If you know anything about manga or anime over the last few years, you've probably heard about Attack on Titan. The aerial acrobatics of the men and woman fighting the Titans and the at times brutal combat between them would make for a great action video game, one would imagine. Developer Spike Chunsoft took up the mantle of developing such a game based off the franchise in the form of Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains. Does it live up to the expectation? That depends on what you're looking to get out of it.
Following the general narrative of the anime, Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains lets players play through a story mode that takes place along different points of view depending on the character you pick, revolving around the characters Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Levi, and Sasha. For those not in the know, Attack on Titan takes place in a world where humanity is under a constant threat from mysterious giants knows as Titans, so they're walled themselves up in cities fortified by giant walls. The game starts as the character Eren has finished his training and a new "colossal" type Titan breaks through the city's walls, allowing the other Titans to rampage inside the city.
Surprisingly, instead of being rendered in-game, the cutscenes in the game are ripped directly from the anime, with English subtitles as the voice dialog itself is in Japanese. One of the major flaws of the anime for most was the large amount of filler at times, so Humanity in Chains does have a plus in that it removes a lot of said filler and gets to the important battles and story events quickly.
Battles in Humanity in Chains takes place in an arena-based format, where it's you versus the Titans. Utilizing the series' trademark Omni-directional moving device, you use the R button to perform a Spider Man-like swinging motion and use the Y button to aim your hooks. You can do this both on the ground and in the air, so the game does give the player a choice if they want to tackle a given mission entirely in the air if that's what they wish.
Of course, since the series' name is Attack on Titan, you're supposed to use that momentum to get closer to the Titans so you can take them down. Once you get close enough to a Titan you can execute an attack at various parts of their body, ideally aiming towards the nape of the neck where they are their weakest.
Doing so initiates a timed QTE (quick time event) where the camera zooms into the action and your goal is to press the button at the right time. At face value this kind of system isn't an issue, but how Humanity in Chains implements it in a rather simplistic fashion is a bit of a disappointment. Each and every Titan falls into the same pattern: get close, attack enough weak points to get closer to the nape of their neck, and finally deal the finishing blow.
There's a plethora of different Titans that you come across in the game, so making the player go through the motions seems rather backwards. This is compounded by the fact that the Titans' AI are simplistic in nature and are pretty easy to counter. This does make the player feel like a more of a badass and makes it easier for fans of the anime but not necessarily hardcore video gamers to get into the action, but I wish there was a more advanced difficulty option for veterans gamers to pick. That said, there is a good basis here for a theoretical sequel in the future.
One major issue, which might be a minor spoiler for those not that far into the storyline, is the Titan-on-Titan battles that take place periodically. You'd think there would be an engaging brawl between the hulking Titans here, but due to the perspective and the single-button combat it removes any and all strategy one would think this mode would include. To be honest, I rather would have had these sections stay cutscenes only as they're simply a bore to play through and detract from the much better implemented aerial sections.
Once nice bonus in the western release is that you can use the New Nintendo 3DS's nub to control the camera, fixing a key issue with the original game's finicky camera controls. Sadly the frame rate with the 3D effect turned on still causes the game to chug on the new iteration of the handheld, so I'd suggest playing solely in 2D if you're picking up the game.
After some time in the story mode, which will likely take about 10 hours to fully complete depending on your skill level, you'll unlock "World Mode". This mode is the real star of the game as you have access to the local and online (with matchmaking) multiplayer portion of the game. After creating your own Attack on Titan-themed character, you level up your character by taking on missions, many of which are tougher than the story mode's.
This mode has quite a bit more depth than one would expect from a licensed game, as you can use currency gained from missions to scale up your base of operations, recruit paid soldiers, and buy supplies. You can do these missions locally if you prefer, but there is the option to play them via online sessions which in my experience ran pretty smoothly as long as you have a decent connection. You can also gain new mercenaries through the Nintendo 3DS's Streetpass feature.
Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains feels like the type of game where it lays the base mechanics for a future game that takes that framework and runs with it. If you're an Attack on Titan fan you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of the title, but for those not acquainted with the series, Humanity in Chains' flaws might be too much to overcome if you don't want to play through a good, but flawed game.
|The aerial movement mechanics do give the player a sense of feeling like they're actually using the omni-directional moving device.|
|Online mode works surprisingly good as long as you have a decent connection.|
|The New Nintendo 3DS nub control option for the camera fixes a major issue with the original Japanese release of the game.|
|Once you figure out how to down one Titan, it's the same mechanics each and every time for the others.|
|The Titan-on-Titan battles feel like an afterthought.|
|The frame rate chugs if you turn on the 3D effect, even on the New Nintendo 3DS.|