Title (JP): Full Metal Panic! Tatakau Who Dares Wins (フルメタル・パニック！ 戦うフー・デアーズ・ウィンズ)
Title (SEA): Full Metal Panic! Fight! Who Dares Wins
Developer: B.B. Studio
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release date: 31 May 2018
This review was written based on the Japanese release of the game, and may not reflect changes made to versions released in other regions.
The Full Metal Panic! series, which began as a novel series in 1998 and was hugely popular in the early to mid-2000’s, had been mostly forgotten until its recent resurgence in the form of more appearances in the Super Robot Wars series and a new anime series which began airing in spring 2018, Invisible Victory. As part of the new anime series’ media mix, Fight! Who Dares Wins is the first video game dedicated entirely to the series. It is thus unfortunate that it is largely a disappointment.
The main story of the Full Metal Panic! series consists of 12 novels. The anime series which aired in the 2000’s covered books 1-5, while Invisible Victory starts at book 7, with book 6 having been skipped over. Perhaps due to its nature of being part of the IV media mix, Who Dares Wins perplexingly starts at the same point- Book 7. Though this might have been a perfect way to help introduce new people to the series, given how IV is a hard sequel to series which aired over a decade ago, they decided not to take this chance, and instead started it off at the same point as the new series. Though the events of book 1 are addressed in a short, skippable tutorial, everything else in between is either relegated to a short narration or even just glanced over entirely, including book 6 which was skipped by the anime series, making this a prime opportunity for them to have adapted it. Additionally, the game covers the entire remainder of the series, meaning that it spoils everything that happens in IV and beyond, meaning that people who have not read the books and wish to watch what happens next in the show should avoid it.
As the game is an SRPG developed by Super Robot Wars’ B.B. Studio, it should be expected that the gameplay would be similar to that series’, and it is. Unfortunately, it is similar to instalments like OE, NEO, and GC/XO, all of which are unconventional and relatively unpopular for good reason. Movement takes place freely in a circle radius, but differences in elevation mean that the selected unit has to have enough space on the new level it jumps to, but due to movement ranges being relatively small to the size of units this results in a lot of frustration when it turns out that a huge amount of a unit’s movement range is wasted because it spans to a different level of elevation which it cannot enter. The combat system, too, is inherently flawed: All units have four body parts- Body, head, arms, and legs- And destroying the body destroys the unit, while destroying the heads, arms, or legs causes a debuff of some sort. However, the debuff caused is usually insignificant compared to the amount of HP they have, meaning that the player never actually wants to aim for anything but the body. But the damage distribution to body parts for attacks are completely random unless the character being used learns a specific skill, meaning that that one skill and the ones leading to it on the skill tree are absolutely mandatory for everyone, which severely limits the amount of freedom given to character customisation. The game is also completely unbalanced, with protagonist Sousuke and his Lambda Driver abilities and special attacks being able to kill most bosses in one hit, and is filled with all manner of annoyances such as the inability to turn off battle animations or skip text already seen.
One of the sells of the game in preview information was how the player would be able to influence the story, which was promoted through screenshots of a point later in the story where a character who had died earlier appears, having survived. This is misleading, if not outright deceptive. Alternate endings are unlocked upon having cleared the game once, and are accessed through dialogue options during the story parts of the game. All but one of these endings is little more than a special bad ending- Several lines of dialogue, a single still picture, followed by the credits. All of them are sudden and nonsensical, which is not too bad in one joke ending, but is completely out of place in later ones taking place when the stakes are higher, and the mood is supposed to be more serious. The final alternate ending is unlocked by saving the character who was supposed to die, which unlocks an alternate version of the story where she joins the main character’s team and sticks around. However, the majority of the story remains entirely the same until the very end, at which point another joke ending is shown instead of the regular one. Additionally, there are only four alternate endings, and seeing each one results in the credits and a clear save prompt, which puts you back at the beginning of the entire game, which means all progress up to that point is reset. While you do keep skill points and money, the terrible gameplay means that it is tormenting to do this the right way. It is possible to save before each alternate ending and so only have to actually clear the game only twice to see all of them instead of five times, but the trophy is configured so that all of the endings have to be actually seen on one save.
Only the biggest fans of the Full Metal Panic! series should even begin to at all consider getting this game, and even then it would be hard to say that it is recommended, for them.
The Good: Fully voiced story adaptation of the remainder of the Full Metal Panic! series.
The Bad: Everything else.
Conclusion: Only the biggest fans of the Full Metal Panic! series should even begin to at all consider getting this game.