Generally, when people discuss anime that have made it into the pop culture lexicon, names such as Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Bleach, Naruto, and more are thrown around. However, heading into the late 2000s, it seemed that once a year one series would receive a resounding wave of success in the West – with titles like Sword Art Online and Death Note immediately springing to mind. In 2013, Attack on Titan was that anime. Convention floors were suddenly flooded with fans dressed as Military Scouts, while the word spread like wildfire that Attack on Titan was the new “it” anime. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before a video game was created for this skyrocketing franchise. While fans had attempted web browser based games, it was eventually Koei Tecmo and their well-known development arm, Omega Force, that picked it up.
Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom follows the narrative arc of the anime series to the letter, both for better and worse. As someone who had watched the anime series already, I definitely appreciated that the plot devices used were brief and really cut to the core of what a great deal of Attack on Titan is about. Unfortunately, for someone new who might consider picking up the game without having watched the anime – I would strongly advise against it. There are some key emotional scenes throughout which are powerful and compelling, but are sadly lost in translation due to the lack of build-up from the games summary like style to the series. Primarily, AoT: Wings of Freedom offers a double edged sword scenario to the story of the franchise, and, as such, must be treated separately to the primary source material (manga/anime). It must be noted that the game also offers an original story arc which can be completed after finishing the “main” story, although it was really of no consequence to the Attack on Titan narrative.
The design for Wings of Freedom was definitely a little lacking, even in some of the most general senses – such as environments being re-used in multiple different scenarios. I swear I saw the same wood and fields maybe 20 times over the course of main and side missions. For a game as short as this, it’s just one of the many things that stand out and makes you feel that the developers cut a few corners to push the product out on a certain date, and didn’t take the proper time and care that could have bumped the quality up a notch. With Omega Force behind the development as well, it was very easy to see where a lot of the game’s influences came from – with a very similar item system to the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Ultimately, though, this sort of thing has been abused to death at this point, so I feel like it’s time for Koei Tecmo and their development branches to seriously consider overhauling their entire system and starting fresh. In all honesty, it would give a much-needed face-lift to a system that is quickly growing stale.
Continuing on the note of similarities, despite being different in premise, I still felt that the very foundation of Wings of Freedom is just a Dynasty Warriors game at a slower pace. Although, I have to admit that using the 3D Manoeuvring Gear is fantastic, and I didn’t tire from constantly swinging about and propelling myself for the entire game. It was definitely a tactile experience that Omega Force got incredibly right, and was the “cool feature” that was kind of needed to take away from the otherwise repetitive combat style. Like most Dynasty Warrior style games, though, you’ll eventually fall into a very cut-and-dry style which you can apply to the entire game – without ever actually adding any variety to it.
This also isn’t helped by the lock-on system, which I found a little awkward and frustrating at times despite having used it over the entire course of the game. If the combat is going to be the same, complimentary systems should be simplified to establish a cohesive experience – but it all felt just slightly out of sync. The game also offers an Expedition mode, which allows players to meet up and complete missions together. Sadly I wasn’t able to test it as I didn’t know anyone else who was reviewing the game, but, from experience, these modes have always been a consistent source of enjoyment in these sorts of games, so I feel like Wings of Freedom would lend itself well to a multiplayer component for those who are interested.
Despite all this, though, there are a lot of great points about Wings of Freedom and its presentation. I loved the attention put into the character art, which stayed true to the anime in stylisation while also being able to add its own unique flavour at points. The voice actors from the anime also appear as their characters, which automatically adds an authenticity to the game for those familiar with the show as well as rekindling a lot of nostalgic memories. Complete with a very by the numbers soundtrack and atmosphere, Omega Force and Koei Tecmo definitely captured the essence of what Attack on Titan is.
While I’d love to recommend Wings of Freedom, I can’t do that at this stage. Taking into account this is currently a full priced release, it’s a little hard to justify what is a largely mundane experience at that price point. For fans of the series, I would strongly recommend holding off on purchasing until the game comes out on sale as you’re far more likely to get your money’s worth regarding content and longevity of gameplay. It just feels like for every one thing the game did right, there are two things that either bored or annoyed me, and that’s not conducive to a fun gaming experience. Until the formulaic elements of these games are removed, my criticism of their construction is always going to be the same.