previews\ Jun 8, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Alter Echo - PS2 - Preview

Alter Echo is sort of like an alligator.  You probably didn't see it coming, but then all of a sudden – BAM! – it bites into you like a E-Honda bites into a T-bone steak.  If that doesn't make any sense, then let me clarify: Alter Echo may not be the most hyped or the most promoted game out there, but it is by far one of the most promising games of the summer.  Once you play it, you'll be hooked.


Let me cut to the chase: the gameplay rocks.  I was anxious to give this game a shot, but I honestly had no idea what to expect.  The title, Alter Echo, certainly didn't reveal anything, and the screenshots didn't give many more details.


Less than 10 minutes after playing this game I was convinced that this could be one of the best ___ of the year.  "The best what?"  The best ___.  See, I'm still not quite sure which genre this game belongs in.  It has tons of action; tons of slashing, Devil May Cry-style combos; a bit of shooting; and several other gameplay elements, making it difficult to pinpoint one particular genre.  And let's not forget one of the game's coolest and most important features: character transformations.  As far as the demo revealed, there is only one character, and he only has three transformations, but each one is packed with enough depth to make up 10 transformations.


Two of the transformations were available in the demo, and both of them featured unique, instantly-engaging combat styles.  The standard one is Nevin's (the main character) human form.  In his human form, he can perform dozens of different moves, from combos to dash attacks to transformation attacks and so on.  The most basic combos (example: three sword slashes) are available from the start, but the rest must be bought with points earned through battles.  Sounds very Devil May Cry-ish doesn't it?  Don't mistake this for a DMC clone though.  It shares some of the same features, but it is very much its own game.


The second transformation turns Nevin into a big, mech-like creature that packs superior firepower.  He uses bullets and grenades instead of a sword, and can use special machinegun weapon nodes that are found in various parts of the game.  Many more attack features will be added to both transformations in the final version.


Another one of Alter Echo's features is time-stopping.  Not bullet-time.  Not slow-motion.  Time-stopping.  Called "TimeDilation" in the game, when time stops, the usual DMC-style combat disappears and is replaced by a time-and-click attack screen.  Here you must time the icons (X, square, circle and triangle) and press the designated button at the right moment.  If repeatedly timed just right, all of the enemies will be wiped out.  Because time has stopped, they won't be able to retaliate -- they'll just stand there and die.


The title of the game, Alter Echo, relates to the story.  I'm still not sure what an echo has to do with it, but "Alter" refers to the alternate forms you can morph into.  Those forms come from a purple goo that surrounds a planet in outer space.  When harnessed, the power of this substance allows humans to do incredible things and transform into whatever form they want.  That alone sounds like a plot for trouble, since any evil being could transform into an unbeatable creature and destroy the world.  That's not what happens here though.  In Alter Echo, some crazy scientist teaches the purple goo how to think.  Much like the robots in Terminator and The Matrix, as soon as something that previously had no thoughts is given the ability to think, it thinks it has the right to destroy those who gave it the power to think.  Or so it thought...


That's where Nevin, the game's hero, comes in.  He's not much smarter than an Oreo, and he certainly doesn't have the manly voice of Solid Snake, but his attitude is this: if he doesn't save the world, who will?


Of course, the story is brief, the cut scenes can be skipped, and really, does anyone care about the cause they're fighting for just as long as it's fun?


Due out this July, Alter Echo has quickly landed on my Top 5 Must Play Games of the Summer list.  Play it as soon as you can.

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