Name: Power Dolls 3 (80.00% in 4 votes)
Company: Kogado Studio
Release date: 1999
Reviewed by: Kyubi Fox
Kogado Studio is known for the serious games it makes, for example the Lunatic Dawn and the Schwarzschild series. Its games tend to be more similar to English games than Japanese games like those from TGL or Falcom. English gamers will probably more familar with the Power Dolls series.
Power DoLLS (Detachment of Limited Line Service) features a group of elite young girls who drive big robots to do speical assignments that normal soldiers would not be able to do. In Pd3, the background is a war between the Federation and an evil dictator. The player is casted as the commander of the group, managing team member and weapon assignment and taking control of the tactical movement in combat. This time there are 25 girls to choose from, so it won't be boring (hmm...).
It's been a long while since Pd2 came out, so the anticipation for fans like me was quite big, since the last two games were so tough and engaging (ok, the girls too =P). The first big surprise is that Pd3 has gone real-time; the second surprise is...Pd3 is not that great =(
Gameplay: 6/10 - The change to real-time has its advantages and disadvantages. The good side is that there is much less micromanagement of how to spend the AP and use the weapons, and being in real-time gives a more intense feeling that it's a war down there. Also, Pd3 offers something a little different. in "real" real-time games, troops do whatever they want and is restrained by their firing rates; in this game, there is also AP. The AP is like a short-term energy bar - you can do so much in a short time, and you have to recharge when you run out.
The down side to real-time is that the whole system is really not built for real-time from the ground up. For one thing, the Rodas (robots) walks slow like hell. The firing rate is much faster than the speed they walk, so when I encounter some enemy, I just tell the Rodas to stand there because I don't want them to suffer too much damage just for walking to a better location to shoot. This won't be too annoying if the AI were a little smarter. The routing AI is absolutely ridiculous, as if the only thing they know is to walk in straight lines. Sometimes they can turn and avoid friends nicely, but many more times (especially when you are in the heat of battle) they line up and keep walking against someone who's just standing there. Adding to the insult is the auto-fire AI. It seems that the girls aren't very friendly to each other, since they will gladly shoot wide area grenades even when another girl is doing close combat with that enemy (wonder if they all like me THAT much =P).
Setting aside the control difficulties, Pd3 does offer a great challenge to any strategy game lovers. Enemy AI is really not all that smart, but once you engage in combat, enemy will swarm to your location and fire will start coming from all different directions. Most of the time you won't even know where they come from (unless you have a radar person, but even with one when enemies are on higher terrain you still can't see them). Since you can't shoot what you can't see, good planning become VERY important if you want everyone to survive.
There are also air and ground support you can call in, but their respond time are pretty slow so their role in a game are very minor.
Back to the complains. The game is tough, and require several tries for each mission. BUT there are only 12 mission, which is disappointingly short, especially at the suggested price of 11000 yen. And, same as in previous PD games, you can skip them without any problem (except the last one). I guess that's their tradition, but that takes away some of the sense of accomplishment when you finish a hard mission with everyone alive.
Another annoyance: time runs very slowly even at the fastest setting (especially for those playing at fastest in Starcraft), there are missions when you finish all your objectives and just have to wait an hour (in the game world) for the sub/plane to come pick you up. It would be much better if there was a faster setting.
Storyline: 0(-1)/10 - Basically non-existent storyline. Every mission you get a briefing on the situation of the battle, and then off you go. There is a good sense of a war going on, BUT, there is no personal interaction whatsoever with the girls you are commanding. All they have are just their names, background (not even in the game itself), picture and stats, which make them a lot less human that they should be. This lead to a serious problem - you don't care if they die in battle or not. If Kogado were to put more attention to this area, they can definitely make the game much more involving.
The -1 is for the ending...you get a CG as background, then some words saying, "(translated)After the last battle, the dictator...since the war is over, there is no need for the girls, so they all go home." My reaction was, "What? That's it?" I mean, after going 12 tough missions without any casualities, all I get is a one-page text description like that? You just can't treat gamers that way, Kogado...
Graphics: 4/10 - As you can see from the screenshots, battlefield graphics are very simple. Since you will be looking at it for a LONG time, I would really appreciate a more detail/better looking terrain graphics. Also, looking from a top view, it can be hard to tell where the mountains and valleys are. The units are very plain...there are only 7 different unit types for the player to choose from, so Kogado should've put more attention on graphics for each unit...they all look good in the weapon selection screen, but the battle graphics are just not up to standard with today's games.
After every successful mission you get a CG of girls or robot. Their qualities are...well, just don't compare them to H-games. Some of them look nice for wallpapers, but strangely there is no CG mode. Fortunately, you can simply rename the *.g8 files to *.bmp files for viewing pleasure.
Music/Sound: 6/10 - The music can get repetitive really fast because they are all very short. The positive side is that each mission seem to have a diffrerent music. The sounds are average, with sounds for missles, bullets, explosions etc. In the heat of battle it can be impressive. A good thing about the sound is that every character has a different voice. They will say (each talk in a different accent/dialet) things like "arrived at location" and stuff. These lines add to the personality of the girls, even though they don't have any story.
Overall: 5/10 - A disappointment to say the least. I am not saying this game is worthless, fans of the difficulty level of the previous games will find plenty here, but it is sad that Kogado didn't pay as much attention as they should have. With plenty of little design annoyances poping up everywhere, I can only imagine Pd3 to be a game that is rushed to the stores without much fine-tuning. Kogado has ruined a game that could have been so much more.
Japanese Level: Low - There are times when the mission objective is not shown on the map, for example they just tell you to blow up the command center, etc. Those might be a little problem but most of the time you won't need too much Japanese to get through.
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