PN03
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PN03, or Product Number 03, is a Capcom release for the Nintendo Gamecube that involves much shooting, much gymnastics and a fair to middling amount of ass waggling. Playing as Vanessa N. Schneider, you're a sassy, devil-may-care mercenary of the future, out to destroy the futuristic robotic bad boys from beyond Uranus. I'm paraphrasing, of course.

What this means in game terms is, essentially, Berzerk in 3D with the manoeuvrability of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider crossed with the average member of Cirque de Soleil. You run from area to area (generally generic corridors, but there's occasionally an outdoor 'room' or two) blasting baddies, and face bosses with regularity. What makes PN03 far more interesting, and dare I say more fun, than the Berzerk of old is the way in which you do this. The Vanessa character, who you control in third person view, is incredibly agile - you can duck, roll, sidestep, cartwheel, and leap in the air and more in order to avoid oncoming shots and to better position yourself to attack the enemies in the room.

All the spectacular looking gymnastics are also helpful in another of the game's main goals - getting combos. Each time you destroy a bad guy, there's a countdown timer displayed, and if you destroy another bad guy within that, the timer is reset, it's possible to chain quite a few of these together if you time it well, giving large score bonuses. The more difficult it is to kill a particular bad guy, the longer the combo timer gives you before running out, so there's also an element of gaining familiarity with enemies and strategy involved, if you want to maximize your score and look cool doing it.

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Well, if you're going to have to stare at something throughout the gameā€¦

Standard shooting is done via a lock on system - you automatically lock on to whatever's in your field of vision first, but pressing a button will swap between targets. Also, each suit has two special attacks, which can target multiple enemies, but use some of your precious suit energy. You start the game in a standard suit, but as you proceed through the game, you get the opportunity to buy suits that are more powerful and power up the various features. Remember all that talk of combos and high scores? Well, you use your score as money in the shops between stages (and occasionally in the middle of a stage).

The upgrades include the suit energy, special attack energy, unlocking a second special attack on each suit, shot speed and more. You can even buy continues, as well as getting a free one each time you successfully complete a level. Another useful feature of each end-of-level shop is the Trial Missions. These are a series of five randomly generated stages - you have to complete all the rooms in a mission in order to unlock the next, and each has increasingly difficult enemies within it. Fortunately, the score you gain in these missions is added to your total, so it's possible to power your suit up between levels. Dying doesn't lose the score you gain either, and doesn't affect your continues, so you'd be crazy not to take advantage of them.

So, what's the bad news? It's short, it's repetitive and the replay value is ultimately pretty limited. A reasonable effort will get you through the single player game in 4-5 hours, and that's without an excessive amount of time spent powering up the various suits. However, the chance to run through the randomised trial missions to get points for the most powerful suits, and new and varied efforts to maximise scores in general will have you returning to the game on a regular basis, assuming you enjoy the action at all.

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