P.N. 03 (short for Product Number 03) is a Gamecube-exclusive third person shooter that is absolutely oozing with style. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a whole lot of substance to go with all that style. Truthfully, it suffers from a lot of the same problems that GunValkyrie does in terms of game substance. The good news, however, is that P.N. 03 controls perfectly fine and has a learning curve that isn't steeper than a graph of American public debt since Reagan took office.
Graphically, it's a good looking game. Truthfully, I thought this Gamecube game looks better than GunValkyrie on the Xbox despite the Xbox being a considerably more powerful console (playing on a Wii via component cables, anyway; below is a screenshot at 1080p using Dolphin so you can see the full potential). It's also got a truly rockin' soundtrack. The music is so good that even your character starts feeling it; leave her idle for even a second, and she starts bobbing her head and tapping her foot. I'm also fairly sure that your character is Tracer's grandmother or something because Vanessa's booty was CLEARLY an inspiration for Tracer's booty. They're both just so perfect.
The combat feels fluid and great. Once you're facing an enemy, it locks on and leaves you to just hammer the A button until it dies, tapping L or R every now and then to dodge attacks. Some attacks - like enemy missiles - will follow you, making you either dodge by hitting L or R at the right moment or jump over them by hitting B at the right moment. Jump or dodge too early, and the missiles will just follow you and hit you anyway. There are a few very minor platforming sections, and they can get frustrating, but it's not like Army Men: Major Malfunction or the first Uncharted game where your character will just arbitrarily decide not to grab a ledge and kill you. The combat, however, is definitely game's strongest point.
Conversely, the game's weakest point is probably the level design. It just gets extremely repetitive extremely quickly, and that's what I meant when I said that it doesn't have the substance to compliment its style. There are two or three varieties of level layouts, but truthfully, they all start to feel the same after mission 3 or 4 save for the couple of levels that start you off outside before entering a building (which proceeds to look and feel exactly like every other level). They all pretty much consist of "Run into room and kill bad guys, run into next room and kill bad guys, run into next room and find it empty, run into next room and kill bad guys, run into next room and kill boss, win" ad nauseam. The gameplay is fun, so while monotonous, it never stops being enjoyable, but it's definitely the game's weakest aspect.
The story is also really lackluster. I'd comment more on it, but truthfully, I have no idea what it was about. Vanessa's a mercenary who is completing some job for an anonymous client (who is a total douchebag, by the way) and sends you in circles for 11 missions punctuated by a giant robot to blow up at the end. Beyond that, I have no clue what that game was about. There's supposedly some "dark past" that the back of the case talks about, but aside from the obvious that was hinted by the title of the game - being a clone or cyborg or some shit - I have no idea what that's supposed to be. Maybe it told me and I just got bored with the story too soon, but yeah, narrative here sucks. Blowing up robots is fun, though, so it balances.
It seems to be going for roughly $20ish on eBay right now, and I feel pretty good recommending it for those of you who enjoy third person shooters. If you're looking for a story-driven game or one with a lot of replay value, I'd either emulate or pass on this one. It's so short - it took me about 2 hours to finish - with such a lackluster story and minimal level variety that I really can't recommend anyone other than genre enthusiasts go out of their way to pick it up. I enjoyed my time with it, and while it's a good obscure game, I'm not sure I'd call it a hidden gem. Or like a hidden quartz crystal - pretty and cool to find, but not something to hunt for.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.