Anyone familiar with the game of pool will be familiar with the “nine-ball” format. Unlike other pool formats, nine-ball is generally played one-on-one, and remains to be a popular event in major pool sporting tournaments. The primary appeal of a nine-ball game is its mano-a-mano format, offering spectators a duel of fates between two competitors whether it is in the spirit of friendly competition, or bitter rivalries. It is this very same format and emotionally charged atmosphere that surround Armored Core’s defining attribute – the arena.
Cue in AC Nine-Ball and its pilot Hustler One, the primary antagonist of the original Armored Core and its subsequent spinoff, Master of Arena. Namesake aside, the AC’s arsenal is reminiscent of that of a pool player; its complete loadout includes a folding grenade launcher, a pulse rifle, a four-shot small missile pack, and a laser blade. Its pilot, Hustler One, is an even bigger enigma. With only one known official portrait ever to have existed, no one has ever confirmed his likeness.
In some ways, Nine-Ball’s weapons does remind of someone playing pool. The grenade launcher serves as a cue stick while the grenade shot resembles a giant cue ball – a fiery sphere of explosive force that obliterates whatever gets in its way (in most cases, that would be you). The right-arm pulse cannon spits out a rapid barrage of bluish orbs to pummel unfortunate foes. His other armaments are basic bread-and-butter weapons, giving him a wide variety to choose from depending on what the situation calls for.
In his AC: Ninebreaker incarnation, Nine-Ball moves on to more modern parts while still capturing the spirit of the classic design. The small missile set is replaced by a micro-missile pack, and the pulse rifle is swapped for the more iconic RL linear rifle, giving him a greater punch and a more daunting profile. In addition, this remake gets fitted with the CR98E2 core part, which has the ability to launch an independent machinegun exceed orbit to complement the other weapons, making him deadlier than before.
Throughout the years, Nine-Ball has appeared in various AC media, making his debut as Armored Core’s reigning arena champion, and appearing one last time in the game’s final sortie. Upon entering the last gauntlet, the player has to move up a tall corridor through a series of moving blocks armed with turrets. Once atop, the player has to drop down an adjacent corridor to encounter Nine-Ball for the first time. Immediately noticeable are Nine-Ball’s PLUS-enhanced abilities: unlimited energy supply, the ability to fire the back-mounted grenade launcher while moving, and a radical triple-shot pulse rifle. After the drop, the player then faces a second Nine-Ball in another adjacent corridor before finally reaching the central computer, which the player must destroy to complete the mission.
In AC: Master of Arena, Nine-Ball’s background is fleshed out even further. The player is treated to various missions, many of which are part of the overarching storyline of the player eventually facing off against his arch rival, and ultimately being led to the shocking revelation that its pilot, Hustler One, is actually an A.I. Program.
In the final level, amidst fighting a multitude of Nine-Ball clones, MoA will also be best remembered for introducing Seraph: Nine-Ball’s ultimate – and nearly unstoppable – form. Nine-Ball Seraph is armed with multiple machineguns, laser blades, and vertical-launch missiles. But most intriguing is his jet-mode that allows him to zip by most ACs and bombard them from behind.
With the defeat of the multiple Nine-Balls and even Seraph itself, the raven protagonist of Master of Arena finally reaps his revenge. Seraph’s fiery grave served to close out an era of Armored Core.
But the transition from PSOne to PS2 apparently wasn’t enough to end Nine-Ball’s crimson legacy. He has made a couple of guests appearances in the later AC games, first by making his PlayStation 2 debut as a secret boss in AC2: Another Age, as part of a mission, and later on in the Lost Field secret area where the player fights both his normal and Seraph form once again. Nine-Ball, with the aforementioned redesign, also served as the player’s final examiner in Armored Core: Ninebreaker.
Nine-Ball, a veritable symbol of Armored Core, is nowhere to be seen in the recent iterations of the game. But he lives on in various forms, such as artwork, merchandise, and even model kits of his much remembered (and feared) Seraph form. Fans everywhere have even made designs that pay tribute to the iconic AC in some way. Even with his prolonged absence, true Armored Core enthusiasts will ensure that this master of the arena is never forgotten.
Edited by Twin-Skies and NiX. Thanks so much for your help guys.