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Reviews: Macross Triangle Frontier (8/10)

Posted on : 27-02-2011 | By : | In : Reviews

Hardware:

5

One of the more discouraging aspects about the Gundam Battle games was their propensity to build on the prior content of previous games. In that, you’d buy a new game in the series only to be faced with a sizable amount of missions and mobile suits you’d already paid for in the prior release. Whilst this was obviously a publisher lead remit, after the fifth game your patience did wear pretty damn thin.

The first two Macross games in this series, Ace and Ultimate Frontier, were blessed with a sizable increase in content between them. To the extent that with the latter, they pretty much covered off almost all of the saga. Moving on from that, in the same way the Gundam Battle games unfortunately did, is something that would normally concern us.

However, we now have reached the third game in Artdink’s mini Macross gaming saga and they’ve tried to do a lot to mask the re-use of assets from the two prior games. From the all new Academy mode to new campaigns and units. They’ve even re-worked the missile lock system again. The final result is something again new and interesting, as well as being a lot of fun to play.

The two new campaigns featured in Macross Triangle Frontier are the first Macross Frontier movie and the somewhat ignored (both in terms of continuity and fandom) early 90’s OVA Macross II: Lovers Again. Whilst a few Macross II missions existed in the prior game, they were non-campaign Extra missions. This new campaign has the voice talent from the series as well as a lot of new assets, with the Metal Siren variable fighter being notable.

The latter is what we booted up straight away and the first major change to how the game works was down to the missiles again. In the previous game, Ultimate Frontier, missile tracking was affected by the range and orientation of your craft. This was suitably colour coded to denote the three ranges and stages of orientation. The difference now, bar the reversal of the colour coding (red meaning full lock now), is that the locks cascade into the screen (as per the PS3 game Macross Trial Frontier) and if you hold down the lock button an additional set of locks occur. The latter appears to give not only an increase to the tracking but also a noticeable damage boost.

Whilst the cascading lock icons are annoying, as they lack the obvious precision of the previous fixed locks, the new damage boost setup is a nice touch. As it adds more functional choice to the missile lock setup and encourages the player to really push their luck in combat. It’s also more anlogue than an old school charge system, as you can still fire your missiles off at any point and for the grunts this is actually ideal. It’s just with this additional edge to the missile attacks, you can now face down bosses in a very satisfying and rewarding way. If anything, it emphasises the importance of both your position and timing in terms of attacks.

Considering the obvious bonuses this allows in terms of tuning point acquisition, as it makes higher takings less arduous, the grind that plagued the first game in the series is even less absent now too.

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The remaining campaigns encompass the entirety of the animated Macross lineage thus far produced, so as a package it’s very comprehensive. Whilst this is the first game to really feel like a re-hash, as many of these campaigns were present in Ultimate Frontier, Artdink have mixed the missions and areas up a bit more. Despite the publisher remit, they do still care about the game.

Talking of the publisher remit though, the new Academy mode is an all new dating sim-esque endeavour where the player gets to live the heady life of an imaginary high school student aboard the Macross Frontier fleet. If you like these kind of games, then you’ll be happy with the results and the production value (despite it’s palpable creepiness) is relatively high. The very good news about the new Academy mode is that it is almost entirely optional and separate from the real game. Admittedly, the main usage for the Academy mode is to allow you to upgrade your custom character’s pilot stats (as they are now fixed) this isn’t that bad a concession. Whether this was Artdink stepping in and trying to salvage the situation from a mindless publishing marketing automaton is not entirely known but the result either way is wholly welcome.

Overall then, cursory Academy mode aside, Triangle Frontier has built upon the functional approach from the previous games and honed the core game into something with depth and a surprising amount of immediacy. The content re-hashing is more noticeable after Ultimate Frontier but it’s nowhere near the levels seen in the latter half of the Gundam Battle games.

Even if you’re not a fan of Macross, the sheer amount of polish here (especially for a PSP game) makes this a compelling game worthwhile of any gamer’s time. Here’s hoping Bandai Namco do the smart thing and let Artdink finish the PS3 Macross game they’ve been so obviously working on, as it makes more sense to finish this series of games on a high rather than milking it do death like they did with the Gundam Battle games. In the meantime, we’ll be soaring through azure skies in whatever variable fighter ride tickles our fancy.

Tamashii: 8/10

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Comments (5)

Sounds good! Can’t wait to play!

The fact that the video you linked happens to end up on a preview image of a prepubescent girl in a swimsuit helps reinforce the “palpable creepiness” of the Academy Mode. Or was that by design, Cacophanus? 😛

Or course, said prepubescent girl is really an adult giantess, but that doesn’t do much to make it less creepy. Quite the opposite, maybe. (I’m poking fun, but the Lord knows I’d launch Klan with the FAST packs as soon as I got ’em.)

The lock on system sounds interesting. Macross is practically defined by its use of missiles, so it’s nice to see them come to center stage with a game mechanic rather than leaving them as a “fire and forget” type weapon while focusing mainly on the gunpod’s aim, but at the same time it sounds intimidating considering Macross games already have you juggling between three different forms. It sounds promising enough that I might have to rethink my fear of using the PSP for action games–I don’t like the control setup’s “feel” but maybe, like the PS2’s controller, I could grow to work around that.

I wonder how many people think there are three girls on the cover’s box art? Yeah, I’ll be here all week. Tip your waiters!

Sounds fantastic. It’s nice when developers encourage daredevil behavior through mechanics instead of making it an engineered requirement.

How is the triangle content of this game?

Whew! What a relief to hear about this…I was keeping my eye on this game (since I liked the first game and absolutely LOVE Ultimate Frontier), wondering if it was worth getting due to the dating sim addition, but it looks like Artdink has come through again and delivered.

And as you said, it has the Metal Siren. How awesome is that? 😎

Seriously! Learning that the dating sim is optional and the Macross II campaign is ready right out of the box makes me worry for my wallet. Honestly, I love Macross II far more than any many should…

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