Staring at the jaws of defeat, there’s only one way to turn the tide of battle… throw a child into the Soul Cannon and sacrifice them for the greater good.
That’s the super weapon, as well as the moral dilemma attached to it, first introduced in the excellent and impactful Fuga: Melodies of Steel just a couple of years ago. Now though, developers CyberConnect2 have returned with a sequel, hoping to captivate players again with improved turn-based RPG battles and an all-round thrilling experience. Does Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 live up to its own hype, or is it a tired concept that’s being spun out on this occasion?
There’s an old saying – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. That appears to have been the case in Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2, and it absolutely pays off.
The Caninu (dogs) and Felineko (cats) kids are back to fight the good fight again after a year of peace. Upon the request of the Gasco Army, the young heroes of the war travel to the capital city to assist in investigating their old tank, the Taranis. While there, the Taranis suddenly comes to life with some of the children trapped inside and sets off on a rampage. Once again the responsibility falls to Malt Marzipan, the leader, to track down the tank alongside those who weren’t aboard it. To further rub salt in old wounds, they must use the tank which plagued them during the war, the Tarascus.
Just when you thought those poor kids could live the rest of their lives in peace, something strange like that happens and immediately draws them back in. It’s great though, because you instantly feel sorry for the characters who suffered plenty in the previous outing. There’s a real mystery going on here, and unlike before, the shoe’s on the other foot as whoever is piloting the rogue tank is nonchalantly feeding its passengers to the Soul Cannon. It will make your blood boil seeing Hanna, Mei and others you grew to adore being involved in such a situation. What it also does is ensure you’re doggedly determined to stop them in their tracks.
Whether the connection between a newcomer and Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 can conjure up the same emotions, I’m not sure. There is a quick recap for anyone needing the low-down on previous happenings, however it’s not really informative enough. I highly recommend working through Fuga: Melodies of Steel beforehand to garner the most from the storytelling in this sequel. At least then you can understand what’s going on a little better, if nothing else.
It’s quite a lengthy tale with a lot of back and forth between characters for the main narrative, as well as events initiated through good affinity levels. For that reason, it’s kind of understandable why there aren’t voiceovers for every piece of dialogue, but darn those weird squeals that are in place for such moments. Bear in mind that, besides gauging the various personalities, you won’t gain much from the voices anyway unless you’re fluent in Japanese. Nevertheless, the writing, acting and cavalcade of characters gel together well for a gripping adventure.
In regards to the gameplay, and the majority of it feels very familiar from the outset. Turn-based battles are an essential part of the twelve chapters ahead, with aerial and grounded enemies lying in wait at specific junctures. In order to fight back, you must place children in the three available armament slots and who you choose will likely depend on the opposition. If it’s a drone-like contraption, then the highly accurate machine-gunners are ideal, while those proficient with a cannon are incredibly damaging to the more grounded types. There are also grenade launcher operators, delivering a good balance of accuracy and damage.
There’s much more to take into consideration than weaponry though, for the members of the squadron possess different skills and offer nifty perks. For example, Britz can decrease enemy armor by two whole levels and upon achieving peak morale, Hero mode kicks in meaning every regular attack causes shock. Some skills rejuvenate the tank health, while others blind enemies or launch attacks which hit every opponent on the battlefield at once. These skills get even better by levelling up characters by garnering XP from victories and other activities – more details on those shortly. Additionally, you can give each operator a support character, whose relationship will determine how beneficial the partnership is.
The sheer variety of abilities, alongside the bonuses acquired through supporting roles, ensures plenty of freshness throughout battles. Especially as you encounter increasingly tough opposition with weaknesses that are exploitable via certain weaponry and such, forcing you to try different combinations. Finding good pairings is important because the chemistry built up between duos during fights eventually activates the powerful Link Attack manoeuvres, which prove integral at times. Sometimes it’s still not enough however, and drastic measures must be taken.
No, it’s not a rallying call to send a child to the Soul Cannon, although the weapon still plays a role as a failsafe. The newest super weapon is the Managarm, but disappointingly the penalty for using it is pretty lame. All you have to do to initiate the Managarm is injure a kid and forfeit the battle XP, which hardly stacks up against sacrificial offerings. Putting that to one side, the turn-based action is still as excellent as ever, but what about everything you can do outside of that?
The chapters of Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 follow pathways leading towards boss-like confrontations. Along the path are different events, including battles, health and skill point replenishment, and rewards in the form of materials. Arguably the crucial stops on the journey are the Intermissions, which is where decisions could have the most impact. Using a set amount of action points given, you’ll have to spend them wisely across many aspects.
A handy notebook expresses which activities everyone wants to do and this differs for each Intermission. Fulfilling their desires earns a reward, so it’s worth paying attention to. It’s still entirely down to you whether to let characters chat to strengthen relationships, upgrade the tank, do a bit of scrap fishing, grow food through farming, cook a stat boosting meal, or even dabble in farming. Expeditions are another option, allowing the kids to seek out treasures within ancient ruins by venturing through rooms to locate a key to unlock a chest. Improvements have been made to increase the complexity and puzzling nature of the excursions, which makes them more enjoyable.
In regards to new ideas, a Judgment System has been implemented and alters the trajectory of the narrative. Furthermore, choices affect the leadership skills of Malt and can unlock cool abilities related to the Empathy or Resolution routes. Considering one such ability hexes an enemy to force it to miss, and another annihilates an enemy, you know they’re going to be rather useful.
Other neat features introduced for the sequel include meet-ups where useful items may be procured, and the airship which offers a wide range of services. It lets you access the shops, receive supplies, pay to wipe out enemies from the road ahead, and be transported to a certain point for you to venture down an additional route to reap the rewards.
On the visual front, the character designs are wonderfully done and the various contraptions you’ll face look great. Even the still scenes and loading screens continue to deliver high quality art, but there is one area where it’s less impressive – the background environments during battles. The settings are just lacking in anything notable and as such, most places are fairly bland. Fortunately, it doesn’t really detract much from the rest of the aesthetic.
Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 takes what made the original an absolute belter of a game and improves almost everything. The turn-based action will keep you on your toes and ensures excitement in every encounter, while the charming yet gritty story hits you in the feels all over again. It has tons of replayability with alternate routes and multiple endings to witness. There’s lots to do outside of battle too, so what’s not to like? Apart from nit-picking about the new super weapon and some bland environments, it’s hard to criticise.
Give Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 your attention and, in turn, it will captivate you for hours.