Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation Gaiden - Staff Retroview  

Excellent Mechanical Conflict
by Mike Moehnke

Click here for game information
60-80 Hours
+ Varied, exciting, entertaining tactical combat
+ Plentiful options for customizing robots and characters
+ Great rocking soundtrack per series tradition
+ Enormous variety of attack animations - that can be turned off!
- Not quite as much replayability as OG 1 & 2
- A few battles are much harder than the rest
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   Why is this game called Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation Gaiden? Its story follows directly from Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2, and understanding whatever the next Original Generation game ends up being called might be difficult without knowing what transpired here. For whatever reason, Banpresto decided to be confusing, and what should by all rights be Original Generation 3 will perplex future generations. Leaving the name aside, we are left with an awesome tactical experience, though being exclusive to Japan doesn't help broaden its appeal.

   Original Generation Gaiden's story springs from the destruction visited upon Earth in the previous games, as Professor Juergen creates something called the ODE System, which links numerous robots together in a way that stifles all humanity in exchange for optimum performance. He is supported in this endeavor by disgruntled remains of the Neo DC, at least until the ODE System's drawbacks become so abundantly clear that shutting the project down becomes important enough that Earth's government is willing to use nuclear missiles for the task. The DC remnants scatter, but before the project can be completely shut down, a gigantic eyeball named Duminas appropriates its manufacturing ability, and shortly thereafter a gigantic sword appears in Earth's orbit, housing an alien race called the Shura that wants nothing more than to conquer the planet. As great literature, Original Generation Gaiden's story fails miserably, but it is entertaining. Of particular benefit for any importers who do not want to deal with reams of Japanese text is a fast-forward ability, which can even be reversed should catching up on developments prove of sudden importance for the player.

   In between the talking, Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation Gaiden is a turn-based tactical game, superficially similar to many others. One facet of the Super Robot Taisen series that distinguishes it from others in the tactical genre is Will. Characters enter battle with a set amount of Will that can be altered based on a few factors, but is never enough to use all abilities or weapons. The most powerful weapons tend to be usable only once a character has achieved a certain amount of Will, and the simplest way to do this is to kill grunt enemies. Every character gains one Will point for every enemy slain, and the one who deals the finishing blow gains more than one, which makes the presence of cannon fodder vital. Eliminating the grunts that litter stages to maximize everyone's combat prowess is very entertaining, and the rewards are definitely worth the effort; killing everything before taking on a boss is simultaneously enjoyable and utilitarian.

   Combat itself in Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation Gaiden should be emulated by other games as an example of how to do things well. Spells can be cast, the odds of hitting the enemy and being hit are displayed, whether an ally can support from the selected position is shown, the robot being used can be grounded or elevated, any item currently equipped can be used &mdash all of it before actually attacking and thereby ending the character's turn. Saving can also be done at any point during battle or plot progression, another helpful aspect that many games do not incorporate. The angle being used to view the battlefield can also be tilted whenever that is desired, and zoomed out or in to an enormous degree. The combat animations in Gaiden are elaborate and lengthy, but can be turned off at any time, another key component in a system that has been honed to excellence through dozens of previous games.

The Cry Wolves are gonna smack some Einst behinds with extreme prejudice. The Cry Wolves are gonna smack some Einst behinds with extreme prejudice.

   Original Generation Gaiden has an enormous cast of characters, and an even bigger cast of robots for them to use during battle. Unless one makes the mistake of trying to devote equal attention to everyone and everything, this is an open invitation to pick favorites and upgrade them constantly. Pilot Points are accumulated during battle to give characters new skills and/or increase their statistics, while money is gained to improve the attributes of the robots. Even after several uses of New Game+, in which an ever-increasing quantity of resources will be bestowed upon the player at the beginning of the game, there will not be enough money or Pilot Points to fully upgrade everything. When the worst that can be said about a game's upgrade mentality is that playing favorites will be necessary, that game is doing many things right.

   The Twin system of Original Generations returns without change, and is just as useful in certain situations as before. Once two characters are at 110 Will, they can combine into a single Twin unit, which can be separated again whenever the player wishes. The follower of a Twin unit (which can also be changed at any time) exchanges lowered attack power for higher defense and better evasion, while the leader gets more experience and Pilot Points from victories. To reflect the system, most weapons can only target one of the units in a Twin, while some All armaments hit both. The Twin system is usually not vital, but having the option is very useful and can be a lifesaver.

   Veterans of Original Generation 1 and 2 on Game Boy Advance will understand most of the menu options quickly. Veterans of Original Generations on the PS2 will recognize everything, since Gaiden uses the same interface. Upgrading the attack power of weapons, switching pilots between robots, moving the weapons that are not fixed between units, putting helpful items (called Parts) onto the mechanical troopers, or simply checking a character's status can all be done easily and quickly. Text being in Japanese can make the task somewhat less intuitive to those who have never played a Super Robot Taisen game before, but the eminently effective design makes figuring out what is going on an easy task even without much knowledge of the language.

Aggressor that he is, Kai knows how to lay the smackdown on enemies of all sorts. Aggressor that he is, Kai knows how to lay the smackdown on enemies of all sorts.

   Just like Original Generations, the visuals outside of combat are not particularly impressive for the PlayStation 2 in 2007, though the character artwork is nice. It is during the combat animations that viscerally effective visuals appear, and the sheer variety of impressive attacks on display will easily satisfy anyone searching for eye candy. Many attacks from Original Generations have been animated again for this game, and the new robots all have new attacks, which tend to be incredibly grandiose and over-the-top, showing off the capabilities of the system in its twilight years, though not even close to the extent of other games released in the same timeframe. As already mentioned, the animations can be turned off at any time should it suit the player, making this a fine example of how to incorporate visual excess without being obnoxious.

   While the out of combat visuals are nothing impressive, Original Generation Gaiden's audio is stellar all the time. Simply keeping the vast quantity of quality compositions from Original Generations would have been fine, but dozens more tracks will be heard, all of them excellent. Whether they appeared in Original Generations without many chances to be heard, like "Over the Time Flow" and "Over the World Wall", or are newly composed, like "Gan Gan Gigan!" and "Dance & Brace," the quality is consistently top-tier. The voice acting in battle is fine also, with each character getting a well-matched, energetic performance.

   Most of Gaiden will be fairly easy to series veterans, but a few missions break that rule. Beating Juergen's infinite hordes of robots can be challenging, and late in the game boss battles becomes very risky. The difficulty is never outlandish, however, because even if a battle is lost, the game allows a restart while keeping the money acquired before the Game Over happened. Having someone shot down is also easily remedied, since a mandatory repair cost will bring that unit and pilot back at the end of the battle.

Donna may not look dangerous, but she apparently harbors terrorist tendencies when her son is in jeopardy. Donna may not look dangerous, but she apparently harbors terrorist tendencies when her son is in jeopardy.

   Super Robot Taisen games allow a New Game+, as mentioned earlier. In addition to carrying over funds and Pilot Points, extra difficulty levels are also unlocked when using this option. This is a fine reason to replay a game that will probably take over sixty hours the first time, but unlike Original Generation 1 and 2, the conventional reasons for doing so are somewhat lacking. There is a path branch which makes fully understanding the plot in the early part of the game require another look, but the completely different character story of OG 1 and the multiple branches of OG 2 are not present. This lack of replay incentive is only relative to the rest of the series, but it should not be ignored.

   Left in Japan after the PlayStation 2 was yesterday's news, Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation Gaiden was extremely unlikely to be localized without Super Robot Taisen: Original Generations preceding it into English. In the event, neither game was deemed capable of generating money in the English-speaking world, and stuck in Japan is where they shall remain. Gaiden may not be the best introduction to the series since it assumes familiarity with the background, but following the plot is unnecessary to partake of truly excellent combat, which this game delivers. All owners of import-enabled PlayStation 2 systems who enjoy tactical games will not regret grabbing it.

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