HARDCORE MECHA (RocketPunch Games – PC and PlayStation 4) Release Date: January 14th 2020 (PlayStation Store), June 26th 2019 (Steam)

“It’s like one of my Japanese animes…”

Starting life as Code: HARDCORE back in 2016 on Kickstarter, after a couple years of delays and a name change, HARDCORE MECHA eventually made its way to Steam by June 2019. HARDCORE MECHA combines slick 2D platforming with over the top mecha action to create a unique experience for any anime fan. I feel the need to specify anime fans because HARDCORE MECHA is catering to that audience in every single aspect – the visuals, story and combat have so many references to other animes/games that non-anime fans simply won’t understand the appeal.

The year is 2221 A.D. You play as ace pilot, Tarethur O’Connell as he and his understudy, Edgar, are recruited by the United Nation Forces (U.N.F). Your mission is to locate 1st Lieutenant Aylatanya ‘A’ Kiruna, a missing intelligence operative who has gone missing on Mars. The first mission of the game has you exploring Mine 112 on the Mars Colony known as ‘Orcus’ as you attempt to bring Kiruna back to the U.N.F. The story takes place primarily within cutscenes that focus on the conversations right before a mission. The dialogue within these cutscenes features Japanese voiceover, with no option to switch to a different language. If you have no interest in the story at all, HARDCORE MECHA does give you the option to completely skip cutscenes by pressing Start at any point.

Within the first two minutes of HARDCORE MECHA, you will quickly know whether or not the game is for you as you are thrown into the middle of a fight. The game’s opener has you playing as Ryusei Jin in his mecha, Invincible Hero X, as you take on Balzo (a Kaiju). This is completely different from the main game as fighting against Kaiju is completely unbelievable compared to the game’s actual story. Nevertheless, the combat is exactly the same as you learn to control the mecha. Using the right stick you need to point at enemies to fire directly at them, harnessing the plethora of weapons at your disposal. You also have access to a flight mechanic and a fast dodge to avoid gunfire and melee attacks from other mecha.

As you progress through the first few missions, HARDCORE MECHA does a great job of introducing the player to brand new mechanics that radically change the way the game is played. There are some mechanics, such as the flying ability, which is made considerably better as the game’s camera zooms out to give the player more room. Despite taking control of a mecha that is ten times the size of your character, you feel much more agile when the game gives you room to traverse from platform to platform. You’ve also got missions where you play outside of your mecha, slowing the pace down considerably as it turns into a stealth game. HARDCORE MECHA was designed first and foremost as an action game. When the formula is changed dramatically, the stealth aspects fall flat in comparison to the usual mecha combat.

Can love bloom on the battlefield? Not in HARDCORE MECHA

Completing missions reward you with a currency that can be used to upgrade your mecha. There are copious amounts of weapons and general mecha upgrades like damage/health boosts to keep you going throughout the length of the game. You may have to go back to repeat missions if you want the ultimate mecha, but you probably won’t need to as the game is very forgiving when it comes to dying. You won’t have any frustrating moments when playing HARDCORE MECHA, and if you are really struggling you can always drop the game’s difficulty down to Easy mode.

To add to the value of the game, there’s even a multiplayer mode that has players fighting against each other in their chosen mechas. Multiplayer is a nice addition to HARDCORE MECHA, though I struggled to find an online match earlier this week. Fortunately, split-screen local multiplayer is an option and is playable with up to four people. Overall, if you enjoy 2D platformers and crazy anime storylines, HARDCORE MECHA might be the game for you. Launching this week on the PlayStation Store for £15.99 and also available on Steam for £12.08, HARDCORE MECHA is worth a nod if you want to try something completely different.

Written for the January 17th issue of DailyBits.