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When this massive adventure game starts there are literally no options, game settings or menus; in fact, you are not even penalized for dying. Armada is a continual journey forward. You begin by picking one of six alien races to play as, each with special technology like better shields or more firepower. Your alien ship will fly above a forested terrain with multiple ships flying around you in the same airspace, your safe haven, the planet where various races have conglomerated to seek safety from your enemy, the Armada.
The game plays out on a 2D engine that only allows movement along a given plane. With all other spacecraft on the same plane, you can engage via radio contact by scanning another ship, or firing weapons. All buttons on the Dreamcast controller are used: triggers initiate thrust, one for fast and one for slow; the four colored buttons fire main weapons; use power pods as a smart bomb and shield, and to scan objects and ships. Your ship faces whichever direction the analog stick points, while the D-Pad is used to land or leave planets and space stations. Two bars along the top of your ship represent armor strength and power, show watch them when the Armada shoots you. Firing your main weapon also decreases your energy bar, but letting go replenishes it, and rapid button pressing won't diminish it. Using your maximum thrust decreases energy, but replenishes when releasing the thrust button.
In the upper left portion of the screen is a large radar circle with several icons inside representing the various objects encountered. Green dots are friends. Red are the enemy. Green crosses represent friendly ships that will either restore your armor or replenish your power pods, also used as smart bombs or temporary impenetrable shields. Red crosses represent enemies that offer armor power-up when destroyed. A large white circle represents planets and space stations, while a slightly smaller one represents boss enemies.
At the start of the game, and after each mission, only friendly ships will appear in your radar, so it is necessary to fly around the home planet contacting ships to obtain the new mission briefing. A small box in the lower left corner of the screen will keep the mission displayed until completed. To venture off into space, press the D-pad upwards and the playing area will become space itself, showing your home planet in the background. If you wish to return, simply press the D-pad down, also used to land on space stations. Once in space, red dots appear on radar, and a small green arrow points the direction for completing a mission. Right below that, on the left side of the screen, an X/Y axis shows your exact coordinates
Holding the heavy thrust for a period of time increases your ships speed to the next level, enabling you to make the journey in much less time. When the current mission is completed, return to the home planet by pressing the start button and selecting "go home," and contact the friendly ships to obtain the next mission objective. Each mission requires you to travel further and further into space, but wormholes will enable a jump from one sector to another. These wormholes seem randomly placed, so it may take you a while to familiarize yourself with where they take you. Like RPGs, this space game entails collecting money, buying weapons, traveling to distant lands, and hunting for credits and experience in order to "level up." At any point, you can save your game and leave the action; as well as re-enter. You can even take your VMU to a friends and join his game. Armada takes up very little space on the VMU (four blocks) and offers several files on each game save so you and four friends can save your data on those four blocks, or save your progress on a separate VMU to take your ship with you when you play away from home. Multi-player games let players work together rather than against each other. ~ Jonathan Licata, All Game Guide