Hello all! Last week, I wrote about how a game I bought a PSP for led to a real appreciation for Sony’s first handheld.
Today brings us to a somewhat-forgotten GameCube exclusive, and something of an underrated (but still flawed) gem.
P.N. 03 was developed by Capcom and Shinji Mikami as one of the now-infamous “Capcom Five,” five games developed by Capcom exclusively for the GameCube. Out of those five (which later became four), P.N. 03 was the only game that remained a GameCube exclusive. That’s likely due to it’s less-than-stellar reception, but...well, read on.
P.N. 03 stars Vanessa Z. Schneider, a mercenary hired to destroy robots that are running amok. The robots are part of CAMS, which is sort of a defense system. CAMS was responsible for the death of Vanessa’s parents, so there’s a much-needed (yet thin) layer of depth.
I say “much-needed” mostly due to the environments. P.N. 03 starts in a cool wasteland level, but once you get inside, each and every level is a collection of sterile corridors.
Like this, repeated throughout.
I mean, I appreciate the sort of 1970’s sci-fi aesthetic, but it gets repetitive when the game repeats it endlessly. Not to mention the plot, which is fine — I like Vanessa as a character — but the plot is just kind of there. There’s enough story to give you a reason to shoot robots. But you’re not really playing for the plot.
That’s because P.N. 03 is all about the gameplay. I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but P.N. 03 is the kind of old-school game that rewards player skill over anything else. The game places a heavy emphasis on dodging and counterattacking; Vanessa uses a variety of dance-inspired maneuvers to dodge and fire energy blasts out of her hands.
You have to master these moves quickly, as Vanessa can’t move and shoot at the same time. To be honest, it’s an annoying quirk, especially when you compare it to today’s games. But it made you think about your surroundings and positioning, similar to how Resident Evil 4 made you do the same (you couldn’t move and shoot simultaneously in that, either). You get a score at the end of each level, so the game is great for old-school score chasers.
The first level looks really cool though.
The game also rewards combos, so to drive up that score, you need to master the game. And there’s replay value in harder difficulties and a surprising amount of unlockable costumes, each of which features different abilities and stats.
I’m not saying there’s a lot to to in P.N. 03; it’s a fairly short game, extended only if you want those extra costumes. And I’m not saying the game is without flaws; the levels and enemies are repetitive, and the plot is okay at best. It’s a lonely game; the only real characters are Vanessa and her client (who Vanessa may be a clone of or something, who knows). But I like the old-school arcade feel of it. The gameplay is very...immediate; one could argue that the plot stays out of the way, leading to a pure arcade experience.
It’s a short, light game, but it’s fun, and that’s really what matters, right? I always point out that “is it fun to play?”, might be the most important question when it comes to video games. Maybe not every video game, as emotional experiences are great as well. But games like this simple robot-shooter need only to be fun to succeed. Would I pay $60 for it now? Eh, probably not; I think I picked this up for $6.99 or something like that.
It’s a fun romp, though, and it’s influence can be seen on Shinji Mikami’s later work, Vanquish (which I wrote about here!). Check it out if you have the means; I for one, think it’s a very underrated title.
Next week-I’ve got a bunch of GameCube games out, so let’s take a look at a card-based RPG that seems to be a bit under-the-radar these days.