Posted on : 29-10-2016 | By : Cacophanus | In : Reviews
Hardware: PlayStation Vita
The last major portable Macross game was Macross Triangle Frontier back in 2011, since then we’ve had Macross 30 on the PS3. That was a slower game dubbed as a “flight action RPG”. In the time since, Artdink has been working on a variety of other Vita games, from Gundam Seed Battle Destiny to all sorts of Sword Art Online titles. The result of all this studious work is that Artdink has probably made one of the best Macross games in recent memory.
Macross Delta Scramble covers the events of the recently aired Macross Delta anime. Set after the events of Macross Frontier, the series deals with the introduction of something called the Var Syndrome that turns people into mindlessly aggressive zombies. To combat this an idol group called Walkure teams up with various variable fighter pilots to form Delta Squadron in order to combat this new threat.
The game then covers the events of the anime and splits the campaign as per the previous Macross portable games into the two main sides of the conflict, that of Chaos and Windermere. In addition to this, you also have access to Extra missions which not only cover events in Delta but also from other parts of the Macross saga, though more of that later.
The biggest and most important improvement in the game is that of its updated controls. The previous Macross games on PSP had more limited input for movement and camera, so depth was added elsewhere on things like the missile lock. In Delta Scramble, the game now has access to the Vita’s two analogue sticks. The left handles movement and the right manages the camera as well as target selection. Just simply flying around feels more fluid and responsive now as a result. The target selection is also more logical and immediate than in the PSP games, not to mention that you can control which target you focus on with far greater specificity.
The corollary of all these changes is that the face buttons have been opened up for different uses. The Triangle button is now melee and the Square button is used for lateral boosting. The X Button is still the main thrust input and the Circle button fires your sub weapons, namely missiles and beam cannons. The smart move here is that your main guns are on the Right shoulder button now. That not only feels right, as it’s equivalent to the trigger input on must modern games, but it is also comfortable to use on something like the Vita.
Following this, you have the updated transformation controls on the D-pad, where up is fighter, left is GERWALK and down is battroid. However, the right input is now used to switch sub weapons. Coupled with extra touch screen inputs that double up things like weapon select, the controls feel like they have been given a much needed reworking for a modern handheld like the Vita.
The other big change here is that following Macross 30, Delta Scramble has upped the game speed quite substantially and removed the recoil from the main guns. The game also drops most of the RPG elements from Macross 30 and even simplifies the mecha upgrade setup in the process.
My only real gripe is that losing altitude in GERWALK and battroid still requires the double tap of the X button. With all the other streamlined control changes, the fact that this legacy input still exists is rather awkward.
You then have all manner of little flourishes to do with messaging, such as the boosting away from the camera when you enter fighter mode or the brief slow motion explosion you get for confirming an ace kill. Some thought has clearly been put into this game and Artdink hasn’t just pumped out a quick port of their older PSP Macross games.
The other big improvement in Delta Scramble is that following Macross 30, the production value for a Vita game is surprisingly high. The environments are very nicely done and the mecha look superb. Even with all the missiles flying around and other effects, the game rarely slows down and if the framerate drops it is only momentary at best.
A lot of the original music is also used intact, which is a refreshing change and something I entirely welcome, especially as Macross is based around the effects of music on people.
Despite all these major improvements, Delta Scramble does have quite a few shortcomings.
The first is that as this only really covers the events from the Delta narrative it means the areas and missions can get quite repetitive. Some of the areas are good, such as the cityscapes and a space based area inside an asteroid field, but the objectives are very similar across each mission.
In the older Macross PSP games, this was partly assuaged by the fact you had different campaigns corresponding to separate parts of the Macross saga. In Delta Scramble, these campaigns have been cut down to single level in the Extra mission mode. So while you face off against things like the YF-19 from Macross Plus or the Fire Valkyrie from Macross 7, the corresponding campaigns for those series are nowhere to be found.
The other major problem Delta Scramble suffers from is that again the number of playable mecha is very limited, even when compared to the trimmed down Macross 30. Obviously, the old PSP assets would not be suitable on Vita, so Artdink is having to rebuild the mecha from scratch for this game. However, the lack of playable mecha, especially after games like Triangle Frontier, is noticeable and disappointing.
With all this said though, Delta Scramble excels in its core controls and resultant fluidity of combat. Even with the reduced mecha roster and somewhat repetitive nature of the missions, the game itself plays well and is very compelling as a result.
Bar a few niggles, this is probably the best arcade focused Macross game I’ve ever played and I can only hope that Bandai Namco will fund Artdink to build on this setup further.
Until then, Macross Delta Scramble comes recommended to all Macross fans and is probably the most accessible gaming implementation of piloting a variable fighter made thus far.