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A Brief History of 'Armored Core'

Viewing my favorite, and sometimes loathed, franchise of mecha video games.

Armored Core! Armored Core. Armored Core

You’re so awesome. Then sometimes you’re so what the flying frick it’s ridiculous. And it literally makes me scream sometimes because you have such potential, and you’ve shown it, to be the genre-defining mecha video game. I mean, you might be. To me you certainly are. But you have Mech Assault, Chromehounds, Titanfall, Hawken, a slew of Gundam games, and more, and even though you try your best, sometimes you’re mentioned with those names as opposed to prefacing them so often by reviewers and players alike.

A lot of you are probably wondering what the frick is Armored Core? You’d be right to ask that question. While Armored Core was supported in all its grand splendor in the land of the rising sun, in America and Europe it has received significantly less attention. I know there are US players though because I beat 'em. I beat 'em bad. That’s a lie. Actually, I got my butt kicked a lot in Armored Core For Answer in multi-mech matches, but I can hold my own in one versus one. We’ll get to that later. My point being is that there is a tremendous potential, with the upcoming confirmed release by From Software of Armored Core 6 to next-generation consoles, to make this a staple of online play on consoles and maybe PC here in the United States. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love giant robots shooting lasers, missiles, and guns at each other, complete with laser swords?

It all starts in 1997. I was 7 at the time, and my sister was five. We’d go into what was known as Caldor’s, a discount department store that in my world of Westchester, New York, was taken over by Kohl's locations when they went out of business. Could have been Walmart. Could have been online shopping. For some reason, they don’t exist anymore. Before I get off track anymore, I brought this up because I used to go to the video game section, where they had one PlayStation One set up with a couple of games in it. I think Crash Bandicoot’s first level was on there, but I already owned and played the crap out of that, so we looked for other games. Armored Core was one of them and I haven’t looked back since. Every time we’d go to this stupid store we’d just get dropped off there in the games section because it was a different time when you could trust that your kids would be there when you got back. How lucky were we?

So we played this Armored Core game over and over, playing each other in one on one matches with the standard mechs that were built into the game. I was enthralled. This lit the fire of mine for giant robots blowing stuff up that I still have to this day. I saw Pacific Rim six times with my best friend Sara when it came out. We finally convinced my parents to buy us a copy of Armored Core, which led to my inevitable later-life loneliness because I never went outside again. A lie, but I did spend a lot of time playing it.

The first game, to the third game, on PlayStation One, involved you running around in the underground cities and facilities of corporations working for the Raven’s Nest. The Raven’s Nest is this quasi-corporate entity that directs Ravens, the pilots of Armored Cores, on their missions usually assigned and distributed by the corporate entities. In these first three games, the major corporations were Chrome and Marakumo Millenium. There was also the arena, where you could fight other Ravens outside of the main story, as many times as you want and rise in the ranks. This comes into play in the main story in Armored Core: Master of Arena, where the main story is a revenge arc with the main character after the number one ranked Raven, Hustler One, destroyed his family and city in his infamous Nineball AC.

I like Hustler One. I always thought he was cool. So did From Software, enough to make a whole game later on for the PlayStation 2, called Ninebreaker. The whole point of that game is to build an AC that can defeat Nineball. There is no single player plot. Just arena. This is an example of the misses Armored Core has made in its lengthy history. I did not enjoy Ninebreaker. I don’t think a lot of people did. I still bought it anyway because I’m a drone. I bought Armored Core 5 and look where that got me, too.

Armored Core 2 on the PlayStation 2 has you go to Mars to defeat evil corporations. Another Age brings you back to Earth to fight the same evil corporations, as well as on Mars. Silent Line: Armored Core 3 introduces a different enemy, on top of evil corporations, that is an artificial intelligence. I like this one a lot because it’s a different kind of take on the struggle between robotics and mankind, while humans still use robots to fight back. It's reminiscent of the same philosophical struggle Neo goes through in The Matrix. This game introduces the Global Cortex, an evolution of the Raven’s Nest. Armored Core: Nexus was fun but it was back to the same old “corporations are all evil” trope. Then there was Ninebreaker and after that Last Raven. Last Raven was cool because depending on who you helped among the corporations you got a different ending.

And now we have my crown jewels which came out for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3: Armored Core 4 and Armored Core For Answer. Both dramatically increased the speed at which you could move about in your AC. It revolutionized the way that you played the game, especially considering there was built-in online play. I remember playing matches where people would glitch the game with the amount of speed their mechs could move at, in essence teleporting around the map. I was invited into sword-only matches where people dueled using laser blades. It was so much fun.

And then Armored Core 5 happened. Slow. Dark. Wonky online play. We don't talk about that though, because the studio took note of the low sales and have, reportedly, devoted significant attention to Armored Core 6. The director of the studio at From Software, Miyazaki, reportedly said, "Yeah, we're already working on Armored Core," but nothing else. Confirmation is all I need, especially after the studio has proven its mettle with the success of Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3. I can't wait to see what's in store for this franchise in the future.

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A Brief History of 'Armored Core'
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