Alice Gear Aegis CS - Concerto of Simulatrix is a mouthful. It's also a spin-off to a Japanese exclusive mobile game, so you'll be forgiven for not knowing much about it. The game is a simple arena fighter that allows you to control up to three pilots (one at a time) utilising mecha enhancements for shields, missiles and lasers. If it all sounds a bit bloody, there's no need to worry - as the Simlatrix of the title implies, the battles are virtual, at least when the pilots compete against each other.
In this future, humanity has taken to the stars using shards of our destroyed moon, which was blow apart by a wicked alien species called the Vice. The pilots, or "Actresses" are humanities defenders, able to channel their mysterious energy in a way that powers their armoured enhancements. They've become so popular that they're effectively idols, all working for various companies that have privatised the defense of our race and compete in private virtual tournaments.
All of which is to say we've come up with a reason to put cute girls in armour and fight each other in a way that's not macabre and can maintain a cute, light atmosphere throughout the game, despite all the advanced weaponry being (virtually) thrown around willy-nilly.
Pink bunny-eared mecha doom!
There are 22 playable girls within the game, and though they are split into teams of three, you can select any of them as your main character, and their team will make up the numbers for anything outside a 1v1 match. Progression takes place across a hexagonal grid, each stop on which marks 21 days of tournament time. You'll win money, upgrade your gear and then suit up again for more mayhem. Story mode will give you scenes between fights developing your character's storyline, before you get to the end and then try again with a different character.
Your selection of girls basically comes down to the sort of weaponry you like to use - snipers, machine guns, lasers and more all make your "main" weapon behave differently, which will alter the tactics you need to fight effectively. Because the game is intended to extend an existing universe, a lot of knowledge about the characters is assumed by the game, and honestly I felt like I should know them but didn't, which doesn't help much when you're trying to follow the story. There are profiles for each character, but they're pretty light on detail - subsequently it's quite hard to really grow attached to anyone in the game outside of aesthetic preference. One or two stand out, but mostly it's the usual bevvy of big eyes, cute faces and massive weaponry.
Note the lack of technical data - it's really a case of blonde, brunette or redhead...
So all this backstory is well and good, but how does it play? It's a smooth experience in terms of combat, but it's the same formula throughout. Now, this isn't necessarily a detriment, the same can be said of any fighting game, but it's worth noting this is an arcade-experience first and foremost, so don't expect anything epic or exploratory when going in. You're going to be thrown into a relatively small arena, float around and shoot things. And very little else.
The combat is at least varied, and it's a great title to dip in and out of - I've found playing 20 minutes bursts has helped maintain interest when I've been doing other things, and it's nice to have a game that works well in that manner.
Graphically it's all nicely presented, but it's pretty basic - textures are blurry and minimalist, as evident with the details (or lack thereof) on the arena screenshots for example. There's a pretty low poly-count on the main characters and it's clearly not technical limitations that are causing it. It looks a little like an early 2000's game, which won't pull in a lot of casual players. This is really aimed at fans of anime-style games.
The cut scenes are cute but pretty light on plot
All this simplicity does provide for a smooth experience however, and the ability to upgrade your gear, switching your loadout and changing your tactics does provide an incentive to get back in the ring. You can also buy clothing, and while each character has 2 sets of gear that are unique to them (further incentive to give everyone a go) you'll be racking up a fair few playthroughs before you can unlock everything.
You can play online in casual and ranked matches, but I'm unable to test that with such an early copy, but so long as the net code is solid, I don't see anything here to cause issues with load-times or slowdown.
As a mecha-musume title, it has enough charm and content to keep fans of the genre engaged, and as a typically Japanese genre we're actually quite lucky to have it translated at all, and full credit to PQube for that. It's neither big nor particularly involved, but it what it does do, it does with a cute gusto that has bags of charm.