In 2001 the North American GBA market was hit by Advance Wars, an almost instant classic that, surprisingly, arose from the then esoteric genre of turn-based strategy. Soon this niche received a great augmentation, with multiple Fire Emblem installments -- The Sealed Sword, Rekka no Ken, and The Sacred Stones -- Square Enix's Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, a remake of Sega's Shining Force, and numerous other games. Now, Atlus plans to further increment this selection by bringing to North America Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation.
Original Generation tells of an Earth that has seen humankind's expansion into the cosmos, an expansion begun nearly two centuries earlier. However, all interstellar progress came to a grinding halt when two meteors crashed into the planet during the first years of the 21st century. Naturally, chaos and turmoil ensued, but the worst had yet to come, for in the 179th year of the aptly named Space Era, mankind suffered yet another meteor impact. The Earth Federal Government dispatched a research team to analyze "Meteor 3," and their findings were rather startling. Instead of simple minerals, Meteor 3 contained highly advanced technology previously unheardof by man. A team, headed by one Dr. Bian Zoldark, was formed to investigate this new "Extra-Over Technology," and it was soon discerned that the creators of this technology would most definitely return to claim what was theirs. Heeding this warning, the Earth Federal Government began to develop mobile, humanoid mechs called Personal Troopers.
And so, man now sits and waits for an invasion from the skies.
|"Players will witness fat little chibi robots...dealing thousands of points of damage at a time."
In simplest form, the Super Robot series is a menagerie of mecha animes that have been super-deformed and thrust into a turn-based strategy setting. This menagerie includes classics from such franchises as Evangelion, Getter Robo, and Gundam. Different games use the numerous licenses in their own ways, oftentimes delineating "what-if" scenarios or sporting crazy cross-over stories. Whilst this may appeal to almost any anime fan, it presents a nightmare of license negotiation for those in charge of localization, which is most probably the reason behind the absence of Super Robot from previous North American rosters.
Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation, however, overcomes this obstacle easily, since it uses only original characters and has no association with any outside series. Indeed, there will be no playing as Shinji in a chibi Unit 01, but that isn't to say there won't be scenarios and mech designs that "may or may not" have relations to other franchises -- with an original cast, of course.
As for gameplay, Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation initally looks and feels strikingly similar to the aforementioned non-RPG, Advance Wars. The battle field utilizes a standard top down view, and the player and his enemy take turns moving their units individually across the field's grid, made possible by an uncomplicated menu system. Attacks are highlighted by animated cut-scenes -- that, if annoying, can be switched off -- that show off the unit's flashy moves, nicely enhancing the otherwise somewhat simple presentation. This, however, is where the similarities end.
Each unit on the field is comprised of both a mech and a pilot, and each can be upgraded in their own fashion. The mechs, which possess distinctive sets of attacks and statistics, can be repaired or built upon between battles, but players must utilize their savings wisely so as to capitalize on all the available items and upgrades. Numerous types of armor and ability boosters are available, as well as items for enhancing one's ability to traverse a specific type of terrain, be it ground, water, or space. Even weapons can be improved upon, to a degree. Of course, as players progress further into the game more mechs, upgrades, and weapons will become available.
The pilots, on the other hand, are all individual characters that can master specific techniques -- which range from motion increases to team-wide strength enhancements -- for use during battle. A significant amount of importance is placed on this system of improvement, and it will often equal battle strategy in terms of consequence. A level system also comes into play, as players earn experience for both mech and pilot when they have defeated an enemy, along with items and money. Strategy obviously plays a large roll here too, and certain combinations of mechs, pilots, and weaponry will be more useful in certain situations. Unfortunately, there is no specific "training mode" for players to take advantage of, so expect a trial-by-fire package.
The entirety of Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation's proported 40-hour plot is revealed in lengthy, anime-esque dialogue sequences between battles, which focus on two main characters: the young video game whiz Ryusei and the somber, big-haired Kyosukea. During the weavings of their two stories, players will be introduced to a rather large cast, one that includes an excess of 25 quasi-main characters, with an additional number available for unlocking. This allows for a good deal of battle chatter, through which most of the character relationships are revealed. Although mostly linear, the storyline does include room for branches and secrets.
Also, it should be noted that this title sports 2002 GBA graphics, which will most probably appear somewhat lackluster to the average consumer. That is not to say, however, that the art itself has not been imbued with the unmistakable zest of anime. Players will witness fat little chibi robots weilding ridiculously massive artillery cannons or absurdly sized melee weapons, and all attack animations are decidedly over-the-top, dealing thousands of points of damage at a time. It may not sport any mouth-watering graphics to showcase, but Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation has plenty of personality.
While it is certainly a pity that Atlus was unable to bring over any previous Super Robot titles -- and who can blame them? -- the emergence of Original Generation is certainly something to be pleased about. Scheduled for release on August 8, it has an expected retail price of $29.99 and an ESRB rating of Teen.