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   Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation - Reader Review  

Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots!
by JuMeSyn

PLATFORM
GBA
BATTLE SYSTEM
5
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
4
MUSIC & SOUND
5
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Formidable
COMPLETION TIME
45-60 hours
OVERALL
4.5/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

   The Super Robot Taisen series is possibly the most gargantuan Japanese RPG series that will not be coming out in English anytime soon, barring two exceptions. The reason for this is that these games mix characters from literally dozens of anime series into one fascinating amalgam that unfortunately would be covered by more than one copyright holder in English, and thus create a legal hellhole. The exceptions to this rule are the two Original Generation titles for the Game Boy Advance (and possibly their combined, redone PS2 incarnation in the future) which neatly sidestep this legal hellhole by having only original characters. Lovers of tactical-RPG goodness should be grateful to Atlus for translating this game.

   As expected in a tactical-RPG, battle takes the forefront of player involvement. Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation looks rather like Fire Emblem and Shining Force from a distance with attack animations interspersed between the rather basic map of units on the field. There is a fair bit of depth to the combat here, however. Each character on the field has his/her own robot to pilot for combat. These robots have innate statistics that are combined with the character's statistics to arrive at the aptitude displayed for various tasks. Attacking an enemy, killing it, or using a special device to aid a cobelligerent in certain ways will gain experience. Experience increases the pilot's statistics.

Pop quiz, hotshot: a giant robot is unleashing a rocket firestorm.  What do you do? Pop quiz, hotshot: a giant robot is unleashing a rocket firestorm. What do you do?

   Each character also has up to six Spirit abilities, which function somewhat like magic save that they never deal damage directly to the enemy. Spirit has an enormous variety of functions, from doubling experience obtained in the next action to eliminating all chance of missing an attack that turn. Spirit aside, each character also has Pilot abilities that are automatically active. Pilot abilities are learned both via leveling up and by assigning Pilot points post-battle (these are obtained for each character by killing foes). Examples of Pilot abilities include Hit & Away, allowing a character to move after attacking, and Command, which increases the hit/dodge abilities of nearby characters. Pilot points can also be used to simply increase the statistics of a character, however.

   Each robot is equipped with a variety of weaponry, with each armament having its own specialty. Some weapons have a long range, some greater accuracy, some more power. Robots have a given amount of weaponry they can equip, with that amount being determined by weapon weight instead of sheer number. Weapons also come in two varieties: those that need ammunition and those that use the robot's energy. Ammunition will run out, and energy recharges a bit during battle but also will run out. The only weapons that do not require either are melee-only.

   When the player initiates an attack, the weapon to be used must be selected and then the result will be observed in an animation. If the character attacking is next to another character with the Pilot ability of Support, however, the other character can join in with another attack - and still be free to initiate another action on his/her own behalf afterwards. When the enemy initiates the attack, Support again can come into play with an ally taking the attack for half damage instead of the targeted character. Normally the player's character will counterattack when able (as will the enemy) but the player can choose to change this. Should the player dislike the odds of survival, a counterattack can be eschewed in favor of either evading (which halves the enemy's chance of hitting) or defending (which will cut damage in half should the attack hit).

Alteisen isn't the most maneuverable of units, but throwing money around can change that. Alteisen isn't the most maneuverable of units, but throwing money around can change that.

   Money is garnered by taking down opponents, and after battle it can be used to customize (i.e. improve) either the robots or their weaponry. Robots have four parameters to raise: HP, Energy, Maneuverability, and Armor. Weapons can be upgraded in power. Wise choices by the player must be made, because there are insufficient funds to completely maximize all weapons and robots.

   Accomplishing the distribution of funds towards improvements is easy thanks to a speedy menu system. The menus of this title are quite good in most instances, with the only issues coming from the sheer number of parts to equip onto robots. Battle interaction is just as streamlined, and each time an attack is made the player can choose to turn off the animation should it become overly repetitive.

   Aesthetically Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation succeeds in being attractive. Its visuals are decidedly unimpressive outside of the attack animations, but the attack animations are good enough to keep the title looking fine for an early GBA effort. Its audio is very good, with a variety of superb themes for different characters that do not get old. Sound effects are rather good also.

   As to its story, prepare for a lengthy tale involving dozens of characters with political chicanery and alien invasion as a backdrop. Alien technology, courtesy of a mysterious race known as the Aerogators, has been delivered to Earth and has altered the planet's technological development. Mechanical units with ideas taken from the Aerogator technology are more powerful than any Earth-derived units, and this has caused deep fissures in the government. Quickly a rebellion to unite Earth under a force dedicated to fighting and beating the Aerogators is launched, with the player's team forced to crush quite a bit of Earth's military muscle in order to prevent dictatorship. This plays out differently depending upon the player's choice of Kyosuke or Ryusei as the starting character, but the two teams supporting these characters eventually unite.

   There are quite a few challenging missions in Original Generation, though fortunately losing a character merely results in mandatory monetary expenditure to repair it. Taking educated guesses is sometimes necessary thanks to there not being a prospective damage readout prior to action, and if the player guesses wrong pain is the usual result. Later bosses are truly formidable opponents, also, and must be respected.

   Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation is not a short game. Later missions will take at least an hour to clear, and 45 hours is likely to be exceeded by many. Replay incentive exists thanks to the choice of protagonists at the beginning, with the first half of each protagonist's story being quite different.

   I never have understood the massive output of giant robot material from Japan, but this title's quality makes me considerably less judgmental. High-quality tactical titles always have a place in my library, and Original Generation certainly qualifies. The combat is deep, the battles are lengthy and challenging, the aesthetics are fine. To anyone who is sold on the game with that information - my job is done.

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