If the name Alice Gear Aegis means nothing to you, then don’t worry because you certainly are not alone. What started out as a Japanese exclusive gatcha game that released back on mobile devices back in 2018 has now found its way to home consoles, extending its 3D arena fighting gameplay to be more suitable for a slightly more hardcore audience.

It’s certainly a praiseworthy endeavour, but can a game with such dubious origins really become fighting franchise material?

Yes, I rather believe it can.

Many thanks to PQube for the review code.

GRINDING YOUR ALICE GEARS
Coming up with a decent story for a fighting game can be rather challenging at the best of times considering that you need to be able to justify an assortment of characters beating the hell out of each other Рusually without any real central protagonist. Ultimately, may of these games just settle for some kind of reason to host a fighting tournament and unfortunately Alice Gear Aegis CS Concerto  of Simulatrix is no different.

In a world invaded by an (unseen) alien threat known as The Vice, humanity is left to defend itself by using mech suits that can be piloted by ‘actresses’ – anime waifus of varying backgrounds that are somehow also able to pilot a combat mech. In order to ensure that these actresses are the best that they can be, a tournament set inside a training simulation will allow them to hone their skills against other mech pilots for the chance of earning glory … and a bucketload of cash. of course.

The premise really sets up a world in which we could se some really interesting war-torn characters, and perhaps even a twist where the creatures invade the simulation, but sadly all we really get is a fighting tournament against waifus where the looming apocalype barely even gets a mention. There’s a broad selection of anime girls to choose from with their own background and personalities, and each one has their own ‘storyline’ of sorts. What this amounts to in reality is a handful of trite cutscenes filled with infuriatingly tedious dialogue and awful voice acing over the course of the tournament. Thankfully cutscenes are skippable, and only really culminate in your chosen character’s team ultimately winning and being happy about it. Again, we could have gotten so much more, but at least we can skip past these oddly mobile-looking cutscenes and get to the real meat of the game.

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WAIFU KOMBAT
It’s a good thing that the combat is where the game really shines, and it does a relatively solid job at providing a tournament ladder that’s paced well enough not to feel tiresome, yet long enough to feel fulfilling. As you work your way through your 21 day journey, you’ll usually be greeted with a choice of hexagons to choose from. Most will be varying battle types, whether it be 1v1 or 3v3, but there are also treasure chest rewards for you to obtain new accessories as well as teleportation pads that can send you to a whole new path entirely. It’s a rather pleasing setup, even if there’s not a huge variety of battle types available to mix things up.

Anyone that has played the classic Virtual On should have a reasonable understanding of how the game plays out, as your character will be pitted in a circular arena against your current opponent. There’s a range of visual designs for each of these, and both they and the actresses all look far more visually pleasing than the cutscenes. During battle, your camera will be locked onto your opponent, thus requiring you to only worry about using one of your four attacks (consisting of a gun, a melee attack, and two different types of artillery shot from your mechanical legs), or defensive manoeuvres. It’s pretty intuitive to pick up due to its simplicity, but there’s also enough depth to require you to think about how best to play. Equipment can be purchased in the shop with your earnings, allowing you to buff up your character for later fights. The cherry on the cake to your arsenal is a special meter that can be filled and used to either call in a team-mate or activate a devastating special attack.

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Speaking of which, each character has a couple of set teammates that will accompany them into 3v3 matches, although these largely play out the same way as the 1v1 fights – except that you are able to swap to another actress at the press of a d-pad. It’s a good way of introducing you to the other characters and also adds an extra layer of strategy since swapping characters out allows them to recover a little bit of health.¬†

Fighting is a lot of fun, even for a fighting game novice like myself, and the added customisation that you can do as you progress really helps to give it some much needed depth too. Characters can even be customised to a certain degree with cosmetic accessories, new clothing, and even a paint job for your colour of choice. The only really thing that spoils the story mode (apart from the story itself!) is the lack of any real climax. The final fight in the tournament is just another fight that feels no different to the ones before. There’s no super mech, no alien overlord, just another batch of three girls who aren’t even harder to fight than any of the others.

The story mode isn’t where your journey will end though, since fighting can be done with up to 6 players online. Whilst I didn’t have the opportunity to get into many online battles, the ones I did play seemed to run relatively fine. My opinion should be taken with a certain degree of salt, however, as I am fully aware that fighting game pros require perfection with online play and I honestly have no idea if the game would meet their high standards – but it’s certainly good enough for the more casual fighting game enthusiast.

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Alice Gear Aegis CS Concerto of Simulatrix is a decent attempt at bringing the Japan-only gatcha game to home consoles. The arena fighting works really well, even if the story is a bit of a flop. Despite the game having a handful of issues, I can really see it becoming a popular franchise for genre enthusiasts.