Armada (Dreamcast) (1999)
Review by Faididi and Co.
Gauntlet in space
In the future, humankind spreads across outer space and gradually evolves into distinct subspecies. When the hostile alien forces collectively known as the Armada suddenly show up and try to eradicate us, all the humans band together to form the Alliance. You are the pilot of one of many Alliance starfighters, and your duty is to go out there and kick some serious ass. The story never gets deep, but some of the dialogue is amusing.
Metro3D's Armada is a 4-Player action adventure that initially looks like a sci-fi version of Midway's arcade classic, Gauntlet. You and your friends fly around together on the same screen, earning experience points and credits as you blast the bad guys who continuously approach.
What sets apart Armada's gameplay, however, is the customizable nature of its heroes. You play as a member of any of six subspecies, whose ships come with different bonuses and other traits, but you can visit starbases and purchase upgrade items to further modify your own ship. The dozens of upgrades grant all sorts of cool beneficial effects, from increasing energy recharge rates to launching extra shots. A lot of the fun comes from mixing and matching the upgrades to see how much power you can squeeze out from your starfighter.
Unfortunately, the other part where Armada differs from Gauntlet isn't as impressive, and that is its flat and featureless level design. Despite the fancy-looking backgrounds, every area in this game is essentially open space, being completely devoid of maze-like walls and locked doors. Although there are over 30 missions, the overwhelming majority of them consists of blowing away bosses who are little more than plus-sized copies of the regular bad guys, and the lack of barriers means that you can reach all of the targets by flying straight up to them. This makes the action grow monotonous quickly, especially if you play as the Vorgans, whose default homing shots remove any remaining need for skill.
The ships handle responsively, although being able to use the analog stick to thrust as well as to turn (instead of using a separate button to thrust) would've been nice. The controls receive an extra point for independently recording the hero data and the mission data. That allows you and your friends to freely bring your characters into each other's missions without disrupting each individual hero's progress.
Graphics: Above Average
The starfighters and the environments are rendered well, but the best part of the graphics is the mindboggling amount of shots, explosions, and debris that can pack the screen when the fighting gets hectic. The framerate issues become more noticeable with more Players, but they never grow severe enough to ruin the fun.
Audio: Above Average
The gunfire and the explosions are loud and plentiful, while the inspired music carries a space epic tone that fits the atmosphere of Armada perfectly. The voice acting is decent, but the friendly ships who randomly appear to help have only a single phrase each, making them sound repetitive compared to everyone else.
Armada just needs more interesting level design to be a truly great 4-Player action adventure. If you don't mind the simplistic missions and the unchanging open-space environments, you can find a good deal of fun in the friendly upgrade system and in the colorful visual and audio effects.