Title: P.N.03 (Product Number 3)
Year Published: 2003
Platforms: Nintendo GameCube
The Capcom Five
Capcom originally intended to release five new exclusive games for the Nintendo GameCube, all developed by their Production Studio 4. There were high hopes for them: all bar one were based off new IP
, perhaps being able to launch new franchises for the company famous for its Resident Evil
and Street Fighter
series. Indeed, one of the five, Viewtiful Joe
, has gone on to spawn several sequels. The first of these five to be released, in 2003, was P.N.03
, which would turn out to be quite the contentious title.
Product Number Three
is a third-person
shooter with several differences. It was critically poorly received, and was neither followed by a sequel nor ported to another platform (the only released game of the Capcom Five to suffer this indignity). There are several likely reasons for its poor reception, which I'll delve into later; first, let's take a look at the game itself.
P.N.03 stars the peculiarly-named Vanessa Z. Schneider, a freelance mercenary equipped with a unique outfit known as an 'Aegis suit'. Naturally athletic, she dances and weaves about on the battlefield with cat-like grace, constantly dancing to the music in her head whenever she's stood She can hear voices?. Clad in her Aegis suit, Schneider can fire bolts of energy from the palms of her hands, or channel energy into a powerful blast known as an 'Energy Drive'. Which is just as well, as she's faced with an entire planetary settlement filled to burst with rampaging robots bend on killing everyone in their path, controlled by a malfunctioning "Computerised Armament Management System" (CAMS).
Employed by a mysterious client, whose identity is kept secret for much of the game, Schneider must dance her way through the various installations of the colony, taking out all enemies in her path in order to prevent disaster. Meanwhile, as she fights to avenge the deaths of her parents (killed by the failing CAMS), secrets from her past lurk waiting to reveal themselves...
should be a typical run-and-gun
adventure, but the gameplay can only be described as 'unique'. First things first: Vanessa can't, well, run and gun. Shots can only be fired when she's standing still, meaning players must choose their moment carefully, only popping out from cover to fire some well-timed shots before ducking away again. Thankfully, dodging is relatively easy (and crucial to the game): a tap of the shoulder button will bob Vanessa left or right, and can be combined with jumps to fully show off her gymnastic
talents. With practice, players can time their attacks and moves to leap into the open, completely avoiding incoming fire, before returning with a salvo of their own.
While dodging is reasonably-well handled, general movement is less so. Vanessa doesn't turn particularly well, which makes fine control in a squeeze difficult. This is compounded by a less than adequate 3D camera, which can only be moved in a handful of predetermined angles, none of which let you see as much as you'd like. The controls can only be properly described as 'clunky', and when combined with the inability to move and fire, can make the game an exercise in frustration.
The game consists of a series of levels, each built out of pre-designed rooms then populated by enemies; a fact that makes each level look virtually identical save for their actual layout. In addition, in between levels one can play optional stages to earn more points, again built from the same prefab
rooms. This gives the game a uniform look and feel, one which sadly looks rather dull and uninteresting by the end of the first stage alone.
Points mean prizes, though: one can purchase upgrades for their suit, extra continues, and even entirely new Aegis suits, offering a range of customisation choices for the player. Do you funnel your funds into rapid fire, or splash out on new Energy Drives to take out a room at a time? Money is easily acquired by playing the extra missions, so maxing out your suits isn't a problem. In addition, extra suits can be unlocked by completing the game under certain conditions.
P.N.03 is quite a fun game to play, despite its issues; the controls can be worked around, and although the story isn't particularly engaging, it never really pretends to be (Metal Gear
' conversations aside). It didn't sell well, and can be found reasonably cheap; if you do happen to stumble across it, and own a GameCube, it's worth a try at the very least. Don't go out of your way to pick it up - the other released games of the Capcom Five are considerably better - but don't pass up on it just because of a few poor reviews.