korne's Ring of Red (PlayStation 2) review

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Unique and Challenging

Ring of Red is an obscure SRPG that is set in an altered post-WW2 Japan, where the country has been split into 3 regions... South Japan, North Japan, and Soviet Japan. 
After the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, airplanes have been banned in japan. The new form of combat is between walking tanks aka AFWs. You control a bunch of AFWs and move them around a spaced board to combat other AFWs.  
Gameplay wise, this may sound a bit like the Front Mission series. Well, there are two very large differences, the biggest being that battles do not enfold with basic dice roll mechanics. Instead, you are thrust into control of your AFW on the battlefield, similarly to how you are thrown into a giant war in Shogun:Total War. Different AFWs have different strengths and weaknesses, revolving around optimum range, attack strength, movement speed, defensive capabilities, reload speed, and the pilots skills. Each AFW takes time to load its weapon, during which the two can move backwards or forwards. When an attack is selected, the pilot will aim, allowing the player to see down the sights at his target. The longer you stay in the aim mode, the higher percentage of accuracy you will have. However, if you are hit during your aiming, the percentage will greatly drop, forcing you to either shoot with less accuracy or take longer to re-aim.  
The deciding factor in each battle is rarely the AFWs themselves, but rather, the supporting ground units you bring with them. 3 sets of ground units can be selected for each AFW, with two on the ground which can attack or support and one on the back of the AFW who can add different abilities to your character. These units all have different abilities which can alter battle, like setting or disposing of land mines, throwing a grenade at the enemy, or focusing fire on the other units infantry. Of course, your units are also susceptible to attack when they are in an attacking formation. Losing a ground unit will cause them to be gone for good. This is not good when you think you have the best set up, only to lose it in the next battle. 
The combat is excellent, if not a bit long. Each encounter will take about 2 minutes, making each mission last around 2 hours. To most, this will seem a very slow game, even though the action  is moved quickly enough.  
 While it takes a backseat to the gameplay, the story itself is a pretty good one, involving a hijacking of a prototype AFW, and an experimental group of soldiers is sent to track it down. The characters are grounded in real life well enough to get the point across, but really, they are not strong enough to make the narrative a memorable one.  
The game is one of the freshest SRPGs I have played in a long time, but the battles take a very long time to complete. It is an above average game, that should be played by 2 people at a time, where each player should take control of certain characters only. 

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