Mechs are some of the coolest ideas that exist in science fiction and fantasy (I’m including you, steampunk mechs). The idea of giant, fighting robot suits that people can slip into and wail on each other has always been a fun idea. From Pacific Rim to the easily forgettable Real Steel, there are plenty of good film examples, and even better video game references (not to mention the amazing animes that have been in Japan for decades). Wailing on things in a big metal suit is just a grand idea, and it’s one of the reasons why the launch of Damascus Gear: Operation Tokyo was so disappointing. While my fellow writers may have enjoyed it, I was let down by janky controls, lukewarm direction and a lot of ugly, repetitive action that was a chore instead of being exciting. Once in a while, though, big companies can make things right and actually learn from their mistakes, especially if they’ve got a team of dedicated, passionate people behind them. Arc System Works, acting as the front end for A+ Games, wasn’t willing to let this great idea fall into ruin and forgotten, and, now, the revival chapter of the saga of the GEARs and RAGE has been launched. This is Damascus Gear: Operation Osaka.
To understand the Damascus Gear saga, you only need to understand some footnotes from the previous game. GEARS are giant robot suits that humanity designed for combat, and then decided to put into practice for World War 4 (very curious about 3) in 2050. Fortunately/Unfortunately, a Rogue AI infected and took over several GEARs, creating beings known as RAGE, which had no interest in human life and quickly started slaughtering everyone and everything in their path. Humanity fled underground to escape the massacre, and, in the events of Operation Tokyo, our plucky hero used amazing powers, training and upgrades to grow strong and defeat the leading RAGE machines, restoring balance and establishing peace for humanity. In Operation Osaka, things are very different: we’re now a bit in the future, and you’re an orphan whose parents were both GEAR drivers and, apparently, bounty hunters/mercenaries. You’ve inherited their GEAR, as well as a home, residency, and a massive debt you need to settle immediately. Assisted by your own plucky AI, you quickly set about running bounties, doing missions and better on combat fights to get back on your feet, but something is strange. An unknown voice is calling to you in your sleep, watching and awaiting your own “awakening.” The RAGE are held at bay, but everyone knows they’re far from gone, and who knows when they’ll be ready to try and attack again? Life in Operation Osaka begins as just survival, but it’s not long until a much larger, scarier and nobler quest presents itself, one that could change the lives of the people of Kansai, Japan, and the world forever.
Damascus Gear: Operation Osaka is a top down, slightly isometric dungeon crawler that will feel a bit similar to people who enjoyed the old school Diablo games. A large part of the game is receiving missions and taking on additional targets as you descend into the expanding labyrinths beneath Osaka, hunting for treasure and ferreting out some of the RAGE that continue to lurk just out of sight. You have three weapons to work with, that effectively represent a weak, medium and strong attack, and can be use unlimited times (though you often have to wait for cooldown/reloading). Along the way, you’ll find various items both from defeated foes and item containers that lie in abandoned storage containers, such as new equipment, healing items, and limited use combat effects (like grenades). In order to make the most out of your missions, you’ll need to thoroughly explore the different levels, deciding which of the elevators will be the best to bring you to the next station (multiple elevators means multiple possibilities for what comes next), and make it out alive without being defeated by the RAGE. Dying means dropping a lot of the cool swag you find, not to mention needing to pay for your rescue, and, again, we’re trying to make money here. Keep your head in the game and don’t overextend yourself because you feel powerful.
There’s so much improvement in Operation Osaka that I need to address, right up top, the superiority that you find within this game compared to the original. Whereas Operation Tokyo’s dungeons were sprawling and meandering, Operation Osaka manages to make the dungeons feel tight and directional while still being worth investigating. Enemies are now at your mercy with the lock on system, allowing you to actually target assailants with extreme prejudice instead of guessing about where they might be standing from the removed viewpoint of your skewed mech. Additionally, and this will make many people happy, there is no longer a limit to dashing and running as you explore. Whereas, previously, you had to basically time out your dashes and create a kerfuffle of miscoordination when you hit a wall, Operation Osaka allows players to dash as many times as they like, making the overwhelming odds that you encounter right off the bat that much easier to swallow. If you were merely looking to see if the wrongs had been righted in this game from the first, rest easy, a lot has been improved and it makes the overall experience much more enjoyable.
Now, for newcomers, Operation Osaka can be a little overwhelming at first, but it becomes much more enjoyable after just the first mission. You quickly learn that you need to balance when you attack and when you dash, and that there’s an evasion stat which can provide passive dodging when you least expect it. Players will learn to line up shots to maximize splash and linear damage, something that’s important from the beginning and just gets more important as you get better weapons and more variety in your arsenal. The dungeons do become quite big, so you can’t be too cocky after the first hour, and, instead, need to keep an eye on your consumables, your health, and what the AI tells you before entering into a floor that could be easy enough or could be strewn with ultra-aggressive RAGEs. Oh, and, when the AI says there’s a boss up ahead, listen and don’t try to be some kind of massive idiot: even the first boss you fight (right before you head into the arena) is powerful, and just standing in front of it with your weak weapon will result in your first humiliating death. Players who want to bring their GEAR to a point where the game really becomes interesting need to work on strategy immediately, and Operation Osaka provides.
Speaking of the Arena, fighting against other GEAR pilots was one of my favorite things to do in the game, though I didn’t always do it as often as I’d like (you gotta stick to the main missions to make the story move forward). The AI selected for how the arena fighters act show some real intelligent design on the part of A+ Games. They function significantly different than the bosses, moving more and carefully deciding their attacks in split sections instead of just rushing you like a corrupt computer system would. I quite enjoyed the banter that came from the other pilots, whether they were belittling me or coldly complimenting my build, and, as a result, the wins were more satisfactory than just blowing up some large robot on level 20 of the underground. Truth be told, I hope that A+ Games considers more in the Arena vein, should they move onto the next game int the series (Operation Okinawa, anyone?).
Mech customization is top notch, and Damascus Gear: Operation Osaka gives players plenty of opportunity to make the robot that they want to spend their time in, as well as change it at every opportunity. There is a massive amount of gear to be found within the dungeons, from head pieces and weapons to different looking shoulder mounts, and all of it can be painted and colorized regardless of level, design or equip type. The early gear is all very same-same and players can safely upgrade and sell old pieces without worrying that it might affect them in the long run (again, all you care about for a while is money, so don’t sweat it). Once the game’s main storyline opens up and things get stickier in the world of RAGE, however, you begin to find more rare equipment both in the caverns and also in the store, so being able to favorite the parts that you like best prevents you from accidentally selling them when you’re trying to organize and get some fast pocket money. You can also try out the build you make before heading into the dungeons, so feel free to keep a couple of weapons on hand and not just dedicate yourself wholly to one setup at a time. It’s your damn garage and mech, make it however you’d like!
The only real complaint I have about Operation Osaka is that the assistant AI (called Tachibana in my game) talks a whole hell of a lot, and it can be a bit tiresome when you’re trying to move things along. In the beginning, I understand that we need to establish a lot of information in a quasi tutorial way, as well as give players a bit of an atmospheric taste for how things are different in Osaka than Tokyo. The verbosity of it all, though, is really detrimental to how I can enjoy myself as I move forward into the game. Especially because, as the AI decides to take on a bit of a “polite, demure” affectation, there’s a lot of talking, backpedaling, second guessing herself and then abruptly fading into silence for no apparent reason. The end result can be annoying, and I was almost grateful to make it to a point where she had nothing to say, even though that meant the plot wasn’t, at the time, advancing. Still, I get that Damascus Gear wants to capture an element and atmosphere of something anime and possibly epic, and so the storytelling is necessary. But I just wanna dungeon dive as a giant mech, is that so much to ask?
Overall, though, Damascus Gear: Operation Osaka delivers a staggering amount of content and renewed faith for a very minimal price point. The graphics are fine, with a better effect amongst the RAGE sprites as the game gets further along, and the bosses have a majestic presence to match their difficulty curve. There’s clearly a strong amount of variety in customization, both through coloring and equipment, and it helps to balance the drab dungeon outlines at times. The music is great, very “dead cyberpunk,” and, although the words spoken can be long and drawn out, I deeply enjoyed the voice work of everyone involved, breathing life and personality into moments of Arena brawling, mission explanation and the ever present, ever malevolent dreams of the future. Fans of Operation Tokyo will positively love this, and broken-hearted survivors of the first will find redemption in this sequel. If you wanna go looting and bust heads in a giant robot suit, this is clearly the game for you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Damascus Gear Operation Osaka Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
Operation Osaka rises from the ashes of the original, bringing massive improvements while maintaining the original, enjoyable concept.