Shogo: Mobile Armor Division is a first-person shooter game developed by Monolith Productions in 1998. Monolith was well known for being the people behind revolutionary titles such as Blood, Condemned Criminal Origins, and F.E.A.R. that really changed the FPS genre.
The 90s was really when anime started to pick up in the west. Shows like Sailor Moon, Dragonball, Mobile Suit Gundam, and Neon Genesis Evangelion helped set the foundation for America’s anime obsession. It wasn’t long till that influence hit the world of gaming. While plenty of games boasted anime influence, Shogo became the first of first-person shooter games to incorporate it.
Leave it to Monolith to take a chance on it. They live to break the traditions of gaming.
While this game was well-received back then, how does it hold up today? Let’s take a look at Monolith’s lost title and see why it fell into obscurity.
Let’s Make an Anime
A mysterious man known only as Gabriel leads terrorist group called The Fallen. They have attacked the planet Corvus to take the fight against the UCA for the resource of kato. This fight turns into a bloody power struggle as thousands of men and women face each other using their weapons and mechs to take control of the planet.
You play as Sanjuro Makabe, a commander of the USC who joined to fight in the war after the death of his brother and closest friends. Focused on revenge, Sanjuro pilots his mechs and fights the Fallen with help from his girlfriend, Kathryn,. Ultimately, he aims to assassinate the leader, Gabriel.
Story-wise, the plot beats pretty much line up with what you’d expect in an anime. The opening for the game also comes with its own anime theme song, which is pretty catchy. In fact, mecha anime like Patlabor and Appleseed heavily influenced Shogo. These stories focus more on realism and the grim effects of war rather than other common anime tropes of the time, which tended to incorporate mysticism.
Shogo Has The Passion, But Not The Looks
Admittedly, Shogo is not the prettiest-looking game. Even by 1998’s standards, the graphics look very strange especially in the character models. Faces appear warped. Eyes seem very peculiar. If they were going for an anime look, this isn’t it.
However, the backgrounds and vehicles appear pretty decent at first. Even the mechs look like they could be straight out of an anime.
The voice acting, however, is what really makes the game both entertaining and jarring. There are moments where you can’t tell if they’re being serious or exaggerating. This, in turn, makes for some rather interesting interactions!
Running And Gunning Like A Protagonist In Shogo
The gameplay in Shogo breaks down into two parts. First, on-foot combat, and second, the mecha-combat. You play both from a first-person perspective, though there is an option to go third-person if you want to see some janky model movement.
When on foot, it plays like a standard first-person shooter. A variety of pistols, shotguns, and assault rifles wait at your disposal. Also, Shogo can be pretty bloody when facing human enemies. Body parts go flying after explosions or even after being shot by a mech.
Speaking of mechs, the mech combat is where Shogo really gets fun. Not only do mechs offer more energy-based weapons, but they also bring massive variety. Yes, you can cater your mechs to your play style. Choose fast mobility heavy armor or balanced stats, depending on what kind of gameplay you prefer!
Enemies have their own mechs, along with tank,s and even soldiers on the ground. The shooting gives you tha chance for a critical hit, which both replenishes your health while the enemies lose theirs.
However, the opposite can also happen. A single critical hit against you kills you instantly. Hence, tactics are key to surviving the bullets that come your way.
Shogo Shows Its Age
Shogo doesn’t have a ton of optimization. Now, considering how old the game is, that’s not necessarily surprising. While players can easily pick up games like Blood and No One Lives Forever, they find Shogo a bit trickier.
The game doesn’t support widescreen, and the controls are also a little finicky. Shogo originally used keyboard aiming. Thus, its movement control remains a little dated. Even though it supports a mouse, it isn’t optimized well. Left and right buttons usually mean you can strafe in that direction. Here, though, you use those to turn around.
Sounds like no problem, right? Except, the mouse also makes you move the aim. By instinct, you will end up turning around when you mean to strafe during combat.
The game is also surprisingly short. That isn’t be a problem at first glance, but context makes everything. Shogo hit shelves right before Half-Life and Sin. Both of these games took a different and ultimately very popular approach to shooter games with non-linear storylines and better graphics. Hence, Shogo fell behind its peers.
Finally, during the time it was released, the market quickly began to see consoles introduced to huge sales. FPS games would get ports to PlayStation and Nintendo 64, making games like Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, and Quake popular once more. Shogo ported to the Mac and Amiga computers, but any chances of a console release were slim to none. Shogo wasn’t a huge flop, but sales came in under the radar. As a result, Monolith scrapped any plans for expansions and ports.
Great Ambitions, Mediocre Results
Despite the game gaining mostly positive reviews, the developers at Monolith didn’t feel like the game was what they were hoping to make. Admittedly, the studio was very inexperienced in making a game of this scale. They didn’t have the time to refine or add in everything they were hoping to do. It was a clear case of having a clear vision but a very messy job.
Thankfully, Monolith made a good thing out of a bad situation. Yes, the game is not as great as it could have been. Yet it succeeds in th most important aspect of video games: it’s fun.
Honestly, Monolith has a great track record of their worst games still being entertaining. This goes all the way back to Blood, with fun weapons and one-liners that reference Evil Dead. Shogo wears its influences on its sleeve and you’ll find little easter eggs to other anime and series.
Shogo As A Modern Classic
Considering how many remasters and remakes have been released for retro shooters, a modern fan base would beenfit from one for Shogo. Actually, it’s a great game for those who are interested in anime games and FPS games from the late ’90s. A remaster could also optimize the game, allowing it to play on widescreen. The controls could be adjusted play on a much more modern keyboard and mouse setup.
Should you decide to run it on Steam or GOG, there is a pretty loyal fanbase that can help you get it running on modern hardware today. The multiplayer is still active with plenty of death matches to keep you entertained
Shogo is a game that really feels like it could be so much more. It’s often painful to see a studio having a passion project fall flat in a way that shouldn’t have. Yet with the few hours of entertainment it offers, there is still be plenty of reason for players to pick it up.