If you haven’t gotten your fill of strangely named protagonists with a troubled past, then Eureka Seven Vol 2: The New Vision might be just what you’re looking for. You play Sumner Sturgeon, an ex military pilot turned lifter in a futuristic world where there is only two things worth doing: piloting LFOs (mechs) and competing in lift races.
After a long and unskippable introduction where monochrome scenes from what I assume is a flashback, the player is plopped in the middle of a lifting competition. Don’t worry about starting the tutorial from the main menu. The basics of lifting are easy to pick up. Think of it as snowboarding, but on air. But just because the mechanics are easy to learn doesn’t mean a lift race is easy to win. It took me about six or seven tries to win the first race, not because my opponents were so much faster, but because the controls are a bit awkward. Steering left and right are a breeze to get used to, but it’s the up and down movement that takes a lot of practice. It’s hard to judge how far away the ground or a giant boulder is from your lift board, which results in a lot of miscalculations and wipeouts.
I thought that after I mastered how to maneuver my board, races would get more interesting. Sadly, I was wrong. Winning a race only depends on how well you’ve memorized the course and it seems less like a competition against other people and more like a competition against yourself not to mess up and get caught on a rock. There were a couple areas where my board seemed to get caught on something invisible, which made me wipe out. Obviously, it gets a bit frustrating when you can’t gauge if you’re about to run into something or not. That part is not as annoying as the announcer’s voice which says the same couple of phrases every few minutes, including a helpful shout of "Wipeout!". No, there’s no way to turn the announcer off.
After one or two lift races and about a million cut scenes later, I was finally able to pilot an LFO, which stands for Light Finding Operation but is basically a mech. I was happy to discover that more work was put into the mechanics of LFO combat than lift racing. Movement controls are intuitive and while the user-controlled camera is frustrating most of the time, it’s easy to get the camera to lock on to a target with a mere press of a button; camera lock-on is a crucial step to kicking the opponent’s butt. While I’m not a big fan of mech-themed anime, piloting LFOs in Eureka Seven is pretty damn satisfying. Pulling off a combo and destroying the opponent LFO just leaves a warm, tingling sensation in my heart.
That’s not to say that fighting with the LFOs is perfect. I usually stick with long range attacks during ground LFO fights because launching a successful melee attack seems to depend on luck even if my LFO is humping the leg of the opponent LFO. Most of the time, I can’t even tell if I did any damage with my melee attack, which is too bad because it would have been impressive to see two LFOs destroying each other up close. Knocking an LFO to the ground with a long range weapon is pretty easy, but don’t think you can scurry up to the crumpled heap of metal and unleash a flurry of melee attacks because there’s a grace period where the felled LFO is impervious to attack. Crappy, yes I know but it comes in handy when I’m actually the one fallen on the ground.
Lifting and LFO battles are the action-packed parts of the game, but not the only parts. When you’re not racing or fighting, you’re either watching a poorly voiced cut scene or walking around an area trying to figure out what it is you’re supposed to do or who you’re supposed to talk to in order to move forward in the plot. The walking around part seems superfluous since the game is so linear, and it gets annoying when you want to explore a certain area only to find that you’re blocked by invisible barriers that prevent you from walking any further.
If anime themed mech fights are your thing and you don’t mind terrible voice acting, Eureka Seven Vol 2 might be right up your alley. I don’t care much for the plot since mech anime never interests me, but even I have to admit that piloting an LFO for the first time and kicking ass almost makes some of the game’s low points worth it.