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game: P.N.03
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Capcom
date posted: 12:00 AM Thu Oct 16th, 2003
last revision: 12:00 AM Thu Oct 16th, 2003

By Eric Qualls

Capcom's Product Number 03, or P.N.03 for short, is yet another game that suffers because of a lack of variety. All of the levels look the same, and there are only a handful of enemy types so the game starts to feel repetitive after the first couple of levels. There are only a handful of different attacks, and even though Vanessa is pretty easy on the eyes, you'll get tired of seeing the same animations over and over. P.N.03 does a few things right such as using an interesting combo system and giving you lots of worthwhile things to unlock with the points you earn, but the few positives aren't enough to make it worth anything more than a rental. 

The story in P.N.03 follows a mercenary named Vanessa Schneider as she begins a mission to reclaim a space colony that has been taken over by a Computer Arms Management System and its army of robots. The story is told through conversations between Vanessa and the mysterious person that hired her. There isn't any voice acting in the game, though, so you have quite a bit of reading ahead of you.

There are less than a dozen levels in P.N.03 and all of them are broken up into several smaller rooms. Each room only takes a minute or less to get through, and at the end of each room you are given a report of how well you did and how many bonus points you earned. As you can probably imagine, since it takes only a matter of seconds to run through each room and destroy all of the enemies, it is possible to play through the game in only a couple of hours. To counter the rather short length of the game, there are training missions you can play through that are randomly generated using parts from levels you have already visited. These training missions are fun and let you rack up points in levels that are arguably more fun than the main game.

At its heart, the gameplay in P.N.03 has more in common with shoot-em-ups like Graidus than it does with 3-D action games such as Tomb Raider or Metal Gear Solid. You explore a 3-D world, but the enemies come at you in easy to recognize patterns so the game has as much to do with memorization as anything. The key to P.N.03 is to defeat multiple enemies quickly to form combos so you can earn bonus points. Once you memorize where the enemies appear in each room it is easier to form combos and rack up a lot of points , which is exactly the same way you play shmups. 

The combat in P.N.03 is very stylish and the way Vanessa moves is very graceful and fun to watch. Techno music plays in the background and Vanessa bobs her head and moves to the music as if she is dancing even though she is in the middle of a combat zone. You dodge enemy attacks with the shoulder buttons and Vanessa coolly and calmly sidesteps and cartwheels out of the way. Energy drive attacks are even more impressive as Vanessa spins and stretches in order to deliver the attacks. The downside to all of this style is that you can't fire your weapon while you are moving. You have to stop and strike a pose before you can shoot, so the gameplay boils down to simply watching the enemies and firing and dodging according to their easy to follow patterns. 

The points you earn in the game can be used between missions to purchase new suits, power up your defense and palm shot, and buy extra continues. These items cost a ton of points, so it is necessary to play through the game several times to open up everything. You also earn points in the training missions, and since they are randomly generated, they are an easy and fun way to rack up a lot of points when the main missions are starting to get a bit too familiar.

As I mentioned above, you can purchase new outfits for Vanessa, but they do a lot more than just change the way she looks. In P.N.03, there are powered up shots you can use that will destroy multiple enemies at once called energy drives. Energy drives require power to use so, obviously, if you run out of special move energy you can't use energy drive attacks. These attacks are used by inputting commands on the D-pad and then pressing the A button. Each suit you buy allows you to perform different energy drive attacks, all of which are impressive to watch and extremely powerful. All of the upgrades and suits you can buy are worth the trouble, but the repetitive gameplay and the enormous number of points you have to have to unlock everything will surely drive some people away before they open up everything.

Graphically, P.N.03 manages to be both visually stunning and incredibly bland all at the same time. Special effects for energy drive attacks and exploding enemies look very good. Vanessa's character is very detailed and is animated exceptionally well. She really is the star attraction in this game. The enemies are detailed, but there are only a handful of different types so you'll see the same enemies and same animations over and over again. The levels you play in are made up of a lot of white panels and little else. The same sterile looking corridors and rooms repeat throughout the game and they just don't look very good. A little more variety in the enemies and environments would have gone a long way to make the graphics more impressive. Also, despite the bland environments the game runs at a sluggish framerate. That is never a good thing.

The sound in P.N.03 is good, but there is nothing here you haven't heard before. The techno music is pretty plain and is rather quiet compared to the rest of the game's sound. The laser blasts and explosions get the job done but little else. I would have liked to have had voice actors for the conversations between Vanessa and her client but that isn't the case.

In the end, P.N.03 is a flawed game that could have been much more fun than it is. If there were a bit more variety in the environments and enemies, the game wouldn't be so stale. I think that if you would have been able to move and shoot at the same time it would have added a lot to the gameplay, which was already fun if not repetitive. I like the style of the game as well as the point system with its wealth of worthwhile unlockables, but there just isn't enough to P.N.03 to get too excited about. Give it a rental. Once you play through the game once or start to get tired of seeing the same things over and over again, you'll be thankful for the opportunity to return this short, flawed game.