Armored Core: Master of Arena

        Today Kuroshi’s taking over the article, because it’s about a game she played and loves, Armored Core: Master of Arena. All I really know myself is that it involves robot fighting, so I’ll let her take over from here. Enjoy, everyone.
        Kuroshi here! So, Armored Core. Like my sister said, it’s basically a game about your giant robot, or AC, fighting other machines. There are plenty of other games with similar concepts, but Armored Core in particular is a bit more complicated in terms of customization. Obviously the game isn’t realistic, persay, but it does delve into a lot of things similar games would ignore.
        For instance, locking onto targets is not instantaneous, but instead takes some time, and how fast it is depends on your AC’s onboard computer. If you think your missiles are a bit too slow to get their aim straight, maybe you need to buy a new computer. Similarly, there are basically two types of ammunition, solid(bullets and such) and energy. Every part of your AC has different resistances, and may be better at stopping bullets rather than lasers, for instance.
        There is also the issue of weight. The early games, such as the one I’ll be talking about, do not let you use overweight ACs at all, but starting with Armored Core 3 you can, though this results in a very slow machine. In any case, weight is naturally determined by the heaviness of your parts. What makes them overweight is how much weight your leg parts can actually handle. You may think then that avoiding heavy things is just the way to go, but heavier things also tend to give you more AP- Armor Points, basically your health.
        Legs come in various different types- the humanoid two leg variety is what you start with, but there is also four-legged kind, which I prefer. These tend to be more mobile, but have less protection than the two-legged kind. There are also reverse-joint legs, like a bird’s, which move quicker than the usual bipedal legs, but have less armor, and tank parts instead of legs, which are very slow, but very tough, and so on.
        Arms have less variety- they are mainly there to hold the many, many kinds of weapons- rifles, machine guns, bombs, missiles, play the game and see. However, if you prefer, the arms themselves can be weapons, with built in guns and the like, though these generally lack defensive stats. The right arm holds normal weapons, while in the early games the left arm can only hold a laser blade of some fashion, which are meant for close range bouts. As with all energy weapons, they use some of your AC’s energy, same as the boosters that speed it up and let it fly. Exactly how much energy either of these use depends on what kind you have installed.
        The shoulders can also hold weapons, generally missile launchers, cannons, and so forth. If your AC is bipedal, they will have to kneel to use some of these, but the four-legged and tank variations don’t have this issue. There are also radars you can add to the shoulder, which helps you find enemies and the like. The Head part can also have radars built in, saving you the trouble of adding them to the shoulder.
        The Core part is the chest area of your AC, which, aside from connecting everything together, also has compartments where optional parts can be attached, for various additional effects. The Generator determines how much energy your AC has to use, how fast it is restored, and so on. Every part uses a certain amount of energy to function, but what you especially need to worry about in that regard are your boosters and weapons.
        I think that mostly covers your parts. All of the games have two different kinds of play- the Arena, and missions. Winning battles in the Arena will get you money and sometimes new parts, but, with the exception of the game I’ll be talking about here, missions are always what propels the plot, and make you the most money. However, while battles in the Arena are basically just straight battles against another AC with no permanent repercussions, in missions you will lose some money, as ACs do cost money to repair, and ammunition isn’t free. This means you lose money if you fail the mission too, but I generally just reset the game when that happens. If you want to get through a mission with no deductions to your profit, the only way to do so would be to not take any damage, and to use energy weapons, as ammo for those does not cost money.
        So, moving onto Master of Arena specifically, this is currently my favorite game in the series. There isn’t much plot, really- you play, as in every game, as an unnamed Raven, basically mercenary who pilots an AC to carry out missions. In this game, you just joined Raven’s Nest, a organization of Ravens, and are congratulated on that by your operator, Lana Nielson, who is basically in charge of contacting you about missions, though you decide if to take them or not.
        Your reason for joining the Raven’s Nest is that your family has been destroyed during a mission, and you want revenge on the pilot responsible, known only as Hustler One, who commands the AC called Nineball. The only way you can be sure to face him is to face him in the Arena, where Hustler One holds the top rank, and always has. So you have to climb the ranks yourself to face him, and become… the master of Arena.
        Given that, missions are at first needed to advance the plot, but once you finally are able to participate in the Arena, the plot will only really move forward once you reach certain ranks. Doing either will get you funds, which you can use to buy parts to enhance your AC in various ways. I won’t cover every bit of the plot, but I will talk quite a bit about Nineball, who is, as you might expect, the final boss. So spoiler warning.
        Your first mission is find and eliminate a fugitive, who has hijacked an armored car and hid himself away in the Botanical Zone of the city. Thanks to his hacking prowess, all the security robots in the area are under his control. As the briefing states, these MTs, as they are called, are no match for your mech even without any customization- four rifle shots is enough to take one down, and they would have to fire at you for a very long time before you are in any danger of being destroyed. However, the level is a large series of corridors and you will run into a lot of them, so it will probably be a bit tedious, and enough of them can wear you down.
        Luckily, the criminal himself when you reach him freaks out as soon as he realizes a Raven has pierced his defenses, and knows there is pretty much nothing he can do to stop you at this point. He meekly says he will surrender, but then a second AC arrives, who the criminal recognizes as Nineball, right before he is obliterated in a massive explosion. Hustler One mentions that you’ve been looking for him, then says that he doesn’t care who you are, because no one will defeat him.
        This personally gave me a real reason to want to fight him. Now he stole the victory that would have been mine, and asserted that I can’t beat him. Well, looks like someone needs to be proven wrong! You won’t see him again for a long, long time though, until after you enter the Sub-Arena, which are several battles before the actual ranked arena.
        In any case, to enter the Arena, Lana eventually sets you up with a sponsor, PROGTECH. However, this does come at a certain cost- they control if you can actually enter the Arena or not. They eventually exercise this power when an emergency comes up, forcing you to take a mission on their behalf to get your Arena rights back. However, I personally don’t see much issue with this- their missions tend to be very, very easy, or they should be for someone who made it this far, and they pay quite a bit.
        Lana, however, is not happy that you took on a mission of your own initiative, and warns that, no matter who sends you a mission, you have to run it by her first, as she is your operator, and you must follow her orders. She lets you off with a warning this time, but it’s clear she won’t be as lenient a second time. I didn’t feel much about her at first, but when I heard that I was pretty angry at her. It’s not like I had a choice, right?
        In any case, things go on as usual, and you go up the Arena ladder. Speaking a bit more about the Arena, as I said before, there is no cost for competing in the Arena. Unlike missions, there are no fund deductions, presumably because the Arena itself takes care of that. It’s also notable that in missions enemies explode on defeat, even other ACs, but here they simply catch on fire briefly before shuddering to a halt, same as you do, so no one dies either.
        What I especially like about the Arena is that after you win or lose, you have the chance to see a replay of the bout, from your perspective or the opponent’s. This means I can find out exactly what weapons they were using ,see how much energy they expended, and so on, and develop strategies around it, or consider if any of their parts are something I might want on my own AC.
        In any case, eventually PROGTECH wants you to take on another mission, where you have to defend a laboratory from various enemies. Lana cuts all ties to you, and promises that “You’ll die soon enough”. As for the mission itself, They will tell you which gate is under attack, but I suggest you have a good radar on you in some form so you know what direction it is. After dealing with enough MTs, Nineball himself will show up to challenge you.
        As might be expected from the best in the Arena, he is fairly well rounded, with both good speed and AP. His weaponry includes the WG-XP2000 Pulse Rifle, which fires fast, as 200 ammo, and does pretty decent damage. He carries the basic energy sword, so odds are yours will be better than his if you have one, the WM-S40/2 missile launcher, which can fire two missiles at once, twice as strong as his gun, and lastly the WC-GN230 Grenade Launcher, which is what you saw him use in the first mission. This thing is by far his strongest weapon, and one of the stronger ones in the game. Since it produces a big explosion, you may take damage just from being near where he aimed. Oddly, even though Nineball is bipedal, he doesn’t have to kneel to use this, and can just use it while he is running around.
        Anyway, once you do enough damage, he deems you too powerful, and decides to retreat to modify his AC. He eventually reappears in mission 18, where intruders have made it into PROGTECH’s HQ, and it seems as though they are in danger. Howeve,r they haven’t actually attacked specifically- the whole thing is a trap for you.
        It’s basically a series of rooms with elevators leading you upwards, and every room has some very powerful MTs. I would recommend something that makes a big explosion, because they will be grouped together at first and that’s a good way to damage them all. One of my favorite tools is the LS-1000W, pretty much the strongest Laser Blade in the game, which fires out a sword beam that produces big explosions. It’s about a third as strong as Nineball’s grenade launcher, true, but it still is very powerful, and doesn’t consume ammo at all. Just don’t use it on anything too close to you, or you’ll take some damage too.
        Anyway, these guys won’t go down easily, but if you can make it past them, you’ll face Nineball once more. This time though, its for keeps. Despite saying he was going to do some modifying, he actually hasn’t changed at all from the previous battle, except that you likely lost a lot of AP and ammo getting to him.
        The room is quite a bit more cramped than the previous fight with him, but that may work to your advantage. When he starts using his grenade launcher, he will very likely hurt himself as well, and isn’t actually smart enough to stop when his health is low, so he very well may kill himself, though you’ll definitely have to help him there.
        In any case, he definitely died, blew to bits, but oddly, he hasn’t dropped out of the Arena rankings. You won’t see him again for quite a while, until you beat number two in the Arena, at which point you will get a email from Lana, who says that she did not expect you to get as far as you did, and says you are too powerful. She says she will arrange that meeting with Nineball for you, and a new mission appears. Said mission tells you of a factory no one knows about, says she is waiting for you there.
        This is the final mission. The final battle. Despite the award posted, I don’t think you get any money for it, and I know you don’t lose any either, no matter what- so feel free to use what you have to customize your AC anyway you wish, and keep trying out no ideas. As for the mission itself, as soon as you exit the starting tunnel, you come into a very tall room where Nineball ambushes you from above. He’s the same as before. Beat him, or, do what I did and ignore him entirely.
        That’s right, you can ignore him. Just fly straight up. The exit to the room is up three rows of platforms, and your AC, regardless of make, should be able to get at least partway up there. Make your way to the top and exit the room, and Nineball will vanish from your radar, skipped entirely. The game will proceed either way.
        Lana’s voice will sound distorted as she(?) explains how she created the ACs, the Raven’s Nest, and everything else all to benefit and change mankind, and you are in the way of that. As you press on, you see several copies of Nineball, making it very evident that there was never a human inside the AC to begin with. Nineball and Hustler One are both merely designations for a sophisticated AI.
        The final room contains two copies of Nineball. Same as before, except now you have two to take care of, and the larger room means they are less likely to harm themselves, though it still happens sometimes. Consider yourself lucky if it does. There’s also a second floor to the room that they will generally not follow you up to, but there isn’t much use in it I think.
        Once they are dead, the next room will open, showing a elevator. Get on it, and the game will load up the final battle. Luckily, you are healed and your ammo is replenished for this final bout. You’ll need it. Nineball awaits as a much more powerful AC, referred to as Nineball Seraph. As the elevator descends you get glimpses of your opponent, and you can tell that however easy Nineball was before, he will be much worse now.
        While you could hypothetically recreate the Nineball AC with your own parts, Nineball Seraph uses completely unique parts that cannot be bought or found. Whatever they are, they’re huge upgrades of his previous construction. The basic body works the same, a humanoid AC, well-rounded, but he now has two wing-like engines on his back to allow greater flight, and he will certainly make use of it at times. Said engines also allow him to fire off barrages of missiles, and he will be firing off machine gun blasts from his arms if he can get his sights on you. Said arms also both have laser blades, making him devastating up close.
        All of this makes him a very fast, flying enemy that can track you from all across the very dark and spacious arena, who can take a lot of punishment and dish out a lot of damage in return. I cannot offer much advice for him- everyone builds different ACs- but I can say that the best thing to do may be to just blast him with the fastest, strongest weapon you can muster and end the battle quickly. If you have neither the durability or speed to withstand a protracted battle, or just worry you won’t make it, that may be the best option. It certainly worked for me.

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