A slightly more high-effort anime cash-in from Bandai-Namco provides one of the most enjoyable import games I’ve played, with a few janky elements bringing the experience down.
|Physical English||No – JP only|
World-building & Story
Based on the manga series World Trigger, Borderless Mission follows a group of people in the fictional Mikado City who have enlisted in ‘Border’, an agency set up to fight ‘Neighbours’ – terrifying creatures from another dimension who suddenly turned up and begun attacking the city. The game follows a number of arcs from the manga and anime meaning it’s good for newcomers – although the speed with which it blasts through key points means it may be best reserved for fans.
At the centre of everything is Osamu Mikumo, a distinctly average high school student determined to enlist in Border who stumbles upon Yuma Kuga, a neighbour who has come to Mikado City to help the humans. Along with Chika, a young girl with an exceptionally high ‘trion’ count (read: inner energy), the three get taken into the Tamakoma branch of Border under the watch of charismatic Jin in order to be trained up to fight the Neighbour invasion.
World Trigger mixes serious story beats with more light-hearted comedy moments at various points and that’s what made it such a likeable anime series – this is all in tact in Borderless Mission, with the game not afraid to have you fighting other branches of Border one second and cooking in the hideout the next. Although it’s a whistle-stop tour through the overall plot, it’s very enjoyable if you’re a fan of the series.
The world itself is one of the biggest attractions of World Trigger and it’s great to see it fully realised and explorable here. From the towering Border HQ in the middle of the city to the otherworldly portals that appear whenever Neighbours spawn, everything from the tone to the aesthetic is spot on; making the title a great way to interact with the series.
Presentation & Sound
Taking place in a fairly decent open representation of Mikado City, Borderless Mission switches between looking brilliant and disappointing quite often; leaving a bit of a disjointed package but one that I’d say impressed me overall.
The environments are probably my favorite part of the presentation – this is a sprawling urban metropolis, full of skyscrapers; houses and parks to leap your way through. It’s impressive the first time you land on top of a building and realise you can see all the way to the horizon thanks to the impressive draw distance; equally impressive is the amount of objects and clutter that fills your view, giving the feel of a real living environment.
Sadly, once you hit the streets things aren’t quite as attractive, with a lack of pedestrians making things feel slightly sterile (although this makes sense within the story as these areas would have been evacuated due to the Neighbour invasion). Similarly, upon close inspection things like cars and walls feature low-detail stretched textures, although with the speed you’ll be bounding through the environment this is hardly an issue worth noting.
Models are generally pretty impressive – resembling the characters they’re based on with things like Yuma’s messy hair and their Border uniforms in tact. Similarly, neighbours run the gauntlet from terrifying behemoths stomping through the city to smaller recon creatures that scuttle away when engaged. Everything remains faithful to the source material and looks great, aside from a few jagged edges here and there.
Attacks and special moves are equally impressive. You’ll have access to a wide range of weapons ranging from swords which transform into shields to sniper rifles that produce a satisfying explosion of effects when hitting enemies. Foes launch their own projectiles which collide with the nearby environment and you can customise your character with triggers that allow magical leaping and other effects, leading to a very impressive light show on screen at times.
Problems appear once models are in motion, when humans appear to just skate along the landscape and neighbours clip through buildings and other objects, detracting from the experience. It’s nothing game-breaking and represents the level of jank I’d expect from a low budget Japanese title like this, so I wasn’t particularly bothered. What is inexcusable is performance – for whatever reason Artdink opted to use Unity (rather than their brilliant internal engine) which has resulted in some micro-stuttering when enemies spawn and a sometimes sluggish framerate. Again, it’s nothing that will ruin the package, but is worth noting.
Voice acting includes the cast from the anime which means that sound is generally quite strong, particularly when characters yell things like “grasshopper!” when jumping; in-keeping with the source material. Music is less impressive although never bad, with a nice piano-led menu theme providing a soothing backdrop while you pick a mission to tackle.
Gameplay & Content
Borderless Mission mixes action elements with minor third-person shooting mechanics in large open sandboxes that you can freely explore and it works really, really well. There’s definitely a level of jank in there as well as other minor flaws, but overall my experience was a positive one.
You’ll undertake a series of missions as various Border agents with the goal most often being to eliminate the Neighbour threat in the area. The first thing you’ll notice is that your character is very mobile – you’re able to leap in the air at a moment’s notice and scale the sides of skyscrapers by leaping up them. The game is very free-form in this regard – while you’ll be given objectives, you’re able to explore and approach however you see fit. This means you can take to the roof and pick off enemies as a sniper; or get in close to melee with an all-rounder as you’ll nearly always be part of a team who you can switch between on the fly.
The missions are split into two types – story missions follow the anime and have you play as specific characters with specific tasks; while free missions let you replay these as whichever team you choose. Generally there’s a decent variety of things to do – sometimes you’ll have to defend a perimeter from oncoming foes; other times will be to clear an area or occasionally a specific boss. The variety helps keep things fresh, even if the actual actions are often similar.
The cast here is varied in their approach to combat, with someone like Yuma very much being a close-quarters attacker while Chika picks off enemies from far away. There’s even some nifty movement abilities that let you jump repeatedly in the air or use a Freedom Wars-esque thorns ability to close the ground onto a solid object; although everything you do is tied to a Trion meter that depletes with use and refills once you stop shooting or moving. Characters will level up with repeated use and you’ll also earn points which can be used in a shop to buy new weapons and abilities for use in free missions, allowing a decent level of customisation.
And you’ll need to learn to use different abilities to take down the variety of Neighbours that are thrown at you. Just like striking a titan’s neck will take them down in Attack on Titan; so here Neighbours are weak to being hit directly in their eyes. Reaching them isn’t always the easiest however – giant walkers will thrash when you get near them; flying enemies require a gun or some handy platforming to take out, meaning you often have to plan ahead to take something down. My very first mission against a giant walking Neighbour ended in failure when I ran straight at it; but scaling the buildings and jumping it from above on a second run led to success.
If this all sounds too good to be true, then it’s worth noting that Borderless Mission has plenty of flaws too. Movement can be frustrating at times – there’s a weird disconnect between your character and the environment leading to some awkward running. Guns have no sense of weight or recoil either and opportunities to shoot are minimal with enemies who often get up in your face. The biggest movement issue is in jumping – you’re encouraged to scale buildings, but many have balconies jutting out that cause havoc getting up them and really interrupt the game-flow when you get stuck.
There’s also some really frustrating difficulty spikes that Borderless Mission does a poor job of preparing you for, such as a 1v1 boss battle with Kazama that comes out of nowhere and is especially challenging if you haven’t spent much time with Osamu. I did eventually come to enjoy this fight (and some of the other difficult challenges) as they taught me to hone skills I wasn’t otherwise using, but they can be extremely overwhelming at first.
The biggest flaw in Borderless Mission is undoubtedly the combat against humans (much like the Kazama fight) While Neighbours generally provide big enough targets to hit with set movement patterns, you’re sometimes tasked with fighting people and it feels like the game wasn’t really built for this. The camera struggles to keep up while your enemies flit about and your attacks feel sluggish and slow against inflated health bars. It’s hardly game-breaking, but I was never looking forward to encounters against humans save for the few decent boss fights (Viza in particular is a highlight).
Overall, the game provides a decent amount to do between story and free missions, and there’s also fighting room mode which allows you to set up a duel between any characters of your choosing. That said, the missions themselves are short – rarely more than 10 minutes and often just 3-4, which is fantastic for handheld play admittedly but often left me wanting more. You can also customise characters with new triggers and weapons which is really fun to experiment with, adding even more to an already stuffed game.
Ease of Understanding
Obviously, menus and text in the game is in Japanese – meaning the story and plot development will be lost on you without a translation app.
Thankfully, everything else is easy to understand – mission objectives are clearly marked on the map; the various menus are easy to get to grips with once you’ve used them once or twice and controls are easy to get used to. I was expecting to use Google Translate extensively for this game and ended up using it about twice before I settled into things – although if you do struggle a wiki exists here (which you should be able to translate through your browser).
Artdink are well aware of how to craft an enjoyable anime action game and they’re on great form here, creating a great world that it’s incredibly fun to explore. Some inevitable budget-jank exists – combat against humans is frustrating; difficulty isn’t always fair and I really question their choice of engine given the stutters and technical issues that exist, but overall there’s a very enjoyable experience here and amount of content is impressive. If youre willing to overlook the flaws, you’ll have fun shooting and slashing aliens whether or not you’re a fan of the anime.