Reviews: Super Robot Wars BX (9/10) Occasionally the Super Robot Wars games do something unexpected and the handheld versions tend to do really go for it when they do so. Super Robot Wars UX had a Hatsune Miku...
We all know that in a perfect world, Super Robot Wars J would have been officially released in English. Its sweet, sweet combination of no less than 13 different anime series joining together to face evil in a strategy RPG set souls aflame. When it became clear that we did not live in this perfect world, however, and would be denied seeing this game’s release, a dedicated team of wizards and mystics set out to right this wrong, using the darkest and most forbidden of arts to scrape away at reality, tunneling into this hypothetical perfect world to extract an English copy of Super Robot Wars J from it.
Luckily, their Great Work is nearly complete, and a cornucopia of mecha tonnage is nearly ready to sortie. What they need for this Miracle is your help–your burning spirit–to pull the Veil of our Universe away for that tiny moment, just long enough to copy data over their 56k modem.
Super Robot Wars J is coming, but only if we are first found worthy. You have been warned: prepare yourselves.
UPDATE: The translation group have turned back their hoods and have decided to make themselves known: when the translation is allowed out of its cage you may find it here. Keep in mind every minute they spend reading “but when, man, WHEN will it be done?” is one minute less they spend on the game’s release, and if possible restrain yourself from melting down their server through furious pressings of the reload button on your browser.
Third-person (third-robot?) action MMO CosmicBreak has announced that its final beta test will begin on December 16th and this will transition directly into official service, with no data wipe between. The makers of CosmicBreak have also announced a browser-based strategy game based on the CosmicBreak universe, CosmicCommander, which while still in a rough alpha condition is giving access to those who register for the CosmicBreak beta.
CosmicBreak still appears to be free to play, with the profit coming from the common “cash shop” method, so with that and the low system requirements hopefully this game sees some play. The game has been in various betas for a while now and it’s good to see the game finally get an official release, rather than falling into development hell. Screenshots and videos of CosmicBreak are a bit deceptive, as while the game mechanics look very much “MMO” in nature where tweaked stats triumph over good gameplay and the player merely targets an enemy to attack, the controls are very similar to most mecha games, albeit a tad simplified, and rather than equipment being the deciding factor, it’s the pilot that makes the real difference.
CosmicBreak is also getting a single-player mode, which will be a help to people who want to practice the game without feeling pressure being either in a co-operative or competitive environment, which is something I personally feel massively multiplayer games ignore at their own peril, because it makes it all too easy for the newcomer to feel overwhelmed by the professionals.
The graphics are a bit more cutesy than I’d like but there is a good mix between the standard mechanical robots and the mecha musume girls running around the place, and there’s nothing stopping you from picking only the mechs and declaring a war on robot girls with skirts much too short. The cutesy graphics also have an upside in that the system requirements are fairly low; I haven’t seen a laptop that can’t run CosmicBreak and if I could deal with a jittery 15 frames per second I could even play on my piddly netbook.
The game has a few different modes, the most notable one that works as a proto-roguelike, where a single person or team venture into a series of instanced dungeons looking for loot and an exit to the next level of the instance, with the caveat that they need to reach the end of the dungeon to keep most of the loot they’ve required. You’re always tempted to grab just a few more items before heading on, and with a group you constantly have to make triage decisions about whether to risk a friend dying for just a bit more lucre. I’d give CosmicBreak a try for that game mode alone.
CyberStep has also announced a new game currently in the alpha stage of development called CosmicCommander, a browser-based strategy game featuring the same robots and universe as CosmicBreak. The trailer they’ve sent out seems to imply a mix of Ogre Battle and Super Robot Wars Z, and registering for CosmicBreak seems to get you access to a limited time alpha test of CosmicCommander, with the promise of goodies earned in CosmicCommander transferring back to CosmicBreak in a powerful gattai of marketing synergy. Hopefully we will have some first hand impressions to give you of CosmicCommander, as my college Grade Point Average shuffles off to a corner and shoots itself. If any of you are interested, use the comments section below to talk about doing a Mecha Damashii group when CosmicBreak opens back up, as we take the war to the Cleavage-Showing False Mecha. Steel is strong, flesh is weak! Thou shalt not suffer cute robot girls to live!
Some sad news: in-browser game site InstantAction is now dead. The site had been closed for quite a while, promising a relaunch of the service with brand new features (including a browser version of the much-beloved Tribes) but after months of waiting we find out not only are those new features not coming, but neither are the original games returning either.
The greatest loss here is easily Fallen Empires: Legions, an amazing 3D browser game that was superficially similar to Tribes, but with the jetpacks an order of magnitude more powerful and with a corresponding increase in the speed of gameplay. There’s nothing quite like the exhilarating feeling you get from flying over a hill at 100 miles per hour and carefully landing on your opponent’s base, and now it’s likely you won’t ever get the chance to experience it.
On the brighter side of things, there’s a fan group attempting to get Legions back into action, and although the demise of InstantAction means the browser version of Tribes will likely never become a reality, this freed up the Tribes license for the developers of Global Agenda to work on an MMOG FPS based on the property.
So while Fallen Empires: Legions and the browser-based Tribes game might be out of the equation, we’ve got a MMOG version of Tribes on the horizon as well as the Tribes-inspired Firefall coming. Instead of the return of two older games, we have two new games about supersoldiers with mecha backpacks to look forward to–a fair trade if you ask me.
It seems mecha games have gotten one last hurrah out of the Nintendo DS with the release of the eagerly anticipated action RPG Solatorobo. No word yet on whether the game will get a Western localization, but since we’ve seen Solatorobo in French there is certainly reason to be cautiously optimistic.
It’s interesting to note that for what is likely considered to be a longshot in the games industry these days–Solatorobo not being a direct sequel to a well-known property nor being a cash-in on another successful game’s genre–Solatorobo had quite an advertising campaign associated with it, with no less than one hundred commercials being played on a single TV station, all within eight hours. That’s one hundred different commercials, mind you.
If you’re as incredulous as I was, you can check the official website and watch all 100. They spend a large portion of that airtime fleshing out the game’s world, talking about the kinds of foods that dog and cat people eat and the kinds of shoes they wear, in case you ever had questions about dog and cat people living in Victorian-era floating islands but were always too afraid to ask. It’s a rare glimpse into a fully realized world, rather than the usual slapping together of standardized video game and anime tropes, and it’s amazing (and perhaps slightly frightening) how much work CyberConnect2 put into making the world of Solatorobo feel alive. I find myself wishing that developers of “open world” style games put that much thought into their releases.
If you, for some reason, still prefer your trailers to focus on the actual game, you can see a quite nice one here.
A new trailer was released for upcoming persistent world online shooter Firefall, and while a lot of the footage being shown is of locations and concepts we’ve already seen in the larger ten minute gameplay trailer, our excitement for the game has been by no means diminished since the game’s announcement, as there is clearly a lot of potential.
One thing the new trailer does hint at which we haven’t seen before is some sort of system that allows players to “glide”–while the huge mecha jetpacks enable characters to gain vertical height and sometimes forward speed (similar to the thrusters in Tribes, of which Firefall seems to be a spiritual successor) this seems to be an entirely new mechanic, used for crossing large amounts of distance in the air. This gliding feature projects two laser wings which reminds us just a bit of the V2 Gundam’s Wings of Light, which along with the very possible Gurren Lagann and Gundam 00 influences in the powered armors’ designs leads evidence to someone at Firefall being a closet mecha fanatic.
In addition to the 10 minute trailer that’s been passed around widely, it’s also worth noting that there’s a less well-traveled version of that very same trailer with developer commentary that explains a bit more about the specific game mechanics.
F.E.A.R. 3, the next game in a line of first person shooters about high technology and the supernatural combining to create a general mess of things, has had its power armors, imaginatively named the Power Armor and the Enhanced Power Armor, revealed. The two battlesuits previously appeared in F.E.A.R and F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, and the EPA was in fact pilotable in F.E.A.R. 2, but the trailer they’ve sent out implies a lot more mobility on their part this time around, making their existence part of what I see as a kind of renewal in Starship Troopers type power armor, where the “power” component to their power armor wasn’t just a heavier load of armor and munitions, but also thrusters which allowed a single infantryman to move quickly across miles of territory. The typical “space marines” of today, for all their glitzy tech, still find themselves cowering behind crates just like any other human but it seems the industry may be moving in a more interesting direction.
The designs of the PA and the EPA remind me a bit of the Tau’s Stealth Suits and Crisis Battlesuits from Warhammer 40,000, which could make it a rare example of a game adding more mecha-like elements by being inspired by a Western design, rather than a Japanese one.
Worth pointing out is that the mechs here seem designed to incorporate the general FPS feel of the rest of the game rather than to merely add a “vehicle mode”; the game still visible looks, and seems to play, like an FPS while unmistakably incorporating the functions granted by the mecha. Obstacles and cover that would hinder a regular human fall easily before your robot’s might, expanding your tactical options, but the player’s point of view stays the same, stopping the player from dissociating from the “closeness” of the action. This was a problem with the EPA in F.E.A.R. 2, where the mech sections, while fun, seemed to be at odds with the game’s main trick of being a horror FPS.
Hopefully the developers, Day 1 Studios, will be able to produce something that will make us forgive them for MechAssault.
We will be reviewing the recently released Front Mission Evolved but we’ve been somewhat delayed with other things recently, which is why the review has been late in coming. In the meantime, enjoy the picture above (courtesy of Persona) where Chirico Cuvie is displaying the same kind of feelings we have towards the game (something that shouldn’t be too surprising if you’ve read our impressions from TGS).
When the Xbox Live Indie Games service was first announced, it was hoped that lowering the normally draconian barrier of entry for developing on a console would allow small, independent teams to create an explosion of creativity not bound down by the corporate world. Despite the initial optimism, the XBLIG section proved to be as much of a curse as it was a blessing, because for each title that was genuinely worth taking a look at, there were nine titles that were either shoddily put together by amateurs or simple, exploitative cash-ins on other creative concepts or even just sex appeal, and the only users who browsed the XBLIGs were the truly adventurous, willing to wade through a cesspool of human waste to get the rare nugget of gold.
Appropriate then that Explosionade is a game where you find gold hidden in sewers, because it is one of the few games that justify the continued existence of XBLIGs. The principle behind the indie games movement was that developers not chained to the high stakes world of initial public offerings and demographics research would be able to create innovative games that users would want to play, rather than what users had proven in the past that they would be willing to play, and finally there is a mecha game on the XBLIG service that proves the indie movement right, because Explosionade is a love letter to the great 2D SNES mecha sidescrollers that adds just enough new gameplay mechanics to make it its own beast.
It’s also only 80 Microsoft Points, which translates to $1 in Real World American Currency, which also makes it the cheapest mecha game you can buy. I don’t know how some of the other authors on the Indie Games service sleep at nights knowing that Mommy’s Best Games’ Explosionade is both better and cheaper than their shovelware, but it likely involves soft beds made out of money. Should you buy Explosionade? It would probably cost you more money to keep yourself alive while reading this review than it would to go and purchase the game immediately, so “Yes.” You can still read the review, though. I worked awful hard on it.
Kotaku reports Bangai-O HD has been delayed in order for the developers to add multiplayer to the title, including competitive and co-operative modes. The new release window is currently Spring 2011.
The addition of multiplayer to Bangai-O HD isn’t an odd choice, considering how much the next generation systems have been pushing multiplayer over traditional single-player modes, but I’m curious as to how they’re going to incorporate these modes into Bangai-O. Bangai-O is very much designed as a single-player experience, with the player given only a tiny sprite to control so that the rest of the player’s view can be swarming with missiles and enemies, and expecting the player to track one single enemy player during the madness that defines Bangai-O will be a tough task. Even more difficult to implement will be the co-op, because the entire gimmick of Bangai-O is that your screen-clearing “bomb” function releases ordnance in direct proportion to how much danger the player character is currently in from the enemies’ own munitions, and it’ll be difficult to balance two (or more!) Bangai-Os attempting to set up efficient combos.
Hopefully pushing back the release date will give the developers time to come up with solutions to these potential difficulties, and as hard as these problems with the addition of multiplayer to Bangai-O’s game mechanics might be to crack, there is also a lot of potential for the game to go wonderfully right. Getting three of your friends together to coordinate a single massive assault of literally thousands of missiles is exactly the kind of experience that can make Bangai-O HD a worthy successor to the cult classic Dreamcast original. Fingers crossed that the multiplayer isn’t just an afterthought to make it more competitive in today’s market.
Those of you with an interest on the origins of Bangai-O’s game mechanics and how it relates to the rule sets of mecha anime series, please feel free to read our in-depth feature on the first two Bangai-O games. For a game that answers the question “how many explosions can we fit on a single screen?” the game’s cultural genesis is a long and interesting one.
Xbox Live Indie Games developer Mommy’s Best Games is releasing a game with the improbable (and amazing) name Explosionade this month. Inspired a bit by Metal Slug, it features the age-old story of some guy coming across a death-dealing prototype robot and then running havoc with it with absolutely no moral qualms whatsoever. Mommy’s Best Games formerly released the well-received Shoot 1-Up and Explosionade’s trailer seems like it won’t disappoint.
The developers credit their graphical inspiration to something that SNK (developers of Metal Slug) would have made, and this influence is also clearly felt in the gameplay: the player’s mecha, GRenaDOS, has at least as much of the firepower that Metal Slug’s vehicles had, while also putting a lot of emphasis on the “feel” of controlling that large vehicle. This combination of heavy firepower with heavy weight means that Mommy’s Best gratefully avoids the common pitfall that most Western developers make with games featuring robots, by thinking of them as human analogues rather than as vehicles when the game should properly allow the player to feel in control of a machine rather than a man.
The way the mech aims and boost-jumps also reminds us of Assault Suits Valken (released in the West as Cybernator), which was certainly one of the best mecha games released on the Super Nintendo and which inspired the Western developed Metal Warriors and the doujin game GunHound as well as the better known Front Mission: Gun Hazard (itself developed by the Assault Suits developers). The interesting thing to note here is that if the game uses a dual analog setup, as we think it does, then Explosionade would be using a control scheme that wasn’t available to those earlier games, who likely would have used it if it had been available. While Assault Suits Valken is an excellent game, it is also known for its fairly punishing difficulty and at least part of this was the directional pad controlling both movement and aiming, and Explosionade could therefore be a much easier game for the casual fan to get their mechanical carnage fix with while also offering almost the same experience.
The reason I’m so excited for this game, though, isn’t just because it’s a game about a quadrupedal robot stomping around and firing grenades at disgusting aliens, but because it’s a game about a quadrupedal robot stomping around and firing grenades at disgusting aliens for 80 Microsoft Points. That is, one whole US dollar. For what you’d spend on gas to drive yourself to the local game store, you can get an amazing game with an amazing name, and support an indie developer raising money to continue working on their longer-term project Grapple Buggy. It’s like charity, really, except you get a free mecha game and also I don’t believe the cause of “making a game about tanks with grappling hooks” is tax deductible.
The game’s release date is indeterminate due to a problem with the Xbox Live Indie Game section not updating correctly (an interesting read if you’re curious about the thoughts of an XBLIG developer), but should be out sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, you can froth over this tasty trailer: