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     " Variety is good, [and unfortunately] most of the single player levels are of the "go down the tunnel, kill things, then blow something up" type. "

   Title: Armored Core: Master of Arena

   Format: PSX- 3rd person action

   Reviewing Monkey: Monkeymus Prime

   The Hype: A giant robot simulator where you take on missions to earn money to buy new parts and weapons for your robot called an Armored Core, or "AC." Combat is third person with the camera situated above and behind. Over 180 AC parts, 27 brand new. 22 battle stages, 10 brand new. 19 detailed missions of total annihilation. 2 discs = massive gameplay. Use ALL your old lethal Armored Core creations. Awesome RUN, SLIDE & FLY maneuvers.
    This, like Project Phantasma, is more of an expansion to the original Armored Core. If only the PSX could do expansions like Brood War. –Sigh- There’s no real innovations here, just more of the same giant robot action with more parts and an improved versus mode. I liked the first game, and I like this one, but I have a feeling that if I’d bought Phantasma I wouldn’t like this one as much, as it is a big step from AC, but not so much from the sequel.

      What This Monkey Thought...

   Graphics: No great shakes, and again it’s not anything beyond the original. However the ‘bots still move smoothly and convincingly, and the impact detection is almost annoyingly accurate. Even when moving at high speeds, the ‘bots cruise, and the only excuse you have for not hitting your target is that you suck. 3 out of 5

   Sound: Some new sounds, unfortunately some of them are pretty lame. I really liked the old "Whoosh" noise for the booster rockets, and the first time I fired the boosters in MoA I thought someone was shooting at me, because they changed it to a high-pitched whine reminiscent of a turbine. The techno music tracks are appropriate and fade easily into the background without being annoying. 3 out of 5

   Game Play: For my monkey, giant robot combat doesn’t get much tighter than this. Controls are easy to understand, and the only delay in controls is dependent on how slow your AC is (and mine’s pretty damn slow). If you can play Tomb Raider, you can play Armored Core. 4 out of 5

   Level and Environment Designs: Again, the levels from Armored Core were great to begin with, but nothing new under the sun here. They’re kinda hit & miss. Some of the new multiplayer levels are nothing more that a big battledome, while others are multi-tiered instant-death drops. Variety is good, but most of the single player levels are of the "go down the tunnel, kill things, then blow something up" type. Kudos on most of the new multiplayer levels, but the single player modes lacked. 3 out of 5

   Multiplayer: Ah, finally we get to MoA’s forte! As one of the few PSX games that is link cable compatible, and even without that feature, this game rocks! Pitting your AC against your friends is the best feature of this game, hands down. With a nearly infinite number of AC possibilities to try out, there’s always something new to test out. Will you be able to take down your friend’s super-armored tank with your light and fast AC? The arenas (aside from the aforementioned big dome) are large and well made, with my favorites being the cave (with multi-level outcroppings) and an updated version of the city map from the original game. Throw in a cool replay feature where you can view the battle from either combatant’s view or a side view that scales in and out depending on proximity of the ‘bots to each other, and you will spend many an hour blowing your friends to scrap. For more fun, use the link cable feature and headphones. Then you can neither see, nor hear your opponent. It’s almost like being in the cockpit. 5 out of 5

   Replayability: Once you beat the single player mode, you’ll only end up playing the most lucrative missions over and over to buy parts for your AC to enhance the options available in multi-player. With the repetitive feel of the missions, I can’t see anyone replaying single player until several months down the line for kicks. But the versus mode will keep you coming on back when friends come over with time to kill. 3 out of 5

   Story/Dramatics: The story in this is much improved, given that I can follow it from point to point, and it’s a lot less "Japanese" in this game. I think that whoever translated this game didn’t do the story so literally this time around and it shows. However, the game doesn’t have much of a story to begin with, just the typical post-apocalypse-computers-take-over schtick. The only thing that matters is who or what you have to blow up. 2 out of 5

   Instructions and Learning Curve: The instructions are adequate, but nothing really good about AC creation. Covers the basics well, though. The learning curve is funky, though. If you played through the first game as I did and use your AC from that, the game is really easy until the final battle. It’s especially easy if you found the hidden laser rifle in the original game. However, if you start a new game in MoA, the game is really friggin’ hard. A basic starting AC is hard pressed to take out the veteran AC’s the computer throws at you. Some kind of middle ground should have been found… 3 out of 5

   The Verdict:

       I liked it, though I thought the game balance needed some tweaking, as my Optimus Prime AC just marched through the game with ease. There’s not much new here, so experienced Armored Core players may be disappointed. This game is especially worthwhile if you skipped Project Phantasma, since there will be a lot more new stuff to look at. I eagerly look forward to the TRUE Armored Core sequel on PS2…

   The Good: Graphics, solid, tight gameplay, multiplayer rocks

   The Bad: Not much new under this sun, game balance massively against first time players

   The Overall Ugly: After you beat the first player mode, all you’re gonna use it for is to whup friend’s asses

   What it's Worth: $34.99

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