It’s been five years since Bandai Namco threw its hat into the monster-hunting ring with God Eater on the PSP. However, in the intervening years, that landscape has changed quite dramatically, The king of the genre that Namco’s series sought to depose has left Sony systems entirety. And with Monster Hunter now all but ubiquitous with Nintendo, the crown of the king of the hunt (on PSVita and PS4 at least) is there for the taking. But is God Eater a worthy successor? Or a mere pretender to the throne?
Bundled together with its sequel, God Eater Resurrection is a remake, rather than a remaster of the original PSP game, with numerous improvements across the board. It actually feels like a fresh entry in the series in its own right. Being bundled with the (admittedly superior) sequel, God Eater 2: Rage Burst is enough to make an already decent game, even that more attractive. Especially since God Eater 2 follows on directly from the events of Resurrection, and allows you to transfer over character and equipment from the revamped ‘prequel’. As Julie Andrews once sang, in one of the totally least gay musicals ever – the beginning is the very best place to start.
If you’re not a fan of Monster Hunter (or the Sound of Music), you would be remiss in writing off God Eater as a simple clone, big weapons and even bigger beasts aside. Tonally and mechanically the two are very different beasts indeed. The most obvious difference is the setting, and the atmopshere of the thing. While Monster Hunter strikes a slightly more western, classical fantasy kind of vibe (in the vein of Robert E Howard), God Eater is unashamedly Japanese; revelling in typical anime tropes and overwrought post-apocalyptic settings.
Players are cast in the role of the newest member of the titular God Eaters, a corpus of soldiers that are hated, feared and revered in equal measure, and also happen to be humanity’s last defence against the Aragami, a race of rapidly evolving monsters that have eradicated and assimilated almost all life on the planet, and have nothing to do with folded paper swans, you racist.
God Eaters are able to take the fight to the monsters that have sent humanity to the brink of extinction thanks to the power of the God Arcs, huge weapons constructed from the remains of fallen Aragami that often dwarf their wielders. They’re bound to their hosts,and literally feast upon the flesh of the monsters they were constructed to kill as they transform into a shadowy maw filled with razor sharp teeth, which is probably the most metal paragraph i’ll ever write.
If the lack of a convincing narrative in Monster Hunter put you off, you won’t have the same issues with God Eater. It’s not simply a matter of being a hunter of monsters, killing for profit and the femurs needed to fashion the world’s most ridiculous line of bastard swords. You take on the role of the latest member of a tight-knit group of survivors, desperately fighting to push back the endless tide of nightmare fuel that now inhabits the ruins of what was once civilisation, and drag humanity off the endangered species list.
That said, you do still use the organs of your enemies to make a fine line in ridiculous mallets. As well as swords, scythes, spears and shotguns for that matter. It’s just that there’s a much more compelling reason to do so, as well as a (fairly plausible) reason for the game’s hero being able to lift a claymore the size of shed.
Don’t expect anything as complex or deep as something like Attack on Titan, or Neon Genesis Evangelion though. Though the world and setting are fairly well-drawn the main cast, though likeable, all fall into the usual predicable JRPG templates, with your player character being the new kid on the block that everyone loves despite being mute and having zero personality (except during battles where I think Troy Barker turned him into a wiseass for five minutes) but some incredible secret power, with the rest of its cast there simply to tell you how great you are and get through their own personal traumas while you seem to have none. It’s a weird disconnect in a game about teenagers being sent out to kill or be killed by nigh-on unstoppable beasts. The beasts I can believe, but a teenager who doesn’t have problems is too much to swallow. And, being Japanese, pretty much the entire female cast seem to be dressed like they’re about to go out on the pull, instead of fight for their lives.
That being said, the translation is top-notch and the voice work from the game’s main cast is superb. It certainly features veteran hands like Wendee Lee and Troy Baker to great effect.
The game’s presentation has seen a significant boost, in both visuals and technical performance too. Character models have been revamped and improved, and the game now runs flawlessly on both the PS4 and Vita (while the PSP version had more than a few dips when things got hectic).
There have also been a slew of mechanical tweaks and updates as the gameplay has been brought more in line with God Eater 2: Rage Burst (which came out before Resurrection in Japan). Most notably, the arsenal of available weapons has doubled, introducing new types added in the sequel as well as tweaking and improving how the games various ‘God Arcs’ perform in battle.
For example, the Charge Spear adds a charged lunge attack that closes in on the enemy, as well as a backflip to swiftly dodge sweeping attacks, while the Boost Hammer is a huge, rocket-powered mallet that allows you to deliver a series of rapid blows. Meanwhile, the Variant Scythe specialises in wide, sweeping attacks that allow you to easily wade into an enemy while maintaining a little distance. The original three varieties of swords (Short, Long and Buster) have also been reworked to allow for more distinct playstyles, adding an attack cancel to long blades to allow players to create infinite combos as well as increasing the short blade’s ability to air dash and step cancel.
The biggest change comes in the form of “Predator Styles”, which revamp each weapons’ devour mode. They confer various benefits to players, based on when players choose to take a bite out of enemies during a combo string, as well as adding additional attacks which allow you to nip at enemies while dashing or jumping.
Firearms have also had a bit of a spit-polish, with short-range shotguns and blood bullets from God Eater 2 being added to the mix, while cannons, assault weapons and sniper rifles have been reworked and rebalanced to feel more distinct. Add to that the new (and deliciously unnecessary) Bullet Editor that enables players to create their own customised projectile ammo, and there’s plenty of options available to allow players to approach each fight in pretty much any way they see fit.
Despite the mechanical depth that the numerous tweaks to weapon styles and systems add to the experience, the combat admittedly still lacks the depth and heft of combat in Monster Hunter, moving at a much faster pace. It’s (thankfully) much more forgiving, due in no small part to Resurrection’s notable improvements to party member AI, seeing them make more of an effort at bringing down smaller beasts, while medics like Kanon are an invaluable part of the team as she patches you up long before you’re on the ropes. Other members will make a bee-line for you should you be knocked unconscious, because they know who the big dog is. This is bolstered by a new system that allows you to unlock new behaviours and improve their skills with each hunt you take them on.
Despite all the changes and added depth, the game’s pace has not slowed one iota. You won’t have to spend hours harvesting herbs and other resources in order to be able to keep up with the monsters you slay. In fact, completing challenge missions actually makes obtaining materials needed to unlock new weapons and upgrades a lot easier, allowing players to focus almost entirely on the fun part – indiscriminately slaughtering towering Japanese monster-things.
Players can work together online regardless of whether they wish to play the game on PS4 or Vita, as multiplayer is supported across both systems, as well as cross-play, cross-save and also cross-buy (if purchased as part of the God Eater 2: Rage Burst bundle).
However, regardless of the new features, shiny new graphics and improved performance, there’s really no escaping the fact that at its core, God Eater: Resurrection is a five-year-old game. Though, it may as well be a new game to most, and it plays far better than it ever did on PSP, the sparse environments and limited scale make the game feel a little bit quaint at times, and no amount of spruced up character models can hide that.
It may have taken a move to home consoles and a thorough remaster, but God Eater: Resurrection shines as a serious contender for the crown of King of the Hunt. If you’ve been searching for a viable replacement for Monster Hunter on vita ever since it headed to the sunny shores (or murky caverns) of the 3DS, then God Eater could well be just the series you’ve been looking for. It’s a faster, flashier and less demanding alternative that never asks for the same insane level of dedication. Though it may turn a few off, those that always loved the hunt for monsters, but not the accompanying slog for resources will find a fantastic monster-slaying romp to sink their teeth into.
Look out for our Review of God Eater 2: Rage Burst. coming soon.