Prepare to fall in love. She’s sassy, can strut her stuff on the dance floor and doesn’t look too bad in a skin-tight outfit either – always handy when fighting enemy security droids. Her name is Vanessa Schneider and she just happens to be a freelance mercenary and robot killer rolled into one. That’s a very good thing when you’ve just been hired to tackle an out of control security system on a distant planet.
PNO3, which stands for Product Number 3 is one of Capcom’s latest offerings for GameCube. This is a third person shooter without much of a difference except the slick styling of its lead character. The gameplay is basic enough and involves shooting everything that moves, namely out of control, armed to the nuts and bolts robots.
It’s not what she does, but how she does it that sets Ms Schneider apart from your average shooting buddy. Right from the moment she gets beamed down onto the planet’s surface, Vanessa’s hips rock hypnotically to the throbbing dance music. She’s primed and ready to go. She moves smoothly enough with a convincingly graceful run. When you’re under heavy attack use the trigger buttons to send Vanessa into a stylish pirouette dodge manoeuvre, worthy of Justin Timberlake. A double-tap produces a satisfying cartwheel to keep the loony robots on their toes. Meanwhile, the handy lock-on target means you can unleash some fire power of your own.
The Aegis Suit is the key to Vanessa’s abilities and by collecting points during battle you can upgrade your suit with weapons or buy a new one in the shop. Each Aegis Suit has different capabilities. For instance, one will be strong defensively, but you won’t be able to equip rapid fire power, making it the wrong choice for the trigger happy player. You can buy Barrier strength, Palm Shot capabilities and Energy and Automatic, rapid fire, for your suit, honing it to perfection.
Vanessa also has two special moves; Gullwing or Swan, depending on which Aegis Suit you have equipped. Using a button combination Vanessa will throw everything she can muster at the enemy, complete with metal wings and an extra special display of gymnastic finesse. The special move never fails to impress, although I must admit in the heat of battle I preferred to just batter them with Palm Shot, but then finesse has never been my strong point.
String together combinations to hit and defeat enemies for maximum points. And clear a room without getting hit for bonus points to spend in the shop. Sadly there is no multi-player game, but you can earn yourself extra points in Trial Mission, which gives you the chance to replay missions and hone your skills.
Most of the levels take place inside the corridors of a ship, reminiscent of the capture of Princess Leia’s ship in Star Wars. The throbbing, well-written dance music drives you on, as you take down a variety of enemy robots. After a while the featureless, flat corridors become a bit monotonous and I couldn’t help feeling that the game had been rushed out unfinished. So much care and attention has been spent on Vanessa’s movements and overall appearance, that I can’t believe the development team intended to just plonk her in some bare white hallways.
The end-of-level bosses look awesome and fill you with the appropriate amount of dread, until you manage to dispose of them on your first or second try. Then there’s the intriguing storyline, which is played out between levels through the dialogue Vanessa has with her mysterious client. You are encouraged to wonder about Vanessa’s past and why won’t the client reveal who she is. The plot takes a great existential twist when Vanessa enters a room containing a clone of herself suspended in a huge tube. You play the game expecting more twists and turns and a major showdown, but I’m sad to say your only reward is one of the most disappointing end of game cut scenes ever.
There are some fantastic moments, such as the timed escape which sends you running down labyrinthine corridors with only red flashing lights to see by. The effect is an adrenaline fuelled dash through darkened passages, desperately trying to find the doorway and it’s brilliant. Alas, these moments are few and far between. My gut feeling is that this game was meant to be so much more and something, whether it was money, time or artistic differences, came between us and the greater game.
PNO3 isn’t a bad game. It’s far from it. I enjoyed it immensely. I just want to play the game it was meant to be. The one where the environments were more varied and the bosses gave you something to think about. That said PNO3 is a great opportunity to have some mindless fun without fear of pulling your hair out. And of course she looks great, which always helps.