There’s no way around it: Gods Eater Burst is yet another game that tries to be like Capcom’s insanely popular Monster Hunter series. You use big weapons to take on even bigger monsters in varying missions with anywhere from one to four players (or 3 AI partners) at your side. Defeated monsters and completed missions yield various rewards that can be used to craft better weapons and other items, completing certain missions will grant you access to more advanced missions and so on. Yup, more than a few similarities there.
What helps to set Gods Eater Burst apart, aside from the obvious anime-inspired visual design, is a fast-paced combat system with shape-changing weapons and an actual plot (with actual cutscenes) that’s actually interesting. The fact that it’s insanely fun doesn’t hurt much, either.
I’ll admit as much as I love the Monster Hunter series, “fun” isn’t really the first word I’d use to describe it. Not that it’s boring or anything, it’s just more about the satisfaction you get from earning your way than it making your brain go “WEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Gods Eater Burst, however, takes the core concept of farming large creatures for spare parts and mixes it with fast, responsive and enjoyably quirky combat. It might take a few missions for you to really come to grips with the controls, especially if your used to wyvern hunting, but once you learn, you’ll be pulling off incredibly flashy moves and reducing Aragami to mush in no time.
Your weapon of choice is the God Arc; a multi-function weapon specially designed for killing these nigh-indestructible beasties. At any point during a mission, even in mid-combat, you can shift your God Arc between its sword, gun and shield modes. The sword mode is about what you’d expect. You rush in and hack away at your target while trying to avoid taking too much damage. There are three different type of swords to choose from (Knife, Blade and Claymore), each offering up the requisite elemental, crushing, piercing or raw damage. Each of the three sword styles plays differently, with Knives having virtually no special attacks but offering the best speed, Blades giving you a good balance between speed and range along with an elemental blast, and Claymores featuring the greatest range and a charge-up swing at the expense of speed and mobility.
The gun mode, as you’d expect, allows you to pepper your target with ranged attacks. Elemental attacks are reliant on the bullets you equip, so each and every gun can be used to exploit your enemy’s weaknesses, but they can also increase the base damage of a given element, so it’s important to have a few different types ready to go. As with the swords, guns are also split into three types (Sniper, Assault and Blast), only with fewer distinct differences. A Sniper will give you the best range, while Assault has a faster rate of fire and Blast tends to do more raw damage. Although it won’t be long (around Chapter 3 or so) before you can make or buy Gatling bullets, which do well to make up for any gun’s lackluster fire rate.
The nice thing about the bullets is you only need to carry one of a given type. So once you make some kick-ass fire bullets you can simply bring the one, equip it during the mission and every shot will do fire damage. There’s also a large range of bullet types to create and customize, from standard shots to mortars and lasers that track their targets slightly. The trade-off is that every shot will use up some of your energy, referred to as “OP,” so it’s important to juggle your ranged attacks with a few melee hits in order to fill the meter up again. You also can’t lock-on to a target in gun mode, unless you equip something that gives that ability, so you’ll have to aim manually.
Finally there’s the shield mode. It’s not really a mode. You just block with it. Of course the shield will also grant you any number of special skills or abilities such as an auto-block, so it’s still essential.
As confusing as some of this may sound, it wont take long before combining melee combat with quick-changes and gunfire start to feel natural and badass. This is what makes Gods Eater Burst‘s combat so much fun: you’re constantly shifting between modes, adapting on the fly and discovering new ways to incorporate various techniques into your own personal combos. Once the Aragami is down, holding the Triangle button will cause the God Arc to grow a mouth (seriously) which you use to chomp on the corpse and acquire parts. You can also nibble on living Aragami to absorb a limited number of bullets that mimic their special abilities, as well as gain other temporary perks. Then it’s back to the home base, Fenrir, to debrief, unload and restock.
Fenrir is home to a good number of Gods Eaters, as well as administrators and civilians, and is where you’ll spend all of your non-killing time. There aren’t a whole lot of areas to explore, and you’ll most likely spend the vast majority of your time in the small lobby area, but it’s actually pretty convenient since everything you need (the shop, the mission counter and the computer used for crafting) is right there. Every now and then you’ll have to wander around in order to trigger a cutscene and start the next section of the story, but traveling between areas is fairly quick and the load times aren’t intrusive.
As for the story, it’s actually pretty good. Quite some time ago the Earth got borked. Monsters referred to as Aragami began showing up and killing/eating people, destroying stuff and generally doing what monsters do best. Mankind eventually discovered a way to fight back (the God Arc) and began training special soldiers they called Gods Eaters. Fast forward to the game’s present and humanity has been forced to hole up in special compounds designed to defend against the Aragami; often sending out Gods Eaters to protect the outer ghettos and gather combat and research data. You play the part of a “New Type” Gods Eater, which presumably refers to your ability to shift between gun and sword mode, as everyone else seems to exclusively use one or the other.
I have to admit I’m impressed. It’s not going to win any awards or blow anyone away, but the plot (which exists!) is genuinely interesting and features some relatively likable characters, despite all of them being some form of anime cliche. It feels a little weird to say this, but I actually found myself paying attention to it all. Even the scientific explanation behind the Aragami creatures during the various “classroom” scenes. It’s endearing in a .hack sort of way. My only complaint is that the animations are both stiff and canned during the cutscenes, with characters flailing around like short-circuited robots half the time. Which is a shame because the voice acting is pretty good, and these wooden “actors” tend to suck the emotion out of each scene. I also hate that your character is the typical “silent protagonist” who does nothing but give the occasional nod. Rather lame.
It’s hard not to recommend Gods Eater Burst to PSP owners. It features a similar loot-grinding system to an incredibly popular series that also involves hunting monsters and has over 100 missions for you to mess around with. Assuming you want to get the coveted “SSS+” rating for all of them, you’ll be playing for quite some time. But most importantly it’s just a hell of a lot of fun. Especially if you have a friend or two to play it with.
Things We Liked: Shockingly fun. The versatility of the God Arc means you can change between aggressive tank and field medic on-the-fly. Being able to recruit AI teammates for missions is a big help, even if they sometimes get in the way. It has a legitimate story, and it doesn’t suck. Features some seriously funky creature designs. Finally, a new PSP game that doesn’t require you to install anything to make it even remotely playable! A handy database that gives intel on characters, areas, Aragami and even where to find various crafting items.
Things We Disliked: AI teammates can make the game a little too easy at times. Fighting multiple large Aragami at once can be annoying, even if it is in a chaotically entertaining sort of way. Friendly AI isn’t always that bright. Stiff animations during story sequences suck out a lot of the emotion. Where the hell are the US versions of the Japanese DLC?
Target Audience: People who enjoy action games. Anyone who likes the idea of Monster Hunter with an anime skin. Oddly, fans of .hack G.U.
(Gods Eater Burst – Developer: Shift. Publisher: D3Publisher. Available for PlayStation Portable. Unfamiliar with CFD!’s review system? Read our newly revised explanation here.)