I think it’s pretty safe to say that the PlayStation Vita, at this point in time, isn’t as popular as the West thought it was going to be back when it was first released. That’s not to say that the system itself is bad or that the games released for it aren’t enjoyable, in fact, out of all the consoles I have now the PlayStation Vita would have to be my favorite. Despite this being one of Sony’s own consoles in circulation during the same time as the PlayStation 3 and 4, the technological juggernaut seems as though it’s simply refusing to put any effort into advertising outside of Japan just how great the Vita is. Many games released for the handheld are niche titles that don’t get that much attention outside of their country of origin this is where we see a steep decrease in interest. In Japan, the Vita is still considered one of the members of the royal gaming family. Unfortunately, it’s not the same case in the West but I think that’s all going to change very soon thanks to the release of ‘Freedom Wars’, a game partially developed by Sony themselves and one that Vita owners have been waiting to get their hands on for quite some time.
It was ‘Freedom Wars’ that lit a spark within me long ago. It is the game that practically forced me into buying a Vita long before it was to even get a release and I quickly found that the system has so much more to offer than just empty promises. It’s the end of 2014 and ‘Freedom Wars’ has finally been released. Something I still consider to be somewhat of a miracle. Tapping the fictional energy from the deep roots of Science Fiction, ‘Freedom Wars’ tells the story of you; a prisoner living in a time riddled by death and destruction. Humans, most of them at least, have been forced underground to live in dense societies known as Panopticons. These ‘Cons, as they’re abbreviated, play host to two different types of person: Citizens and Sinners. The Sinners are, for lack of a better term, prisoners forced to fight for their Panopticons against an army of inorganic monsters known only as the Abductors who are actually sent by other Panopticons to steal YOUR citizens and resources. It’s just plain rude, if you ask me. Not much is known about the world when you wake up from your coma stricken with amnesia but what you’re told is pretty easy to understand: Shut up, suit up and fight for your freedom. Everything a Sinner does determines just how short or prolonged their sentence is so you take the advice of these ‘strangers’ and do all you can for your Panopticon. That is…until ‘she’ turns up.
The story behind ‘Freedom Wars’ is so old that it, in fact, feels brand-new. Already by my explanation you can see how the game reaches back into the golden age of science fiction and does what it can to pay homage to those who’ve come before it. It’s an ‘all eyes on you’ type of story where your every step is recorded and you’re judged based on every single action you take. It’s the definition of ‘dystopia’ but you’re not alone in it, there are plenty of other characters to share the sorrow with and each of them are more quirky than the last. Some character interactions can be dull but that’s only when you’re dealing with a dull character. Thankfully the game is filled to the brim with unique individuals. Getting to know the main cast of characters, you do get a true feeling of comradery. It’s a “we’re all in this together” situation that is highlighted only after having a chat with this souls on the verge of true destruction. the story develops nicely and is divided up perfectly so as to not be favored over actual gameplay. This helps to not make having to talk to someone a monotonous task. What’s even better is that his character is meant to be you and even though the story focuses on many other elements, it still allows you to feel as though you’re still a pivotal character.
Gameplay-wise, ‘Freedom Wars’ has basically everything a contemporary video game fan could ask for. Set in the third-person view, the game features gun fighting, swordplay, quick time events, modern RPG elements and so much more. It would probably be easier just to list what ‘Freedom Wars’ doesn’t feature rather than what it does. The quickest way to describe the game is that it’s simply a more accessible version of the ‘Monster Hunter’ series. Combat is smooth and different weapon types are easy to handle. You constantly go up against huge enemies so the key to completing a mission is to move fast and hit hard, two things the games controls make quite easy with little discrepancies here or there like having to hold down the ‘X’ button to dash while also being urged to combine running with other commands. What’s great about that is the game gives you the option to change all the controls so even when I find a negative the game shows me a way to turn it into a positive. ‘Freedom Wars’ has plenty of unlockable/Craftable guns and swords and features an simple items production system that seems daunting at first but is quick to become familiar with.
There’s a couple different mission types that can be taken on. Things like rescue missions, escort missions and elimination missions are all featured in “Freedom Wars” and can be completed as part of a single and/or multiplayer experience. I’ve been playing this game with fellow writer Kane Bugeja and the both of us have commented positively on just how good the multiplayer system is. You can play WITH or AGAINST other gamers: Playing against others is pretty simple, you’re given the option to take part in reclamation missions, capture the point missions and death match missions like any other action/shooter title. When playing alongside someone you can partake in any mission you’ve unlocked throughout the story mode. This means you can replay missions OR get a friend to help you complete missions you’ve yet to. Doing so will give you an item that you can trade in once you’re playing solo to automatically finish the mission. THIS I found to be very, very clever.
The PlayStation Vita is not a console renown for its graphical capabilities. It’s not a low-powered system that doesnt have the capabilities to run graphically beautiful games, it’s more that a lot of developers don’t necessarily take advantage of what it does have to offer. Few titles look brilliant on the PlayStation Vita and, what a surprise, it turns out they’re some of the more loved ones to hit the handheld. “Freedom Wars” is, without a doubt, one of those good-looking Vita titles. Not to be compared to the graphics of next generation console titles, “Freedom Wars” features a nice Anime-type style that mixes in greatly with the dark and dense overtones of a semi-apocalyptic wasteland. You’ll be seeing a lot of greys, deep blues, browns, silvers and a whole bunch of other earthy colours throughout the game but you’ll also find yourself seeing a great deal of vividly-colored images. Most notably; the Sinners and their Accessories, and that is simply because of the huge customization option that you’re allowed to use throughout the game. Make your character as bright and bubbly as possible, if that’s your style. Character models, for the most part, move smoothly with only minor hiccups hear and there which mostly come about when interacting with NPCs. “Freedom Wars” features a dynamic camera that changes depending on what exactly you’re doing which works great to get a feel of real impact, especially when jumping onto an Abductor and severing an arm or something else along those lines.
“Freedom Wars”, being a Japanese-made game, has been released worldwide with only its original Japanese dub. This is something I have no problem with; the Japanese voice actors and actresses all perform admirably and I just happen to love the language so any game I can play in full Japanese is a nice treat for me. I never came across a character who didn’t emote well vocally, and each of them had their own voices and personalities which were made real by those lending their talents to the role. I’ve never heard a Japanese voice actor/actress do a bad job, now I don’t know whether their just masters at their art or that bad voice acting doesn’t make it through the language barrier, but either way they all did fantastically. Surprisingly, the game also had a very good soundtrack. I say surprisingly only because I never really had high expectations for the score but it proved otherwise. It’s not really that every single track is memorable, it’s more that they fit into every situation be it having a talk with other Sinners or cutting a giant robot down to size. The best way to describe the soundtrack would be to say that it’s composed in quite a contemporary manor. Basically, a lot of electric sounds that boom and swoop then drop, so on and so forth. I think you get the idea. Really, if you think about it, what songs would suit a dystopian, underground community of prisoners? It’s a hard question to answer but I think the soundtrack team behind “Freedom Wars” got it right!
“Freedom Wars” is exactly what I expected. Exactly. It perfectly mixes both long range and short range combat, it allows you to zip around the battlefield taking on gargantuan machines, it let’s you make your very own character and it has a great multiplayer system. It delivers on everything that was boasted about it which makes it one of the few truly honest games of our generation. Look, there are little things that don’t quite deliver as well as they could but that’s in almost every single game. “Freedom Wars” has few things wrong with it and anything that you do notice it is lacking will quickly be replaced by thoughts of the things you love about it. That’s the charm of the game. The story is long enough to give you your moneys worth but short enough so that it doesn’t become too monotonous. There’s also a tonne of post-game content for you to work your way through. Most notably; the multiplayer. Enough said. I hope many others feels the same way about this game as me because I truly do believe this is the one that will resurrect the PlayStation Vita in the West. If that doesn’t say enough about the game than I don’t think anything else will.