So I managed to finish my second lap of the game, this time in the EX-Hard difficulty. Even though you are not allowed to upgrade the stats of your pilots and mechs, if you play your cards right, this mode isn't that difficult at all, so let me comment on some tips to make your life easier if you are up to this challenge:
- Battleship auras are a must to ensure your units can survive. Seriously, don't underestimate the bonuses they provide.
- The same goes for the ability slot parts, which are those colored labels you can assign to your pilots, once they have 3 of the same, said skill will activate. This requires some planning giving your playstyle, although the obvious choice would be to give extra attack power to your grunt cleaners, while giving the pilots of the more fragile machines extra dodge and so. Just be aware this feature can make a serious difference during the last 20 stages or so of the game.
- Try to get all the secret extra parts and weapons. The former are especially important for your heavy hitters later in the game.
Regarding top tier units, there are a couple of mechs that shine above everyone else:
1.- The EX-Exbein. No contest here. Ing may lack the attack power and keeps running out of ammo and EN pretty fast. Nevertheless, he is simply untouchable and most of the times, you will want to send him solo to clear the map all by himself (at times I paired him with Leona, but EVEN SHE couldn't keep up with him, that's amazing). Slap a High Spec CPU and a Generator or some other way to recover his EN and you are good to go.
2.- Soulgain. THE Super Robot and probably, one of the most broken units in the entire game. Large HP and EN regen? Check. High attack power? Check. Its pilot comes with Attacker and Will Limit Break? Holy shit, you bet. Axel is definitely a top tier monster that you get around the middle of the game, so you can definitely fully exploit his awesomeness.The only drawbacks are that his attacks consume EN like a damn sponge so you gotta restrain yourself from going CODE KIRIN on everything you see. You will definitely want to slap a High Spec CPU or the Steel Soul on the Soulgain so Axel has everything, including high armor and accuracy. As for other ideas, I would also recommend to give him either the G Territory or Hyper Jammer parts, depending on your playstyle. Either way, Axel is able to handle almost anything by himself, including most of the bosses.
3.- Forte Gigas. The Super Robot from the D guys. This secret unit is a little tricky to get, as it involves Josh and Rim having a high kill count and performing certain actions in stages 47 and 48 but trust me, it is really worth all the effort: It is the only unit in the game that has S terrain rankings by default, coupled with extremely cheap energy attacks. Its power may not be that high (Soulgain is far superior), but having 2 Seishin pools in one unit never hurts and the fact that it naturally has the After Image skill is the icing on the cake.
4.- Granzon. Do I need to explain myself? Shu's mech is simply broken, as it comes with large EN regen and HALVES all the damage it receives, so almost everything in the game will barely be able to scratch it. Perfect candidate to slap a G Territory to make it tank more. Given he comes with the Counter skill and its attack power is so high, pretty much every grunt will fall victim to Shu's hands. The only problem? You don't have access to this unit until much later in the game, practically only during the final stages, which is a shame.
5.- SRX. No brainer here, as the HTB cannon is the attack with the highest damage of the game. Only make up your mind of who will be in the R-GUN Powered, either Mai or Viletta, as one of them can start the attack with lower morale, but the other delivers higher damage, so its up to your choice. With 3 Seishin pools you can take down almost any boss in one turn by spamming the damn thing.
Honorable mentions go for the Raioh, as it is like Soulgain's little brother. It has the Double Image skill, which is always nice in a super robot, but the lack of EN regen means Touma will run out of juice quickly unless you give it more energy. Nevertheless, he makes an excellent pair with Axel: Twin them up and add the ability slot parts that raise the melee attack power and counter damage, sit back and watch shit blowing up everywhere forever.
The Grungust Reishiki is also another great unit. Rishu comes with the Continuous Action skill, meaning he can attack 2 times in a row most of the time. Coupled with a great and cheap Seishin pool, he also makes a great grunt killer unit. The drawbacks are that the accuracy of the mech is horrible and it will also run out of EN pretty quickly. Solve that with some parts and you can enjoy this beast.
The Tesla Drive girls and their Hyperion are also some pretty good material, as their mech is very agile, comes with the Double Image skill, has 3 Seishin pools and a very long range. Unfortunately, its ammo runs out pretty fast and it certainly does not have a high attack power, which is logical considering the thing is a damn plane. Be also aware that Ibis stats are simply HORRID (like always) at the start of the game, so if you want the Hyperion to shine, she must have a pretty high level so it does not suck balls.
Finally I only want to comment on the whole Huckebein thing.The EX-Exbein is cool and all, but seriously, taking away FIVE of the best OG units from the game just like that? Well, I only cared for the Mk III Huckies but what the fuck. It gets even worse by the fact that we keep the damn AM Gunner. What's the point? It can't even dock with Ryoto's Armorlion so it seems like a damn waste of a unit. Ugh, whatever, now that I unlocked Special mode I can obtain the last trophies I'm missing and invest those 12 million cash I stored.