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RELEASE DATE (JP): December 22, 2011 GENRE: Fighter
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

The Storm of Battle, Once Again

I knew absolutely nothing about Lyrical Nanoha going in. Actually, I still know absolutely nothing about it. This whole experience didn't tell me anything! I guess it might have if it was in English. All I know about this particular game, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's: The Gears of Destiny (long name), is that it's based on the second animated series, and is the second one based on the show. But that isn't all, because it also contains elements from spin-offs ViVid and Force, whatever that means.

It's a fighting game that takes place from a side-on perspective but dynamically switches to over the shoulder at intense moments. All the characters seem to be able to float; I'm sure there's a logical explanation. Square and Triangle form combo attacks, you can dash forwards with Cross, and activate the Full Drive with the Right Trigger, which is an absolute spectacle. It also does crazy damage. The enemy can do it too, so when they activate their special power you have to dash away from them immediately!

Story Mode is where almost everything happens. It is separated into "Sequences", which contain "Destiny" sections (battles). Each sequence has an opening and closing text dump which is fully voiced and uses what I presume to be stills from the animated series. At certain points in each Sequence, you have a choice over which Destiny you do — giving you the ability to pick which target you wish to go up against next.

The characters were a joy to discover. Pistol-toting pink-haired goddess Amita, adorable blonde-haired Fate, the vicious and powerful Zafira... like the Vauxhall car. I was having flashbacks to Fighters' Megamix for the Saturn, where you can play as the Hornet from Daytona. Instead of being a car, Zafira is a wolf-man who can basically repeat his punch until it breaks the enemy's guard and you win. He's basically unstoppable.

I played through seven sequences and only unlocked one character... just how many sequences are there? I'm a busy man! Or at least, I pretend to be a busy man! I haven't even unlocked Arcade Mode. Wait, why is Arcade Mode locked? This is a fighting game! The unwritten rule is that fighting games have an Arcade Mode (even if they were not released in arcades), and it's a battle after battle type affair. That's the unwritten rule!

I can't stay mad at this game: it's beautiful.

The presentation is simply delightful. The character models are very detailed by PSP standards, the game runs super fluidly and the animation is superb. The characters are quite vocal, gibbering as the battle goes on in typical anime fashion. The special effects on the Full Drive moves are, as I said above, spectacular. They really make you feel incredible when you pull them off, like "Did I do that!?" The menus are slick, the backgrounds are nice, and the character portraits in the text box move their mouths and blink! I don't think a single expense was spared in this; it's astounding quality leaves me flabbergasted at the lack of a localization.

Although I credited the backgrounds, they are simply that. Backgrounds. There doesn't seem to be a different feel or shape to the environment, it's like all battles take place in a sphere and the background is only there for dressing. Each battle doesn't have a distinct difference, and when you're fighting the same boss as the same character further down the story mode, it doesn't feel like you made any progress even though the setting is different. I feel like I myself might be gibbering here but what I'm trying to say is that the environment itself never changes, just the scene behind the characters.

And that's kind of crap.

This, and the lack of modes and characters open from the beginning, are truly the only negatives I can derive from this package. I genuinely feel everything else is well above par for an anime-based title. It is an immensely playable fighting game with a relatively high difficulty level and a great feeling of accomplishment upon victory. With its large and sometimes daunting Story Mode, getting to the end feels like it could be a major time commitment, but in the nature of all portable games you can simply flick the PSP into standby and try again later when you're feeling up to it.

As with most PSP fighting games worth any attention, there is full ad-hoc multiplayer. There are also bonuses to unlock, including a viewer that allows you to ogle the game models up close and personal. It's not hard to find anything either, with menus entirely in English.

I'm sure a fan of the Nanoha series could come to this game with a greater understanding of how characters and situations relate, but just as a simple inquisitive soul I found a great deal to appreciate in this game. While it may not be a game I personally feel driven to complete, those in the mind to do so will gather a great deal of enjoyment from this game.

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