Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier EXCEED - Staff Review  

Quantity Has a Quality All Its Own
by Mike "JuMeSyn" Moehnke

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40-60 Hours
+ Kinetic, entertaining combat
+ Varied & involving soundtrack
+ Import-friendly
- Unimpressive visuals outside battle
- Uninvolving storyline
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   The first Endless Frontier ended on an extremely apparent sequel hook, but Atlus USA refused to take that bait when its follow-up appeared. Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier EXCEED makes some alterations to the mechanics introduced in its predecessor without changing the essence of the gameplay, keeping the entertaining method of pounding enemies to a messy pulp intact. Endless Frontier EXCEED may not be a particularly good introduction to a series known for its tactical combat and robot customization, but on its own is a thoroughly entertaining game well worth experiencing.

   At the conclusion of the original Endless Frontier, the separate regions joined by Cross Gates had been fused into one large whole. EXCEED picks up by showing the attempt to foster peaceful interaction between the locales now planted next to each other, and the aggressive instincts of some newcomers. Keeping the Endless Frontier safe from the predations of nefarious interlopers requires a reunion of the first game's cast along with plenty of other faces, both old and new.

   Losing Atlus's entertaining localization work means that EXCEED is considerably less amusing to English speakers outside of battle. The characters still keep their banter filled with references to the outlandish anatomy of the females, but puzzling through their sexual harassment is no simple matter without knowledge of the Japanese language. The sheer number of characters who eventually trail along can also lead to dialogue passages that stretch on for quite a while, as most of the cast offers commentary on the situation at hand. Some of the silly phrases uttered throughout are at least easily intelligible even with minimal Japanese, and divining the general course of events will not prove difficult. Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation aficianados will get more out of the many references to other games in the series, but unraveling the plot is not a requirement to enjoy EXCEED.

   The combat engine of Endless Frontier EXCEED greatly resembles its predecessor, at least in the early going. Once the player selects a target for the current character's turn, an attack chain will be launched. While it is possible to use the five available attacks separately, chaining them together for a splashy combination maneuver is far more effective against the many enemies that will start blocking the moment they're allowed back onto the ground. Characters not currently in the battle party can pop out to deliver attacks that supplement the five allowed for a front line participant, and the next person in order can immediately jump into the chain to continue the onslaught with no return to the menu.

Floatation devices for most of the female cast will not be necessary. Floatation devices for most of the female cast will not be necessary.

   In the first game enemies had the ability to use Forced Evasion to short-circuit these attack chains and bring the current action to a close. EXCEED retains this mechanic, but now a meter slowly builds as player attacks land on enemies, and until it is full Forced Evasion cannot be used. As defense against powerful enemy offensives the player now has the ability to switch in a character from the reserves who will be unable to act that turn, but will take the minimum possible damage from every blow. The player also has access to Forced Evasion in EXCEED, though as it drains fifty percent of the Frontier Gauge used for the most powerful attacks in the characters' arsenals, trying to rely on the ability is a mistake. The highly stimulating elements of the first game's combat have been retained while adding some handy tweaks to increase options, making for a game in which battles never become uninteresting. After-battle rewards are increased for finishing with a special attack from the Frontier Gauge, ensuring that stylish conclusions are the preferred means of concluding encounters.

   Another addition to EXCEED comes from the wide gamut of supporting characters who join the party. Eventually these combatants, both organic and robot, will outnumber the characters who stand on the front line to directly trade blows with the enemy. The front line combatants can equip one of these support personnel, increasing the recipient's statistics and being made available to launch supplementary attacks on the enemy during a combat cycle. This mechanic doesn't change much except to introduce further variety in the attacks landed on the opposition, but even that is a welcome ability.

   The presence of COM is another element unique to the Endless Frontier games that demands familiarity. Attacking enemies and using items requires COM, which normally has a maximum value of one hundred percent but can be temporarily expanded by certain spells. Fifty percent of COM naturally replenishes at the beginning of a turn, and some of it can also be regained by juggling enemies in the air for long periods. Management of this resource is simple enough and means of replenishing it are easy to come by, making it an interesting method of compelling the player to pay attention instead of ceaselessly slamming against the opposition.

   Regaining COM by use of items is also easily done. The inventory of EXCEED requires some Japanese reading ability to fully make sense of, but most items conveniently note what they replenish in Roman letters. Status ailments can also be cured by items that are quite conveniently usable only when a character is suffering from them. Equipment outside of battle simply demands the ability to compare handily-displayed numbers to see which one offers more of a benefit, making the language barrier inconsequential for just playing through the game.

Xenosaga chroniclers can only imagine where this fits into the series canon. Xenosaga chroniclers can only imagine where this fits into the series canon.

   The Super Robot Taisen series has a tradition of keeping all the snazzy visuals for battle animations, and EXCEED upholds it. Rapid-fire animation of huge sprites litters the game's combat, showcasing impressive panache that stays enticing throughout the game. Outside of battle the environments and sprites are functional but unimpressive in size and not particularly detailed. The bulk of the game is fortunately spent in combat, making the relatively lackluster overworld graphics easy to forgive and ignore.

   As the Super Robot Taisen series has grown to a colossal number of titles the quantity of original characters has increased apace, and most of them have unique musical themes as accompaniment. EXCEED errs on the side of variety in its compositions, and demonstrates how effective the Original Generation music remains when redone and placed in a different setting. Venerable compositions such as "Dark Knight" and "Fairy Dancing" lose none of their addictive qualities, and the new work for this game stands strong alongside the more familiar tracks. A fair amount of voice acting will also be found, and it sounds fine without impacting the experience strongly.

   Unlike the first Endless Frontier, this game features a goodly quantity of side quests in the form of enemy bounties. The opponents themselves are just palette-swapped enemies, but they yield plenty of cash upon defeat and have some nasty abilities to ensure that beating them is no trivial matter. The challenge remains at a consistently manageable level thanks to the proliferation of items and means of replenishment throughout the game, though not to the point of making the proceedings too simplistic.

   Endless Frontier EXCEED delivers where it counts. Combat remains thrilling throughout while the presentation remains arresting. The story is mostly a wash for those who aren't fluent in Japanese, but a handy GameFAQs document makes following it through the use of outside sources easy. Those who had no great love for the original Endless Frontier should stay away, but Atlus's failure to publish EXCEED outside Japan has nothing to do with the excellent quality of its content. For a good time, call SRT-OGS-EFEX.

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