Listen up, maggots! You might think you have what it takes to be a hot shot Armored Core (AC) pilot...but we've got a training program here that will really whip you pansies into shape! I bet all you sissy momma's boys are expecting the early exercises to be a cakewalk, but the only thing we've got on the menu here is craw, and I'm going to make sure you get your fill of it! One hundred and fifty missions worth!
Armored Core has become an increasingly insulator series, evolving with each new iteration to a point that a player has to master all the pervious titles just to start on the ground floor. This often causes newcomers to throw up their hands in frustration at these "impossible" missions, combined with mecha construction that seems more like calculus with all the numbers to follow. Nine Breaker seeks to break this cycle by offering a series of training exercises that will turn a mecha lightweight into an AC-crushing machine, though don't expect it to be nice about it.
Building your AC is almost pure freedom. There are no credits, so many parts are available from the start, and there are no repair costs to worry about after an exercise or arena match. Of course, if you throw together an AC with all the "best" options, you'll have a mech that can't move because it's overweight, and will both overheat and run out energy after firing its first shot. Balance is the key, usually focusing one or two aspects, like defense and speed, especially if you want to score gold in the tougher training exercises. The huge selection of parts, the ability to tune them up, test them out in a quick match, and a handy chart marking your progress towards your ideal AC turns a seemingly dauntless task into a simple matter of trial and error, at least once you pass the significant learning curve.
Parts aren't the only thing you can customize. Aside of christening your robotic steed with a proper name, you can make it stand out with a pretty complicated paint job, including the ability to color your weapons and add special emblems, which can be produced in the game's own internal painting program. And to get the feel of your mecha just right, you can customize the controls to a greater degree than any other game has ever offered, allowing you to map face buttons to the directions of an analogue stick or vice versa if you choose, though I settled on swapping around the stick and face buttons to make those extensions easier to get at.
It's like boot camp without all the congeniality.
The bulk of Nine Breaker is in the hundred and fifty training exercises, which test your abilities in everything from speeding down obstacle courses to dodging persistent enemies just to keep alive. Medals in gold, silver, and bronze are awarded for varying levels of success, though you'll need more than lightning quick reflexes to get the gold. Thankfully, under each exercise you can check the ranks of ACs who have mastered them, right down to the parts they used to guide your own construction projects. Completing missions gradually unlocks even more missions, while clearing a row of objectives and earning set numbers of gold medals will result in more AC parts to play with. These exercises tend to be quite short, allowing you to make serious progress even if you can only play in ten minute stints, though it's a bit annoying that it doesn't give the option of immediately restarting a mission after the time runs out. It needs to rub your face in the "You Failed" animation and show you how badly you did before letting you have another crack at it, which after the 20th time begins to feel a bit unnecessary.