|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: From Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: From Software||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 4, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Next to the Gundam franchise, the Armored Core series is probably the best known "mecha"-type game. Fans the world over have delighted for almost a decade in blowing things up and creating their ultimate mecha with this series. Five years ago, the last of the so-called "hardcore" Armored Core games was released to the PlayStation 2. While Last Raven certainly represented the epitome of the last generation of Armored Core games, it was quickly forgotten, as a new console generation and era of Armored Core games set in.
If you missed Last Raven when it was originally released, you may feel like you are in for a treat with Armored Core: Last Raven Portable. This title replicates nearly everything from the original, and it is one of the most faithful representations of a previously released title. However, therein lays the problem.
Although it is an oft-made criticism, the main problem with this version of Armored Core: Last Raven Portable lies in the PSP's hardware; specifically, its lack of dual analog sticks. Plenty of games on the PSP have created control schemes that work with the single analog stick, Armored Core just doesn't work with the single analog scheme, and that is this game's major stumbling block. The game attempts to get around this early on by giving you a flexible input system that allows you to assign buttons for any of the game's actions. However, even with these provisions, nothing replicates the feel of the second analog stick, which makes this game very hard to play.
Compounding this issue further is the fact that Last Raven is a very difficult game. The Armored Core games of the PlayStation 2 era were definitely a lot more challenging than most of the modern Armored Core titles. The levels themselves don't seem that challenging at first, including objectives like defending a base or shooting at a building. However, once you start playing, you'll find that you need rapid response times to defend yourself against aerial as well as ground threats. In addition, you almost never have enough ammunition for your primary weapon, so you'll have to learn very quickly how to save ammunition and aim carefully.
However, again, I have to reiterate that aiming carefully and taking out enemies with precision is very difficult to do with the game in its current form. I really wish the overall format of the game would have been changed to accommodate for the PSP's hardware, as the gameplay itself is solid. Games like Resistance: Retribution show that games that you would expect to need two analog sticks can work just as well with just one. But Armored Core: Last Raven Portable is just not one of those games.
If you do manage to get past the controls, Armored Core: Last Raven Portable has plenty of content to explore. The game's interface allows you to select both story-based and extra missions, and there are plenty of branching elements to the story that keep the experience fresh through multiple playthroughs. Though the story isn't exactly the deepest, if you are a fan of the Armored Core universe, it is entertaining enough.