For the sake of your self-esteem, there's also the arena, where you can go one on one with AI controlled ACs of varying abilities and intelligence. You begin in class C, which is for remedial mecha, so if you have any skill before long you'll have earned yourself a pile of points and invitations to official matches. Clearing these will allow you to progress to higher classes, unlocking new parts and enabling more search options when choosing your perfect AC chump...I mean opponent. Of course, with the rise in class comes the rise in AI skill, with the ultimate adversaries really pushing your own piloting (and designing) to the limit if you have any hope of besting them. That's when you'll be thankful that you just didn't give up on the more grueling training exercises.
Nine Breaker isn't only a single player experience. There's split-screen, networked, and even online multiplayer via Kai (though not officially supported) with up to four AC jockeys, all with their own customized futuristic engines of destruction. It's only after you've been crushed by your friends, or during arena replays, that you can truly appreciate the detail that goes into every part of these Armored Cores, from the weight to their movement, to flip of the shoulder canon moves into firing position, and the jolt as it unleashes its terrible blast; all flowing at sixty frames per second without a stutter. While not particularly spectacular, the arenas get the job done, and only real flaw is the low resolution textures that are an inherent limitation of the console. Style makes up for the game's few shortcomings in presentation, complete with the soothing voices of the computer instructors, and a techno soundtrack that manages to stick in your head without distracting you from the action.
Not quite breaking on through to the other side.
Though there's more than Nine Breaker could have done to make itself more newbie friendly. The training exercises tell you want to do, but never how to do it. People new to the series might still give up in frustration before it has time to sink in, not understanding why they never seem to dash upwards, or why the AC they've assembled keeps overheating despite its high Cool stat. A few short tutorials covering the piloting and design process would have gone a long way to make this game, and the series as a whole, much more accessible. Also, while the short training exercises are nice for playing in short stints, especially for those going for the gold, the lack of longer missions and an overall storyline makes it feel that everything is always over took quickly, and just as you're getting into a groove with your AC the exercise is over.
Seventh in the AC series, Nine Breaker contains a system that has been polished and refined until other mecha sims seem crude by comparison. While all the training exercises make it feel like an extended warm up to another game, there's always shooting out in the arena, playing around with friends, or buffing up your AC designs when that begins to wear thin. While there's a fairly steep learning curve that'll make the easily frustrated launch their controller through the TV, people looking for a challenge will find one here in spades, making the rewards of better parts all the more satisfying.
New or old fan of the Armored Core series, Nine Breaker will sharpen both your mind and your reflexes, even as it leaves you begging for mercy.