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Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

It's the giant robot game that's sweeping the nation. Shogo is the second title published by Monolith. Here's what you need to know.

Publisher Monolith
Developer Monolith
Platform Win95
Released 10/ 16/ 1998
Genre Action
Number of Players 16
Net Support YES
Accelerated YES
October 26, 1998

Anime fans, this game's for you. From its Japanese theme song to its manga-like 2D characters, Shogo is obviously designed to be the computer-game version of a mecha movie - the virtual counterpart to Robotech or Bubblegum Crisis. In several ways, it succeeds.

The plot (remarkable by the fact of its very existence in a genre which considers action a good substitute for content) is classic anime - giant robots, tragic heroes, harsh betrayal, and the requisite utterly-hopeless love triangle. The wall posters and character portraits are also perfect, and definitely kawaii (cute). The only real departure is the game's use of muted colors and realistic, rather than stylized, polygonal characters. This gives the 3D engine a lot more in common with Quake II than Mobile Suit Gundam.

But as a 3D shooter, Shogo has a lot going for it. Although the game is somewhat short (the main storyline can be finished in under 10 hours, with another hour of replay added by a separate plot branch), the level design is excellent and addictive. The missions offer a nice variety of objectives, ranging from rescues and targeted mayhem to the activation of certain devices and even the retrieval of a pet cat from an enemy-infested building. (This is the only game, ever, to let you equip a squeaky toy as a weapon.)

The arsenal is equally varied, providing a splendid range of destructive firepower in both mecha and pedestrian modes. Ammo is plentiful, at least when playing on medium difficulty, and the sniper rifle is a thing of pain-dealing beauty. Even the audio environment is worth a special mention. In a complete break from recent industry tradition, the voice acting is excellent, and the interplay between your character and his coordinator-slash-girlfriend-slash-ex-girlfriend's-sister is a blast.

In terms of technical performance, though, Shogo is lacking. On three of the four systems we tried, the action was very choppy, sometimes pausing for upwards of a full second when a new type of weapon was fired or a different variety of enemy exploded. Even with all the latest drivers, and every hardware requirement met or exceeded, the game crashed randomly on all four systems.

In addition, the gameplay itself suffers from various annoyances. Opponent AI is nearly non-functional at a distance - if you pick off an oblivious enemy with your sniper rifle, the mecha-clad goons standing next to him usually won't even notice. Your character can become "stuck" on corners, and your wingmen will not move around your character if you interrupt their walking pattern. Animations, particularly the "idle" movements for your own character's arms, are often jerky. Finally, the load time between maps is interminable and very frustrating. A patch is on the way, but it remains to be seen how many of these issues it will address.

Between the technical snafus and the fact that multiplayer support will not be feasible until the patch is released, it seems as if the game was rushed out the door to meet some publication deadline, rather than being given the extra QA and development attention it deserved. This is a shame, since Shogo might otherwise have been a "must have" on any action gamer or anime fan's holiday shopping list.

The Bottom Line: A good 3D action title, distinguished by excellent level design and a fun storyline, but barred from true greatness by an accumulation of tiny, annoying details.

Current Media:
Battling the spiders
Mmm ... outdoor environments
Shatter Fist
Shogo painting
Sniper rifle
Two-fisted action
Utility launcher

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