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Which game will you play the most in February?

The Order 1886
Majoras Mask 3D
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Game Profile
Xbox 360
Atlus Software
June 24, 2008
 Written by Jason Young  on September 15, 2008

Reviews: You are best left in the dark about Operation Darkness.

As one of Atlus' first attempts to bring a Japanese strategy role-playing game (SRPG) to the Xbox 360 crowd, Operation Darkness at first glance seems like a lesson on what not to do. From the first glance at the game's graphics to the horrendous camera, the game appears to be an epic fail of mammoth proportions. However, somewhere in there's a halfway-decent game. You just need to look in the right places.

What makes the game standout from the rest of the SRPG crowd is the game's cheezeball storyline. Telling the tale of a platoon unit known as the ?wolf pack' in an alternative World War II Universe, Vampire Nazis and British Werewolves do battle in order to determine the victor of the war. Not to mention the other countless mythological beings who appear in the game such as dragons and zombies. Thanks in large part to the game's excellent voice acting crew (with a few slight exceptions), the universe the characters live in begins to feel real and before you know it players are taking turn after turn just to find out what happens next.

Using tried and tested elements of your typical turn-based SRPG, Operation Darkness provides a very deep amount of gameplay. Attacking relies significantly on how much weight your character can carry, the hit ratio/area of your weapon, and the game's unique cover system. Although much of these will seem familiar to veteran rpg gamers everywhere, the game executes the blend very well and most importantly provides fun. It even throws a little FPS-inspired ammo/weapon pick-up systems into the mix.

Additionally, the game can take pleasure in being one of the harder SRPGs to come out aside from Fire Emblem. Just like in that game, if you lose a unit and complete the objective before reviving them, they're gone forever. While some gamers may find this frustrating as the only replacement you'll have is a level one recruit it provides a sense of accomplishment when you finish a hard level with all of your units in tact.

Unfortunately the game's also been equipped with the camera from hell which prevents it from being a good game. In fact, the camera takes it from being a good game and lowers it down so much that it's almost unplayable at times. Although there's a reason for that. You see, unlike most turn-based strategy games, Operation Darkness operates on an extremely huge map to give players an epic scope of the battles they're partaking in, so a fully functional (or dysfunctional) camera is needed in order to balance out the game.

Sounds simple enough. There's been plenty of SRPGs that've used rotating cameras to the best of their abilities like Final Fantasy Tactics. The difference between Operation Darkness and those games though is that the camera moves at a pace of 5000 revolutions per minute. Controlled by the right analog stick, you'll be usually forced to move from an unplayable camera angle to one that's slightly worse but still ultimately sucks. Sure, there are ways to work your way around it, using the mini-map in combination with the select target feature but it's still a trial in patience for even your most hardcore RPG gamer. Another slightly annoying feature in the game is the lack of an in-battle save feature and purchasing items as it requires you to buy items individually rather than in bundles. Nothing quiet as bad as the camera, but annoying nonetheless.

Just as bad is the game's graphics which looks like a low-budget PS2 game in hi-def. No way is it the worst looking game on the 360, but it's enough to leave a bland taste in most gamer's mouths. Character models are outdated and the game's color palette is also an ugly green, yellow, and orange mixture. While this won't make a difference to gamer's jumping from PS2 quality games to the 360, it's certainly not a game you'll want to use to show off your HD-theatre set. The game's soundtrack is also just as uninspired as the composer uses a mix of hard rock, opera, and techno themes to fill in the gaps.

Bottom Line
At a full-retail price of sixty dollars, the game is barely palatable to even some of the most hardcore SRPG fans out there, but no way is it the worst game on the 360 as other reviews may tell you. Still, it's hard not to look at the faults in the game and wonder what could have been if a better game designer was on the project. In the end what we're left with is this: a game that has plenty of unfulfilled potential with a taste of what could have been.

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