Platform: Game Boy Advance
Turn-Based Strategy RPG: Turns by Team
Completion Level: Stopped @ 20-25 Hrs
Super Robot Taisen (SRT) was a distinctly and unabashedly Japanese product imported to American shores. Certainly the publisher Atlus realized a game like this which some would argue was a niche of a niche would not be vying for the top of the sales chart. None the less a dedicated following perhaps spurred by anime tie-ins apparently moved enough games to cover localization cost with some profit.
Gamers should “Play What They Like” and not concern themselves with terms like niche. I do not care for the connotation as applied to video games. In an era where tons of marketing dollars are spent promoting a few big-name titles, their actual fun factor sometimes seems a secondary consideration. Generally, copycats and promoting only the hottest genre tends to narrow the game tastes of players.
SRT probably does not appeal the average gamer’s tastes; and honestly it may not even appeal to many SRPG gamers. Even those like me who appreciate SRPG’s and giant robots may find this title underwhelming.
The layout for SRT is conventional. Players move (microscopic) units into attack ranges of each other on vary large and flat 2D grids. Players can change out weapons for better results along with switching to different vehicles.
- The straight anime portraits were not revolutionary, but they were well drawn and expressive. They fit the game and were fun to see.
- The story was cute. It drew you in and I actually wanted to see how the characters fared and how it ended. At least for a little while before the game drained my goodwill towards it.
- The storytelling mechanics were well done. The combined use of portraits, backgrounds, sound effects and text boxes did the trick. If the main story was confusing (and it was), the mechanics telling it cannot be blamed.
- There were side plots.They were more easily comprehended and interesting. Their presence alone added dimension and welcome bite-sized plot nuggets.
The Good & Bad
Conveniently Together in One Point:
- Super deformed versions of the robot mechs. Some may like squat and squashed versions of their favorite robots. Some may like their rounded cutesy portrayal. Super deformation fits the GBA platform, but this property less so. Still, this is a taste thing.
The sound and visual effects were not outstanding (even considering the platform’s limitations) but they were adequate to liven up the actions screens. They kept repetition from becoming mind numbing.
- Authenticity reflecting a game’s original language intent is good, but we localize products for numerous reasons. SRT left the character, unit, organization and place names unchanged. They were long, very culturally specific, hard to read, and generally unhelpful. Every screen with words highlighted this tiresome issue.
- Two storylines: You can choose from two characters at the beginning. I picked the non-pilot newbie. His story was reasonably compelling and the difficulty ramping tolerable. Someone else picked the pilot and their experience was not as fun or welcoming. Two stories? Why waste a good content? Consider a unified campaign with skipping points for those ready for more.
Acronyms. Are you serious? They threw 5000 different acronyms at the player. Nearly every faction, robot, and doohickey one could possibly add to a robot had an acronym. On top of already incomprehensible names it just added unnecessary befuddlement.
- Story or puzzle? Don’t you want the player to get it? The too complex multi-branched story interactions led to confusion -or worse, apathy.
- Unfun learning curve. The developers made insufficient effort to alleviate this less than optimum area. A game should at least make some effort to be more broadly accessible. Do not phone in the teaching because the IP is popular. Additionally, slow ramp up does not equal good teaching. It is just boring.
- Missions lacked imagination. There is so much more that could have been done with obstacles, fuel limits, attack types and ranges, etc.
Too big for a bullet point: Tactical Screen Snoozer
The weakest visual part of this game was definitely the battle overview screen. It was plain, boring – and for the most part just did not matter. Battle areas were flat. They had little or no obstacles. A flying robot (and thus the gameplay) does not care if it is over greenery, cement or water.
They were virtually huge swaths of open space. Tactics scenarios sure do lose something in 2D cases like this. It boiled gameplay down to just movement and ranges. It was too much like checkers.
In addition to being ultra-drab, the scale was such that your units were microscopic 8 pixel jumbles of indeterminate type. I played SRT on the big screen with the GBA/Gamecube attachment and this was still an issue. Moving colored blobs around a map does nothing for immersion.
Too big for a bullet point: Bosses
My single biggest disappointment in this game and the ultimate reason I stopped playing were the bosses. The hulking units would appear on screen with such a huge discrepancy in hit points that it was mind boggling. There seemed no real way to smartly whittle them down with tactics.
Apparently the main way to beat the bosses was to throw your guys at them. That just flies in the face of one of the big reasons I play SRPG’s. I like to fight smart and save the lives of my crew, not waste them against some hulk mindlessly in the hopes that they can reduce its hit points a little before being burned to ashes.
After fighting carefully a whole battle to protect my crew, losing units in this fashion was no fun. I was done.
Outside of decent story telling, SRT does not really bring much new to the table. Nor does it entertainingly perform the established mechanics it purports to embrace. A game should at least do one or the other. SRT is old school in its design, which is a good thing when it is freshened, tightened and fun. In this case it was none of the above.
Old school is a way to give people a quick method of acclimation and buy in. It allows for, “Oh I get it” moments up front where they are most desperately needed. In SRT these came across in lesser numbers than they should have.
In the end SRT offers little tactical satisfaction. It has its good points, but is ultimately disappointing. I am sure there are many fans of super robots out there that would beg to differ, but their enjoyment of the franchise does not necessarily make this a good game.