Considering that the Super Robot Wars games started out on the GameBoy, their most natural state is generally on similar portable consoles. This has been proven time and time again with all manner of handheld releases, with the recent PSP games being thoroughly excellent.
However, whilst the more recent PSP games have been great the earlier GBA and DS games had issues. This is not to say they were bad games, as they were decent fun overall. It’s just that battle animation technology and assets were very basic. To make matters worse these same resources were re-used multiple times, rather than investing in new R&D. As this entry is on the 3DS it’s been a worry whether Bandai Namco would not fund the release as per the PSP games. Well they have funded it and it looks so much better for it.
Mechanically UX has some interesting changes to other Super Robot Wars games. Firstly, is the creation of two unit squads that can attack in series or combined (same goes for the enemies). This is a simplification of the other group setups from the previous games but it’s a good focused change that fits the platform. As you don’t have to spend ages setting up your units. Secondly, mecha parts are basically gone in this iteration leaving only pilot skills. These are unlocked through playing the game and the more powerful enemies dropped rarer skills once defeated.
As your pilots level up, their seishin skills also increase and diversify in number. You can still upgrade your mecha and maxing them out does give perks but the lack of additional mecha parts really does fit well here.
Moving onto the animations, whilst some of the engine is still pretty similar to the GBA and DS games there is also a lot more that is new. Much of this, we’re guessing, is to do with the fact that the 3DS facilitates greater management of its visual memory to pull off the 3D effect convincingly. Consequently, we have lots of nice character animated cut-ins as well as newly tooled sprites that look great. The 3D is also handled very nicely and the battle animations really exploit the technology. Maps are also on a 2D grid and often have their own animation. The use of depth is handled very well here too, especially on the space based levels. It’s also very useful in picking out your units and telling whether they’re airborne or on the ground.
The game itself, whilst fun and compelling, is on the easy side though. Special mission conditions are pretty much gone and you rarely have to deal with meta objectives (such as only use certain units for a specific action). What results is a fairly brute force and direct approach to the levels. In some ways this makes sense, as we’re dealing with a portable game here and one that is often played in relatively short bursts, but it is a bit light on strategy.
That aside, the series roster is rather special and with a heavy emphasis on classic 80’s shows (such as Tobikage and Dunbine). Not to mention that the addition of Wings of Rean is also pretty fantastic too (though the Oukaoh unlock is disappointingly obtuse). We’re somewhat on the fence about the Miku Fei-Yen, whilst she’s interesting the Virtual On crossover is just weird. As you’d expect, the newer series (such as Macross Frontier and Gundam 00) get a lot of a attention but it doesn’t detract from the other more classic shows being featured. The lack of Final Dancouga is a bit odd, especially as Dancouga Nova is present, and the complete absence of any Getter Robo series is equally jarring (though by no means rare, as previous portable games have excluded the various Getter machines).
Overall then this is a solid portable entry into the Super Robot Wars canon. Somewhat on the easy side but decently engaging nonetheless, especially as the engine and assets have undergone a substantial overhaul. The 3D is also handled very nicely too and actually makes the battle animations come alive. That said, the real reason we’ve enjoyed this is because Dunbine has finally come back to the Super Robot Wars fold. The aura chikara is strong with this one.
Nintendo 3DS games are region locked, so you’ll require a Japanese 3DS to play this game.