The previous Medabots game was an RPG which had some cool ideas and stayed quite true to the source material, but ultimately was undermined by a handful of major annoyances. Medabots AX, strangely enough, was actually originally released shortly before it, but this time around has seen the light of day second.
Surprisingly, this game is nothing at all like its sibling. While it's still based on the anime series and features the same characters and basic plot, don't expect an RPG this time around - this one's actually more of a fighting game with platforming elements, and as a result is much shorter and simpler.
It's a pretty standard fighting game setup; there's a tournament going on, so Ikki - who is still the main character - decides to try and win it with his Medabots. That's pretty much it, and the game instantly throws you right into the action without any explanation of how everything works - expect to call up the digital manual quite quickly.
Essentially, there's a map screen with seven stages to select from, a main stadium and six surrounding areas. Aside from the stadium, each has a practice stage and a trial stage. Select the practice stages to, well, practice, and select the trial stages when you're ready for the real thing.
Like any Medabots game customization is key, so before each fight you can customize your Medabots with different parts, each of which have different stats and effects. There's some really wacky ones in there, including ones that make you change parts randomly during battles, so make sure to pick well.
Once a fight actually begins you may quickly draw some parallels to Smash Bros., as this isn't like traditional fighting games such as Street Fighter. Instead, each stage is a large multi-screen affair, with several platforms and obstacles such as water or ice, depending on which stage you're fighting in. Each character has some basic attacks, as well as some special ones which come with bars that need to recharge, so you'll need to mix it up in order to win.
Each fight is fought two vs. two, with your partner being AI controlled. The AI in this game is a little questionable though, so don't expect your partner to be of much use - you'll have to carry the team yourself most of the time. Luckily the enemies are also affected by this and so they can be quite easily tricked and taken advantage of.
Another element from the other Medabots games also comes into play. Again, your individual parts each have their own health bars, and they can eventually be destroyed, completely nullifying their special effects. When this happens to the opponent it's great, but when it happens to you it's soul-crushing - you become severely weakened and will frequently find it much harder or downright impossible to win when this happens. Not much you can do about it though, except limping along until the very end!
Much like its predecessor the general idea of Medabots AX is quite interesting, and it has some nice presentation with detailed graphics and decent music. Unfortunately, there's just not a whole lot to the game. Due to the dodgy AI you can usually find a way to quickly get the upper hand of each foe, which means the game quickly devolves into one repetitive fight after another.
You can collect different parts and Medabots along the way, but although there is a large amount of customization it hardly seems to matter. There's also not a whole lot of variety in the stages, and although certain custom parts will allow you to deal with certain obstacles more easily, even without them they're not terribly difficult to overcome.
To top it all off, the game's not terribly long either. After three wins in each area you'll unlock the main arena, which has a few more fights. Not long after that it'll be over, clocking in at maybe three hours if you quickly understand the game's mechanics and what to do, not nearly as long as the previous title. Replay value is practically non-existent after this unless you plan on collecting all parts.
It should be noted that the only difference between the two available versions of the game is a different selection of Medabots and parts. Each game has 20 shared Medabots and 5 unique ones. If you're a Medabots fan and you decide to buy, you may want to search out if a particular character you like is only available in one version of the game.
While it's an interesting and different spin on a Medabots game, despite the apparent complexity there's just not a whole lot to Medabots AX. Repetitive fights, few stages, bad AI, fairly useless customization and little replay value all mean that this one is probably best avoided unless you're an absolute diehard Medabots fan. It's a shame most of the other, better Medabots games did not leave Japanese shores.