind of Marvel movie.
Ninja Girl and the Headless Horseman was still better than I expected. And as disappointed as I am with its ending, I would still recommend it if you don’t mind it’s short length for its $15 price. Some of it is pretty forgettable, but I enjoyed the information and themes it almost accomplished portraying.
Zengeon is the only other decent anime game to come out this week, but when I say “decent” I say that with a looot of asterisks and giant scare quotes. The game is a Chinese rougelike ARPG with a cast of five characters to choose from with different abilities. The gameplay kind of feels like RWBY Grimm Eclipse, which isn’t good. The gameplay gets very repetitive really quick, with not much to do except continue the same map grind again but as a different character. It’s decent in that it works for what it is (which, in hindsight, is sad that that’s the bar for anime games on Steam), but the abilities also make the characters play differently, it supports local and online co-op, and the character and level art is also good.
There are two game modes: story and guard. Guard mode is just defending a point from endless enemies, which can be fun but it’s a very small map. Story mode is this game’s main content where you go through a few levels for three worlds and fight a boss for each. The drops and enemies are random but the maps are all the same. There’s hidden side areas you can clear and little shrine shops where you can exchange items.
You start with a refillable healing potion item and your base skills. You can also pick up spirits that upgrade your character, like a random chance to regenerate health or dealing ice damage. There’s random crates that you need coins from enemies to open and each either gives you a bunch of experience points or a choice between two spirits. Enemies will sometimes drop skill upgrades, spirits, or items and if your item slots are filled you can either swap one out for it or sacrifice it to upgrade one of the items you have. All the spirits and item levels have little stack effects and level caps as well.
You play as two characters from the start. The rest you unlock by beating the story and collecting story items. But after playing the game for about nine hours I was only able to unlock one character. The other two require finding story items for the two main characters but their drops are random. I got one story item for each character and still haven’t been able to figure out how I got them. At this point, I’m just assuming beating a boss gives you random chances to find story items. What I do know is that these shouldn’t be random. Or, if they are, the game should be extremely generous with them.
Given the repetitive nature of the gameplay, the only thing that makes runs different is using the other characters. But with the locked characters behind many hours of grinding for random drops, it gets tiring quickly.
If you play this game solo you definitely don’t want to swap out the healing potion you start with. It heals half your health and upgrading it just gives you another chance to drink from it. In rougelike fashion, dying solo means your death is permanent and you go back to the title screen. And since you probably won’t ever have the healing potion drop again, you really can’t afford to swap it out. Especially since drinking the potion was the best way to get healing. You can get lucky with spirits, but mostly you’re depending on the small health you get from enemies and props.
But you can’t even use the potion without a certain amount of power, which you temporarily get from fighting enemies. So you need to fight enemies and hope you don’t die before you drink your potion. You also don’t get healed from leveling up or going to the next level. So the game is very difficult solo with all that and its perma-death element.
Playing this game co-op is very clearly the way to go. It’s much easier to fight off the mobs of enemies and bosses. And if you die someone else can revive you to full health instantly. It makes clearing the game easy, but you really don’t want to risk joining a random online game. There’s no host transferring in Zengeon. So the host disconnecting kicks you back to the title screen. All progress gone. And if one player walks away, you can’t teleport to the next place either unless they’re kicked from the party. Also you won’t find a lot of people online usually because most of its players are in China.
All of this is after you ignore the games other problems. It has horrible English translation and weird grammar issues. It has a very weak attempt at what it calls a story. And it has horrible controller support for the menus. Zengeon right now feels like a very unpolished early access game. At least it only costs $9. I guess it works enough that you won’t feel scammed for paying that. Though you’ll certainly feel disappointed in its current state. Maybe wait to see if the devs polish it more.