Thank you Circle Entertainment for sending us the game to review!
Circle has been extremely busy this year porting over Japanese digital exclusives, and while most have been great, Noah's Cradle leaves a lot to be desired.
Set in a time where humans have fled the Earth in order to avoid extinction, Noah's Cradle is the name of the ship that houses the fleeing humans. The game itself begins after the discovery of a giant gas planet and its hostile inhabitants. The game describes their sizes as hundreds of kilometers, but really the only enemies you'll encounter are small aircraft.
There are three ships to choose from with the main difference between them being how many weapons each can equip. You start a mission by flying directly into an enemy cluster, though some missions literally pit you against one enemy, and it's up to you to destroy them all. While piloting your ship at first feels great, you quickly begin to realize that nearly every mission plays the same way. As you pass by the enemies you'll find that you can't turn around fast enough to shoot them, but the A.I. is so good that they've already turned around and have begun firing at your ship again. This is when I discovered that by boosting and doing a loop, you can always realign the enemies into your sight. Keeping an eye on the mini-map helps because enemies are displayed at all times as red blips. Each mission can pretty much be completed by doing loops, and very few times did the formula actually change.
Stages are broken up into random missions, and after a certain amount are completed, that territory is claimed on the map. In between missions you can customize your ship with a bunch of different weapons. From lasers and missiles to rocket launchers, the standard Mech-styled customization options can be found here. Each weapon has its own properties and effective uses, but the only stat that matters is distance. Being able to shoot enemies before they can even lock on to you makes missions much simpler than they needed to be.
Weapons can only be bought with funds, which are earned at the end of missions or by selling unwanted weapons back. By taking low amounts of damage and conserving ammo more funds can be earned. The problem with the shop though is that after a few missions I had enough money to buy the most powerful weapons available. This made progress feel insignificant as I could now just easily destroy enemies from a greater distance.
Graphically, this one could have been great. Ships have some really nice details, and the planet in the background looks nice. This all goes out the window when you discover just how small the space is around you. After a minute or two of flying through empty space you'll eventually hit a barrier that will end the mission. Alternatively, if you fly too low you can also hit a mission ending barrier. There's simply just not enough going on around you, which makes the game feel underwhelming. The soundtrack consists of only a few tracks and for the most part they're nothing special. They do add a nice futuristic feel to the map screen, but outside of that, they fall flat. Weapons at the very least sound great.
Now the biggest problem I have with this game is the translation errors. Circle isn't known for having the best translated titles, but Noah's Cradle is riddled with grammatical errors and inconsistencies that make it nearly impossible to get invested in the story. Menus aren't as cryptic, though they do hold their own mistakes.
Noah's Cradle isn't the next Ace Combat, and if you're expecting it to be, you'll most likely be disappointed. For what it's worth, Noah's Cradle can be a fun game, though that will ultimately come down to how much the player is willing to invest into it. If you're a 3DS owner and a diehard aerial combat fan, you may enjoy this one.