World War 3, a yet-to-exist event many a video game has been centered around, has ended. The surface of Earth has been destroyed, and people now reside in giant flying cities in the sky. And so begins the backdrop for Project Nimbus: Complete Edition ($19.99: Switch, Steam), previously released as Project Nimbus: Code Mirai on PS4. And yet, with a World War recently ended, trouble is a-brewing again. Two major world powers, the US-led CFN and the Russia/China led UCN, have to deal with the threat of the terrorist organization, the Children of Fallen Nations (Which can also be abbreviated CFN – not confusing at all…) to protect world peace. Or something like that.
So how do they fight battles in the sky of a destroyed earth? With flying mech-style Battle Frames, of course. This is a fast-moving flying combat game that really reminded me of a game I previously reviewed, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, and well, it suffers from a lot of the same problems. Maybe this type of game just isn’t for me, but considering this game is far newer than the original version of ZotE, I rather expected this game to have more intuitive controls and a camera that isn’t your worst enemy. These are the exact things that really keep this game from being an enjoyable experience for me.
Beyond that, the story elements of the game seem to suffer from a severe lack of continuity. Each mission has a story and cutscene to go along with it, but besides the basics described above, I honestly can’t tell you much more. You might be fighting for the US CFN in one mission and then for the UCN in the next and there is no clear reason for this. Each story segment seems almost totally unrelated to the next one, and as I got through the first act I really had no idea what was going on, other than my core objective seeming to be about defeating the four leaders of the CFN (The terrorist one!). The cutscenes were so uninteresting that I started skipping them pretty quickly, just to get it over with. There are some emotional moments hidden in there, but if you find the story as difficult to follow as I did, you could easily end up skipping over the most meaningful parts.
Being an updated version of an existing game, the Switch (and Steam) version of the game offers additional play modes, including an infinite survival mode where you can play with any Battle Frame, and a “Warfront” mode where you start with only the bare minimum and have to complete various types of generic missions to gain resources and unlock and upgrade more Battle Frames. Speaking of the Battle Frames, there are actually quite a lot to choose from, all with different arrays of weapons and stats. It really makes me ask, where’s the multiplayer deathmatch mode? For people who really enjoy these kinds of games, it seems like a real missed opportunity.
Out of Control
I really didn’t expect to find so many problems, considering the previously released PS4 version had fairly good reception from all the info I could find. But there were many of them. Let’s break it down:
The controls are what aggravated me the most. This is another one of those games that I probably would have at least somewhat liked had the controls not ruined it. The movement of the Battle Frames feels super floaty, and just a short press of the stick or the fly up/down buttons will make you move a considerable distance, too often requiring a longer press in the other direction to stop where you want to stop. The layout is convoluted, with some attacks performed by pressing the ZR trigger and others with the A button or other buttons. Some functions feel redundant – for example, you can press up and down on the D-pad, or you can press L, which displays more detailed weapon info, slows down time, and lets you change weapons, still with up and down. I didn’t find this useful at all. If anything, this display should pause the game, not slow down time.
The camera also drove me absolutely nuts. It’s almost completely manual, meaning you if you move toward the camera, it won’t automatically come around so that it faces the direction you’re moving, like almost any 3D game would. Combine the manual camera with the floaty mech steering, and the game is borderline unplayable without a lot of skill that shouldn’t be required of the player.
Targeting is also a huge hassle because of this. The R button changes your target lock, but this is deceptive. In most games, if you have a target lock, the camera will turn to keep the target in view. Not in this game, it merely determines which enemy you’re shooting at. Enemies will constantly fly past or circle around you and you have to keep manually panning the camera or turning to be able to see what you’re shooting at, which is frustrating, even though you don’t really have to aim, you only need to be in the weapon’s range of the target. I feel like any given mission probably took twice as long to complete than it should have just because of this and the floaty mech control (I know I keep saying that, that’s how much of a recurring problem this is) causing me to fly past things or crash into walls.
I also ran into an odd bug in one of the early missions, where I was tasked to eliminate all the enemies inside an enclosed area before being able to escape it, but one of the enemies somehow ended up outside of it, rendering me unable to destroy it and forcing a restart of the mission. It only happened once though.
The last and probably least annoying problem is just that everything seems tiny in comparison to you and your Battle Frame. Even when you do a melee rush in Frames that have one, your opponent seems small. Any further away from this and your enemies are basically dark specks on the screen that you wouldn’t see if not for the HUD elements highlighting them. The bosses stand out somewhat more, but most of the time, I feel like I’m chasing fruit flies.
Fly, Fly Away
So can I say anything good about the game? Both the visuals and music are the high points of the entire game. The environments are huge and varied (although empty at times), and makes good use of Unreal Engine 4’s ability to handle this sort of thing and do it with steady frame rates. The visual effects and such all feel appropriate and satisfying. Put that together with a soundtrack that is varied and quite enjoyable to listen to and easily the best highlight of the game.
However, I’m going to have to ding them just a little for the voice acting, which isn’t bad, but has a number of strange errors, like words being mispronounced or word choices that seem like an artifact of slightly off localization. Not something really terrible like in Zero Wing, but just some occasional quirks that probably could have been weeded out with a few more takes. I can tell the voice actors definitely put the effort in though, and there is variation in tone and emotion that is well done.
That said, none of that makes up for the excessively floaty controls, bad camera that makes everything harder than it should be, completely disconnected story elements, and overall feeling of frustration that overtook any fun I could have had playing this. If you are a hardcore fan of anime and mech combat games, you will probably be able to adapt to the controls and get some enjoyment out of this. However, even then, I’d still suggest the Zone of the Enders games or just about anything else over this. This game is of a genre that is very popular in Japan, with many legitimate good games that don’t come Stateside, but whether you live in Japan or not, I think you have far better options than this.
Review copy provided by GameTomo for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer.