Wassup folks!!! After the denouement from such exciting games as Next King and Princess Crown, I almost expected my next batch of import games to not fare so well. Once again, I was proven WRONG, and this next game could be one of the greatest import games I have played yet!!! Okay, so it has a very unconvincing name that doesnít really sound too snazzy or important, but SUPER ROBOT WARS F is perhaps one of the best RPG/military/anime sims out there.
Hereís a quick background check for people who donít know much about the game: This game is a military sim involving mechs from all our favourite anime series, half old school (Mazinger Z, L-Gaim, Getta Robo) and some of the more recent animes (Gundam through Gundam Wing, Evangeleon). This game is the Saturn version of the long running series that have made appearances on the gameboy, famicom, super famicom, and event he Playstation. Now, we Saturn gamers are in for a treat (or is it a curse?), as this version features super deformed characters with big cutesy heads and small bodies, more voices, a completely rewritten story line, and an upcoming release sequel, Super Robot Wars F Final!!!
Oh BTW, from what I understand out of the kanji, the storyline is a conglomerate of all the series, with the enemies of each series teaming together to try to take over Earth. But it makes use of a lot of references to each individual series, and there are a lot of new faces I have seen for the first time.
Now with that out of the way, let me get down to the nitty gritty of this gem.
Well, itís all 2-D, which isnít necessarily bad. The graphics are clean and cut, but not breathtaking. Plus, the super deformation may turn off serious players, since every character is in itís cuter mode. And for some of us who are spoiled by such recent animated eye candy as Final Fantasy Tactics and Shining Force III, you may be disappointed to know that there is hardly any animation involved in this sim. Even in the battle scenes, your character and the enemyís body do not animate, but they do move (imagine Southpark, except even less animation). However, all your weapons, shots, and special attacks do animate, though sometimes in an old chopped-frame style. Some will be turned off by this, but please keep in mind that this is the tradition of the Super Robot Wars series, that the characters do not animate.
What is a plus is that you get to see your pilotís facial portrait in every battle scene, and these portraits can change depending on whether you get hurt, get angry, or whatever.
There are sometimes cinematic cutscenes, but the quality isnít exactly the best, though it is better than cinepak. The intro screen says that the cinemas were done in TrueMotion, though I never knew true motion could handle non-CG cutscenes. Oh well.
All PCM, but all great!!! And anime fans, you are in for a nostalgic ride!!! In every battle, when you select your character to move, the music changes to that robotís anime theme. Imagine choosing the legendary Mazinger to fight, and then listening to some old school anime tunes!!! Choose one of the characters from Gundam Wing, and you get the great song Just Communication!!! Even if you are unfamiliar with the series, you still will enjoy the tunes, because some of the songs (especially the old school stuff) are just too groovy not to enjoy!
GREAT sound. Explosions and shots are distinct and clear. And again, for anime fans, youíll love this one. I donít know how Winkysoft did it, but every character, including the enemies, has eight or nine different vocal lines before each close encounter. All your favourite characters from these anime series, done by their original voice actors, and all on one CD. The only sad thing is these voices are not stored in the usual .aif format so you can play them on your computer! Oh well...
Come on... this is a military sim, not a platformer... well anyway, control is precise FYI.
Now, hereís what I call a REAL sim. There are quite a lot of options in this game, more than any other non-Koei game that I can remember. Some might think that is a burden, but I love options, because it just means you have more things to keep track of, and therefore actually have to think/concentrate more on the game. From the start you are presented with a character creation screen, which allows you to choose a name (even an English name!), character portrait, and various other stats.. You can also choose two routes, Real Robot Route or Super Robot Route, and each of them contains different battles (though essentially the same overall story line). Anyway, from here, the game is divided up into two different sections: battle, and intermission, with the battle scenes taking up most of the chunk.
Battle can take place either in space or on earth. Usually before the battle begins you can choose up to twelve mechs from your roster, each with their individual pilots. Of course, each mech has their own advantages/disadvantages in different terrains, as well as different mobility, weapons, resistances, etc. After you choose your twelve, you must battle the enemy troops. This battle screen is a top-down view, where characters are shown and represented by only their heads. The whole game is turn based, meaning you move your mechs and attack, and then the enemy takes their turn to try to clobber you. When a character chooses to attack an enemy, they must select their weapons--which also differs in strength depending on which terrain you are in--and then the game switches to the immediate battle screen. Here, you see your character in SD form, you hear the character say his battle line, and then initiate the attack! There is a slight loading time (about one second) to load each close-up battle, but it really does not bring down the game. Basically the close-ups are very much like Shining Force, minus the excessive animation, where you see the attack sent over to the enemy. Of course, the enemy can choose to dodge or counter the attack, so beware. And likewise, when an enemy attacks you, you can decided to dodge, absorb, or counterattack. Hit an enemy, and gain a little experience. Kill one, and gain gold and bundles of experience. Get screwed, well, thatíll cost ya $$ when the battle is over. Hey, mechs are really expensive.
Like modern sims nowadays, your characters are also capable of special techniques, which include healing, increase in hitting percentage, and various other goodies to strengthen your team. Winkysoft tried to keep true to many of the original anime by allowing the mechs to have most of their original forms and trademark attacks. So donít be surprised if some of your characters are capable of transforming, combining, or initiating some funky looking Rokkesta Puuunch!!! (Mazinger again--guess which is my favourite playable character now??). Oh, and these battles are long and difficult-- averaging about one hour to two hours for each battle. But thatís what makes a pretty good sim, eh?
Here you can upgrade mechs, switch mech pilots, check out character levels, and other various tidbits. Itís very much like the town scenes in Shining Force, except mechs are expensive, so you wonít be upgrading as much as you want to. There are various other goodies in the game, like a cyclopaedia of all the characters and mechs that you discovered (great for anime mech buffs), and even a karaoke mode where you are presented with the PCM theme songs, scrolling Japanese text to sing to, and a great battle scene of various mechs from the series the song represents!!!
Well now, thatís funny... graphics got 7, music got 9.5, gameplay got 9, that doesnít average out to a 10??!! Well, it doesnít have to. There are some games just so addicting, just so fun, just so well designed that I can finally say screw graphics, screw sound, I just like playing the game!Ē (though the graphics, sound, and music are all great). And this is one of those rare games that actually gets a PERFECT score in my book. This is one of those games that for once I wish I didnít have, because itís just draining too much time out of my school schedule. But yet I am so glad to have it, because it is just too perfect of a game.
I guess what makes this game so extraordinary is the fact that you really have to think in this game. The first battle of the games starts you off nice and easy, but thatís it. From battle two and on you seriously have to plan out strategies like a real general. This may just involve staring at the screen map or your own/enemy stats for a few moments and just ANALYSING your situation--something I havenít done in a sim for quite a long time. And during battle you actually have to worry about mech choice, weapon choice, counterattack choice, and so many other factors. Somehow Iím glad that there is a cap in the amount you can upgrade, because now you are forced to fight with a disadvantage in each battle. That means every battle becomes worthwhile to the gamer. I usually donít like to make comparisons, but challenge-wise, if Final Fantasy Tactics is to Warcraft II , then Super Robot Wars F is to Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal. Yes, the first is entirely easy to conquer, while the second one is much, much more challenging, but not impossible. Gameplay-wise, I will not compare the two, as not to upset anyone who likes FF, but I will say that Super Robot Wars F excels so well in this department that it is difficult for any other RPG/sim--even PC ones--to come close to it.
Remember I said before that new RPGs and sims are all eyecandy? Recently it seems as though newer programmers/designers have all tried to create the neatest graphical effect and special attacks. They somehow forgot the essentials of the game: the challenge, the level of thought, the gameplay (and sometimes even the storyline... but thatís a totally different scenario...). But Super Robot Wars F is good indication that there are some game designers out there who still respect a playerís intelligence and love for the game.
And finally, the other great plus that this game has that other games donít is the fact that it compiles so many classic and new animes together into one roof. I will be honest to say I have hardly seen any of the series presented in the game (only bits of Mazinger, Gunbuster, and Gundam Wing), but I am a fan of many animes and this game seriously sparked lots of interest for the various series I have not watched yet. But the actual fans of these mech series will get a huge kick out of this game, and this may finally be that 11! game that they have been waiting for.
Let me stress again, like I do in all my import reviews, that language is not an issue. Sure, it may take an hour or two of just playing and experimenting, and it may require you to take notes about which commands do what, but any foreign game is all possible to play without knowing the language. Still, if you donít want to waste time deciphering out options, there are some great FAQís at gamefaqs.com that tells you menu translations, though I guarantee they are purely optional. The understanding of the storyline may be hurt drastically, but for me I have a feeling that even if I was fluent in Japanese I would probably be confused by the storyline because I simply have not watched all the anime series.
I canít emphasise enough how big of a mistake it is to pass up this game. Whether you like anime or not, whether you know Japanese or not, whether you like RPG/sims or not, pick up this game. There are 32 intense battles, and I can guarantee that after you beat the game, youíll come back to play more. This is one of those RPG/sims that actually encourages the player to attempt PERFECTION of the game, something I have not done since my Phantasy Star days.
Pick this up at your import stores now, cuz there is no possible way for this great series EVER to come to the US (unless Mazinger and Gundam and all the rest of the animes slowly crawl their ways to our shores...) This will be the one to hook you.
My Final Comments: There is a slight downside I experienced at first to this game, but I quickly got over it. I am a huge Macross maniac, so I asked, Where are the Macross mechs?. Well, there hasnít been one in any Super Robot War game, and I never understood why. It meets the criteria--piloted, at least 15 meters tall, plenty of attacks--and so what if it transforms? There are plenty of transforming mechs already in the Super Robot War series, and I was really hoping to see Isamu or Guld or even that annoying Bassura pilot their mechs in this game. But oh well, thatís life... maybe in the Dural version Winkysoft/Banpresto will finally wisen up! On the plus plus plus side, Winkysoft allows to let you fight the almighty and most powerful SHENlong Gundam... How egotistical of me, eh?
Review By: Phil Shen