Review: Carnage Heart EXA

CHEXAPlatform: PlayStation Portable/PlayStation Vita

Developer: Artdink

Publisher: Natsume

# of Players: 1 – 2

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Official Site

Score: A-

Not for those with short attention spans, casual gamers, or anyone looking for a quick weekend fix, Carnage Heart EXA is one of those games that will find its audience among the select few gamers that crave something with depth and a level of challenge that’s going to be daunting to the more action-crazy crowd. The game isn’t “easy” at all, but rewards patience and persistence as it teaches you how to program a growing army of mechs and let them loose against the crafty AI the story mode throws at you. Outside of the 3D battles, the game is also a visual novel that tells a fairly straightforward tale that has drama, humor and even a bit of love story going on, all rendered in some very pretty still images. The mix will seem odd to those new to this style of game, but this blend of simulation and story has been a common thing in Japan for quite some time. Continue reading

Carnage Heart EXA Set To Mech Up Your PSP or Vita Tomorrow…

 

CH_EXA_squareNatsume and Artdink have a nice and challenging little treat for you if you happen to have a PSP or Vita in your hot little hands. Carnage Heart EXA will be hitting PSN tomorrow and promises to be a pretty deep and engaging experience for all comers. Packing in loads of customizable mechs and the ability to “program” their moves for real-time battles is cool enough, but CHEXA also offers direct control for those gamers who want a bit more action as well as wi-fi play for that versus action you’re craving. Of course, there’s a Story mode to play through for you solo play junkies reading this, but it seems the game will find a nicely sized audience among online and offline mech-heads in the mood for something unique.

I believe I’ll reviewing this at some point before the month is out. I was planning to dig out my PSOne and copy of the original Carnage Heart to see if I was a terrible as I recall, but I haven’t had the chance to do so what with so many other things happening. This is probably a good thing, as this newer game seems to be a bit more user friendly yet still as tough if you go in unprepared.

Carnage Heart EXA – Q & A With Natsume’s Graham Markay

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CHEXAWith Carnage Heart EXA gone gold and headed to PSN March 19th for the PSP and Vita, I figured I’d shoot a few quick questions over to Natsume about the upcoming highly challenging strategy game. For the uninitiated, the game is divided into two modes: Plot sections, which introduce characters and advance the game’s story, and Briefing sections, where goals are established and enemies fought using OKEs (Overkill Engines), the highly customizable, programmable mechs that players will need to learn how to get up and running properly in order to succeed and survive some pretty tough missions.

Graham Markay, VP of Operations at Natsume got back to me fairly quickly with some answers, so here you go:

GW: How would you describe Carnage Heart EXA to new players as well as those older ones who remember the original PlayStation game hoping this is just as challenging?

GM: Carnage Heart EXA is a mech battling game with a twist — instead of simply controlling a giant robot, you can program your mech to do the fighting while you watch the action unfold! (Think of the old “Robot Wars” show that used to air on TV.) However, not only can you program your robot: You can also take control of your robo-battler manually, and take on the baddies that way. Therefore, if you’re a Carnage Heart veteran, or just getting into the series, Carnage Heart EXA offers something new for everyone!

GW: Other than the English localization Natsume is handling, are there any new features coming to the game?

GM: There aren’t any differences between the Japanese and the North American version. However, North American players will also have access to the SATLOKE server, which will allow players to download and upload their own OKE designs, teams, and match data. The Japanese and North American data is 100% compatible, so you can trade with other Carnage Heart EXA players, both foreign and domestic!

GW: From what I’ve seen so far, there are some fantastic mech designs in so many varieties here. Do you have a favorite robot or robot type that’s in the game?

Personally, I like the four-legged, jumping mechs, like the Grasshopper mech. Their quick jumping ability allows you dodge faster, and the weapons they can equip are relatively strong. Therefore, they’re probably the most balanced of the mechs, in my opinion.

GW: The original Carnage Heart was definitely not for more casual gamers looking for a quick action experience. However, EXA offers a Manual Control combat option that may appeal to certain players. What advice would you give to those new users who buy this or are interested in buying it in terms of starting out?

GM: Carnage Heart EXA has extensive, easy-to-understand tutorials in the Story Mode of the game, so even if you’ve never played Carnage Heart, the game explains everything in a simple, straightforward way. And if you’re still having trouble, there are example programs you can use and look at to try to figure out how to write at the perfect program!

GW: The series has continued in Japan in a few iterations (such as the two Zeus games and the later PSP entries). If EXA does well, would it be possible for those older titles to be brought to North America as updated versions?

GM: Never say never! Obviously, like you say, a lot of it would depend on how well Carnage Heart EXA does, but if it does well, nothing’s off the table!

GW: Silly question time! If you had your own robot in real life, what sort of design would it be and what tasks would you program it for?

GM: Since I’m not usually trying to fight off evil-doers, I think my own robot would be more domestic… I could have it make my meals, clean my apartment, and take out the garbage. That way, I’d have more time to focus on other things… Like playing Carnage Heart EXA, coming to the PSP this March!

Carnage Heart EXA Goes Gold, Gets Nicely Detailed Facebook Tutorial…

 

Well, Natsume kind of (and very smartly) realizes that this isn’t your garden variety “casual” game at all, so with the announcement that Artdink’s PSP exclusive,Carnage Heart EXA has gone gold and will be available for download on PSN on March 19, comes a cool link on the company’s  Facebook page that walks you through some basic “programming” skills needed to get your OKE’s up and running as they should. “What’s an OKE?” you ask? Well, dear…just go check that fb page out and see for yourself (the link should be on the right side). I’m about to run home before this stupid storm that’s about to roll through here kicks off…

Carnage Heart EXA: Yes, They Still Make PSP Games!

 

I had to do a genuine double take when I saw these videos Natsume sent my way. First of all, a new Carnage Heart game from Artdink? Wow. The original was a relatively obscure cult hit on the old PlayStation amongst those who dared to brave its unusual gameplay mechanics and high learning curve. A strategy game where you chose AI routines, placed them into a small team of mechs and let the game play out battles you didn’t control wasn’t exactly a system seller. That said, once you spent time poring over the manual and experimenting with customization, the game opened up considerably. There were three more PSOne games made with the Carnage Heart name (Carnage Heart: EZ Zapping and two with similar sounding titles: Zeus: Carnage Heart Second and Zeus II: Carnage Heart) and a PSP game from 2006 (Carnage Heart Portable), but none of those were ever localized. EXA is a 2010 PSP release that originally got both a retail and digital release in Japan, but Natsume is localizing this strictly for North American PSN users (a smart move given how much of a niche title this is). Custom color me intrigued. Natsume has yet to drop a release date on this one, but it’s coming this year and most likely sooner than later. I still have three working PSP’s here, so they’re practically giddy at this news…