To any mecha anime fan, the words “Super Robot Wars” surely brings a smile to their faces. For the past 21 years, Banpresto, grandfather of crossover games, has created a series that’s been uniquely popular amongst gamers young and old.
The legacy finally on the PS3
Incorporating age-old favourites Gundam, Mazinger and Getter, interweaving them with other popular series from the 1970s all the way to the 21st century, the company was able to create crossover games, indeed, turning them into long-running series as well, with mecha anime from the past and present, turning young ones into fans of older series, and letting the older ones enjoy the nostalgia of using their favourite mechas to destroy and defeat hordes of enemies.
With each iteration of the series, Banpresto has also weaved in its own self-created original characters. From the legendary Masaki and his Cybuster all the way back in The 2nd Super Robot Wars for the Famicom, to Crowe in their latest release The 2nd Super Robot Wars Z for the Playstation Portable, they’ve introduced archtypes and characters that were introduced and grew with the all-star cast in the crossover games, so much so that the final enemies are almost always the original enemies that threaten to destroy their war-ravaged worlds.
So what better than to take these original characters and do a crossover of the crossover games?
Enter Super Robot Wars Original Generations series.
Taking elements from the original SRW series, Alpha series, Compact games, and the multiple Game Boy Advance releases, adding in official manga side-stories, then adding in their own individual flavour, they’ve created a new world, and indeed a new following, for all the characters that championed their individual games into a brand new war.
The 2nd Super Robot Wars OG (SRW OGs 2) is the third episode in this 10-year-old series. Started on the Game Boy Advance back in 2002, it was followed quickly by a sequel on the same system in 2005. Cashing on the popularity, Banpresto created SRW Original Generations for the Playstation 2 in 2007, with a Gaiden chapter later that year, with a hugely updated gameplay, new characters and newer enemies to face.
The series was so popular that it spawned one OVA and 2 TV animation series based on the same continuity, and left the fanbase crying out for more.
Original Generations 2 was first unveiled in April 2011, after the ending credits of the final episode of The Inspector TV series. The biggest news was that it would be the long-awaited debut of the series on the Playstation 3. Initially targeted for release in November 2011, it suffered production issues and was finally released one year later, on 29th November 2012.
For newcomers to the series and the game, there is no fear of not understanding the story. You can catch up either via watching both TV series (but there will be some liberties taken with the source material), or simply by viewing the Archive that’s within the game to start you off with the story.
Otherwise, you can always familiarise yourself with the cast by viewing online resources.
Following the Original Generations tradition, the game basically is divided into two halves. The first half of the game has the players following the storyline of SRW EX (Super Famicom) as the heroes are summoned by accident to the inner world of La Gias. Here, we are formally introduced to the Masou Kishins, their pilots, and the war that has been waging in the land for some time. Honouring the original game, we are then allowed to play the game from two different points of view: Masaki, the pilot of the Wind Elemental Masou Kishin Cybuster, as he returns to La Gias to aid In the war; Lune Zoldark, self-proclaimed girlfriend of Masaki, who ends up getting summoned and meeting Huang Yan Long, pilot of the Fire Elemental Masou Kishin Granveil.
Through these two routes players will be treated to the short side-story that spawned a universe of its own, but with the aid of the two battleships Hagane and Hiryu Kai, our heroes will become triumphant and return to the surface…
Where the main story will begin.
This game primarily focuses on the storylines of The 4th SRW (Super Famicom), SRW MX (Playstation 2), SRW D (Game Boy Advance), SRW Alpha 2 (Playstation 2), Real Robot Regiment (Playstation 2), while intersecting with its own original creations as well as new rivals for existing characters in the form of the Gaia Sabers, the new human-led antagonists. Players will be treated to old enemies in the form of the Medius Locus, the Ruina, the Guest and face new ones like the DGG Unit 3 Jinrai, Youkijin Phoenix and Turtle Lords, updated Lion variations etc, culminating into what will be known as the War of Seals.
If you’re new to the game and the series, feel free to hop into the in-game tutorial stage that’s nicely presented to you so that you won’t feel lost about the various game systems that are the core of the turn-based strategy genre. From the knowledge of different weapon types, ammunition and energy requirements, the highly-rated Twin attacking system, character and robot abilities, upgrading and power-up parts, every basic skill is packaged into the tutorial for you to understand.
Veterens to the SRW series will feel right at home once you start off the game, yet soon will realise that the developers did listen to the views of the players, as evidenced by the improvements seen in the game engine.
Gone is the tedium of needing to form Twins only in battle, we can prep them during the intermission. Gone, too, are the Morale requirements for forming Twins, you can break them up and pair them with anyone else, as long as they’re adjacent to each other.
The developers, with the aid of the year-long delay, also managed to include popular systems from the SRW Z series, namely the Placement System, whereby you get hit and damage bonuses for surrounding enemies, as well as height adjustment during the battle scenes, with characters actually aiming upwards at airborne enemies, vice versa.
As with every new SRW game, this one also introduces 2 new improvements to the gameplay. The biggest shout-out goes to the all-new Maximum Break, where 2 pairs of Twins attack simultaneously on one set of enemies without the need for Support or damage reduction. This grants the player the ability to defeat enemies who would normally run away under a certain amount of health, as well as removes the constant need to look for that someone with a Support Attack.
The other new entry is the Ability system. Each pilot and robot will join up with an ability or two equipped. Players can chop and change the abilities as they will, but the biggest draw is that once you have 3 of a similar ability equipped, you’ll effectively get a bonus based on that ability. To make it even more worthwhile, and following the system introduced in SRW L (DS) the ability is also active for the partner In the Twin as well, making it twice as effective.
Difficulty has never been the biggest issue for players in the SRW series, and it isn’t any much harder here. The game uses the same SR Point system where you’ll have to achieve specific conditions within the stage in order to increase the game difficulty, whereby you’ll face stronger enemies in greater numbers. That said, the developers did add a variety of uniquely different SR Point requirements so that it won’t be the usual “clear within x turns” time attack or damage-based “kill boss before he retreats”.
Of course, what Super Robot War game will it be without secrets. Even as of now, the fanbase is feverishly going over notes for secret attacks, secret weapons and secret robots that enhances the different gameplay styles, including finishers for the Masou Kishin cast which canonically should not exist yet, or the Super Robot variant for the SRW D characters.
The provided videos are some of the secrets and tips we have gathered through our play-through of the game. Skip the videos if you consider them as spoilers.
For old fans and new, the game not only brings back every single one of the originals’ theme songs, they also include those for the new entries into the game. Burning Red, Desire are two of many that are used for the newcomers, plus remixes for bosses, and of course, brand new tracks for brand-new protagonists Ing and Ariel, as well as bosses.
New and very old stage BGM can also be heard in game. The classic “Winds of Langran”, not heard since SRW EX will certainly bring back the memories, but will also enchant newcomers to the genre, or for those who are too young to have played the Super Famicom version.
The crux of the entire series of course lie in the graphics. For many, the only reason to play the game is to watch their favourite robots cleave, punch, shoot and destroy the enemies in big colourful explosions.
This game blows everything we’ve seen before away. Mixing their much-vaunted sprites with a fully-rotatable 3D background, the Super Robot team has fully harnessed the ability to mix the two to form an impressive visual extravaganza for mecha fans. No game released so far on the PS3 even comes close to the amount of detail and love put into the attacks and effects.
From simple facial cut-ins in the past to full-body movements (yes, complete with bouncing chests for some of the female characters), with a fully-voiced cast of over 70 unique characters and expressions, the team has certainly outdone themselves.
Every dust cloud is meticulously drawn, every piece of broken land beautifully coloured . Most of the attacks are redrawn, adding in special full-scale views of the robots, or bigger explosions, or finely detailed beams, or elegant sword swings, or extraordinary boss attacks, if you’re not watching the attack animations, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice to the animators who have worked long and hard to bring this to your living room.
What’s more, the loading process, once the bane of the series, has almost disappeared, hidden under the pre-installed data and loaded while the characters are talking. To make things even better, the fast-forward option returns to allow people to edit their own attack speeds to match their needs.
The best Super Robots Wars yet?
If this game is a test-bed for future licensed series in a brand-new SRW game, then Banpresto has delivered, and then some. The game is as pretty as it really sounds, and it’s not too difficult that an amateur will throw his arms in frustration, nor so easy that veterans can just blink and chop things into oblivion. The Trophy list embedded with the game gives even more challenges to those used to the series, allowing for fun and sometimes hard-to-reach goals in order to lengthen the life of this wonderful title.
This review is contributed by JL Lee, who has played numerous JRPGs and has intimate knowledge of Japanese games.