Memories of Armored Core

After such a long (LONG) wait, Armored Core 6 is finally almost here, and I couldn't be happier. You see, Armored Core is a special series to me, but it's also one I haven't always been able to keep up with. I'm someone who kinda falls into a weird place with it, because although I love it and am a "long time fan," it's not a series I've been able to fully experience. Even so, what I have been there for will always be special to me, and I guess it's that nostalgia that really drives my excitement when it comes to this release. Now, in the past I slightly touched on my experience with the series, but today is a new day, and I feel like now is the perfect time to expand upon my story. 

Growing up, I was a HUGE fan of both robots and mechs. Power Rangers was my go to, and of course I had nearly all of the toys (thanks Uncle Mark)! I didn't really know what "mecha" was per say, but I loved pretty much anything that was robot related, and the more robots there were, the better. 

Jumping ahead to middle school, Toonami was a part of my new daily routine, and shows like Zoids and Gundam 08th MS Team were my go to after noon shows. Stupid middle school me still thought that Zoids was a knock off of Power Rangers, but I still liked it! I guess it was Gundam that made me realize there was more out there though, so I began watching it as well. They quickly became two of my favorite shows, and it made me wish that they would make video games about them also. (Yeah, that happened, but I had no idea it did...) Anyway -- I guess it's these two series that truly pushed me to become a mecha fan, but I had no idea how to continue from there. And then that's when my friend Ian started telling me about Armored Core.

Back then I was more of a Nintendo kid. Sure, I had a PlayStation 1, but even then I only played a few games on it. I was mainly into games like Mario, MegaMan, Kirby, etc, and I rarely branched out and tried something new. Only exceptions were when my uncle or cousins would get a new game or rent something, and I'd check it out, but most of the time it wasn't something that appealed to me. That being said, when Ian started talking about his PS2 games, they just flat out sounded amazing to me.

I never expected to get any of them though. This (dot) hack series he kept bringing up? Sounded really cool, but when was I ever going to play that? Armored Core 2 that he kept talking about was the same, but I was still interested in it. He'd tell me how you got to build different AC Units, and how you could customize each one to be unique. He talked about how he created speed builds, ones that focus on missiles, and sometimes he'd sit there and brain storm new plans with me. It's funny how I remember all of this after all these years, but sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday. Heck his speed type he told me was like "using the float shoes on ice in Zelda." I knew exactly what he meant, and how hard that would be to control! But either way, what he told me about AC convinced me to give it a shot whenever I got the chance, but I never expected that day to come. Besides playing it a little bit one of the few times I went to his house -- AC2 was a game that would just be lost to me. That is, until I graduated middle school.

It took a couple of years, but when I finished 8th grade I received enough graduation money to buy a PlayStation 2. I still remember the day my mom drove me to different Walmarts to find the thing, and when we finally did I also grabbed a copy of MegaMan X 8. Of course I was going to start with the games I really wanted/knew I'd love, so the MegaMan games were at the top of the list. However around this very same time is when we discovered a new movie rental place in town, and thanks to that discovery, I got to try out a lot of new and different things. I didn't have money to buy games myself (obviously as I was just going into high school), but for $4, my parents were more than willing to let me rent a game from time to time. You got to keep it for a week, and our shopping trips were every week -- so it worked out nicely! And considering this new place had a huge selection of PS2 games, I couldn't have got the console at a better time.

Of course I started out renting games like Transformers first, but when Armored Core 2 caught my eye sitting on the front shelf, there was no way I could pass it up. Finally after all these years, I could play the game for myself. And it was amazing.

I did suck at the game, I'm not going to lie. The experience of playing the game was great and all, but I just didn't know what I was doing. Sure I played the heck out of it that week, and I did go on to rent it multiple times after, but overall it wasn't a game I was planning on returning to just because it was so hard. If I actually owned the game I'm sure I would've given it more time, but I had other games to rent, and because of that the AC series just sorta faded away from me. At least for a couple of years. Ultimately what changed everything for me was the summer of my junior year when my uncle opened a bakery, and I got my first part time job. That's when I bought my first game console on my own -- the Xbox 360.

The Xbox 360 opened up a whole new world to me. Finally I could play the new popular games like Halo 3, Portal, etc, and I was finally also able to jump into completely new series as well. No longer was I tied down by the Wii and what Nintendo had to offer, and with my own income I was able to actually test out quite a bit more series. Heck, since I jumped in so late, most of the good games were already cheap! It was such a good feeling going into a store, dropping $15-20 on a game I'd never heard of, and then just spend the next week playing it. It was like renting a game, but I never had to return it! I found so many gems this way, and I don't regret a single purchase. But then one day I also discovered that Armored Core 4 was a thing.

I remember looking up info about the game, and reading about it while in computer class at school. That night I then told my dad about it, and gave him the money to pick it up for me if he could find it at the local GameStop. At the time we didn't really have many video game stores around here, with the closest GameStop being an hour away near his work. At first he laughed and thought I meant "Armored Corp" when I wrote it down, but I was like "no it's actually Armored Core." He then took the money, and when he got home from work the next day he had the copy of my new game with him. I was beyond excited!

Even though I had a rough go with AC2, AC4 was a whole other story. Right off the bat I was blown away by the game's realistic graphics. Then I saw the fact that you could legit fly, AND do a high speed build far beyond whatever speeds the PS2 could handle. Afterwords I got pulled into it's mercenary based story, and got to work coming up with mech designs of my own. I wanted to be like my friend Ian, and create a wide verity of ACs to match my every need. This new game provided even more verity to it's customization, and even let you customize decals and colors of each part! By this point I had gotten into multiple mecha series like Code Geass, so of course I started recreating mechs from these shows as well. I basically went all out with the game, and each day I was excited to come home from school to play it. Taking on different missions each day, fighting other ACs in the arena -- it was all of my mecha dreams come true. 

And then I hurt my back in school.

The bad thing is, throwing my back out at age 17, means you're still going to have issues (sometimes worse) when you're 32. Almost half your life later, and things like this will still bother you. On the flip side, I got to stay home from school for a bit! Armored Core 4 is one of the main ways I spent my time being stuck to a chair. I still remember the time I dropped my 360 controller and had to figure out how to get it (that was very painful), but other than that it was a great memory! Having time and an excuse to do nothing but play AC4 was great, and I feel like that's when I really dove into the customization side of things. Eventually my back did get "better," and I went back to school, but I think it was that weekend I actually finished the game's "main" story. And I wanted more.

Surprise! There was more! Armored Core 4A (For Answer) was a follow up to AC4, and was said to improve upon everything in AC4. New story, new missions, new parts to customize your AC with, and just... A bunch of new content in general! Of course I had to have it too, and once again my dad was willing to pick it up for me on his way home. This time it was a full priced release though, unlike my old copy of AC4.

I actually didn't like For Answer as much as 4. Maybe I burned myself out on 4 during the couple of months I had just spent playing it, but I think it was more of the issues I had with it's content. For example, while it did have more to do, and it had some crazy huge boss fights, the story itself didn't grab me quite as much, and the split story paths had some really challenging missions I just couldn't overcome. It didn't help that the game had really long loading screens as well, so it did start to get on my nerves. Eventually I got to a point where I went down the "bad guy's route" and had multiple of the game's enemy bosses attacking me at once -- I never did clear that mission.

After AC4A, I once again took a break from the series. I had other games to play, and my last year of high school kept me busy. A really fun time in my life overall, but none of that is Armored Core related. I actually didn't return to the series until early college when GameStop (which had now opened up closer to me) started selling PS2 games for cheap, and they had a buy 2 get 2 free deal. So of course I grabbed most of the Armored Core 3 series, as well as Resident Evil Code Veronica. 

AC3 was of course a lot different from 4 (and on older hardware), but man it was still fun. It got hard, and I didn't actually finish it (or it's follow ups), but I had a blast playing it. Last Raven was pretty crazy too, but it's difficulty started so high that I for sure never came close to the end. Again I still enjoyed it though, and I couldn't complain considering how cheap I got it. Afterwords I once again took a break from the series, but eventually I did jump back in with Armored Core V.

I really liked ACV. I hate that I missed out on all the online features of it (or mostly missed out), but it was a lot of fun for what it was. Smaller mechs, the ability to jump off of walls, and some really cool mission and level design. It took me roughly a year to actually beat the game as I had a lot going on in my life at the time, but I really REALLY enjoyed it. So much that I bought the follow up VD (Verdict Day) the moment I saw the credits roll. 

Sadly while the game did arrive a few days after placing the order, it came in a completely destroyed box. I guess I should've returned it, but I didn't. Instead I have a copy of VD that's box is pretty much shredded, with plastic pieces falling off non stop if you hold it the wrong way. I have no idea what happened to make it be in this state, but thankfully the disc was ok. And then once again, I would spend the next 2 years playing the game off and on in my free time. Unlike with 4A, I actually liked VD better than V. It was a full on improvement, and this time around I did get to experience some of the online content. Taking missions and doing things co-op to help your faction expand it's reach was such a cool feature, and I really liked the new customization options. Of course it was a lot more of the same, but that wasn't a bad thing. VD did what V did but better, and that's exactly what I hoped to get out of it.

And that's where my AC journey ended. I did go back and play some of the older games, but I've mostly been waiting for another entry. Little did I know that wouldn't be until 2023!

Now it's not like my mecha video game journey ended there. As a huge fan of Gundam, I've played pretty much all of the Gundam and Super Robot War releases. (Including Japanese exclusives.) I also played quite a bit of Daemon x Machina, which was created by the producer of older Armored Core games. It was a decent substitute to AC, but it's also very much a game of it's own. Heck last time I played it though has been a few years, and I remember some "Power Company" scammer just barged on in my house and was scouting the place out. That became a quick "uhhhh can I help you and what are you doing?" Before the guy scrambled out the door. Fun times.

Anyway, while I might not have been with the series the entire time, nor can I say I'm a super fan... I do love Armored Core, and I really can't wait for AC6. I'm looking forward to recapturing my time spent with AC4, and seeing what AC looks like on the next generation.

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