If the recent barrage of Dragon Ball games has taught us anything, it’s that games based on popular anime/manga are at their very best when they embrace their source material with the passion of an obsessive cosplayer. Fans aren’t just clamouring for stories set in those familiar worlds; they want the stories from those hallowed vaults, rebuilt in interactive form in all their polygonal glory. Attack On Titan 2 does just that, sticking rigidly to the story of the dystopian show’s first two seasons. The result is as action-packed Monster Hunter-aping romp that’s true to its smash hit licence, but one that’s so authentic it sometimes leaves you feeling like an outsider, looking in.
And yes, we said the ‘M’ word. It’s impossible to say anything about Attack on Titan 2 without discussing its similarity to Capcom’s world-dominating franchise. Both series task you with taking down giant beasts, targeting body parts and using the resources dropped to build stronger and downright nasty new weapons. The big difference between the two is verticality, and it’s here that this sequel confidently sets itself apart.
The ODM (or Omni-Directional Mobility gear, if you'd prefer) - a pair of waist-mounted grappling hook launchers - have been noticeably tweaked since the first game, and a simple press of ‘Y’ will attach them to any nearby buildings, trees or Titans, launching you into the air like a catapult. With its focus on melee combat (you’ll always be armed with a pair of swords for some up close and personal butchery), the ODM enables you to swing around buildings, escape danger at a moment’s notice and zone in on those titular giants that keep invading your home and eating people.
The movement can take a little getting used to, especially with a camera system that often takes too long to correct itself (usually when fighting in the confines of a busy street or building complex), but once you’ve nailed the mechanics it's truly exhilarating as you traverse long distances in a manner not too dissimilar to web-slinging of The Amazing Spider-Man. There’s also the added need to monitor and replenish your gas (which powers your ODM) and the sharpness of your blades, which feeds in an extra dimension of tactics when facing down those Titans.
Talking of Titans, those mean ol’ giants have been given something of an update since the first game. There’s a greater variety of types to contend with now, and each one has its own weak spots and areas to avoid. With a simple press of ‘R’ you can lock and flick between body parts, using ‘X’ to attach your ODM and zoom in, hitting ‘X’ again as you strike to deal plenty of damage. Not only are these myriad Titan types more authentic to the original manga and anime, they also require far more tactical prowess to bring them down.
You’ll need to make good use of your AI-controlled squadmates (you can have up to four fighting alongside you), and each one has a unique ability that can be unleashed in battle. With these characters spread across each area, you can interchange the members of your squad once you’ve worked out which ones work best with each Titan. Add in a dangerous rage mode - which will turn the screen red and give your giant prey a frightening burst of speed and agility - and there’s plenty of to keep you on your toes. The only trouble is these mechanics rarely change once the game gets going, and even with the occasional change in Titan, the cycle of attack, regroup and attack again begins to lose its lustre.
While you’ll be spending plenty of time out in the field taking on the Titans, you’ll also be using the rest of your time to interact with the cast of the game. However, much like its combat, these dialogue-driven interludes can be as empowering as they are exclusive. You’ll get to interact with all the big names from the Attack on Titan cast, with the ability to increase and rank up your friendship with each one depending on your dialogue choices and side-quests. Boosting these bonds can also open up new abilities and buffs in combat, adding an extra incentive to run around and seek out each character. It's just a shame some of the dialogue comes across as a little too cheesy, even for a game about hunting naked, grinning giants.
The issue is where you fit into the story. The original game offered the chance to play as ten of the characters from the canon itself, but here you have no choice but to create your own avatar. It’s a classic RPG trope, with a respectable but hardly mind-blowing level of customisation, but it’s at odds with the authenticity of its world. The game does a much better job of retelling the first season’s story (as well as recreating the second for the first time in video game form), but you never truly feel like you’re having an impact on that narrative journey; the canon is sealed and you’re just along for the ride. There’s also some odd meta storytelling choices, where your character - regardless of the gender you choose - is always referred to as ‘our man’. Even if this is simply a localisation issue, it’s an uncomfortable misstep in 2018.
Outside of the story, there’s also 'Another' mode, which offers more a long-tail experience, with added online functionality for teaming with other players to take down Titans. You can respond to SOS requests (much like modern Monster Hunter) and you can trade resources with other players to upgrade your gear or build new weapons. There’s also a competitive element, where you can race other slayers to take down as many Titans as you can in a certain time limit. It’s great fun, and Titan battles are far more dynamic when you’re playing with another set of players as opposed to the choreographed movement of your AI-controlled pals.
We did experience some slowdown issues during our playthrough (most notably in handheld mode), but they’re confined to battles with Titans where too many characters are zooming in and out of view on screen. We experienced the issue more during sections set within the main city, although it does happen occasionally when hunting giants out in the rural wilds. It’s not a game breaking issue by any stretch of the imagination, and while frustrating when it happens, it’s the only real technical issue we experienced while attacking those pesky Titans.
If you’ve played the first Attack On Titan you’ll have to contend with replaying the first season of the anime/manga again, but the sequel does a much better (and more comprehensive) job of bringing the canon to life in a different medium. Combat is fast, frenetic and exhilarating, but it can get a little repetitive when played with AI teammates. However, camera issues and the occasional drop in framerate aside, Attack On Titan 2 is one of the best action adventures on Switch and the closest we’re going to get to another Monster Hunter on a Nintendo console on the West - for the time being, at least.