Following on from the first part, we’ve been waiting for Saisei Hen with baited breath for quite a while. Unlike previous Super Robot Wars releases, the sequel to the first Z was planned in two parts. This was moderately cunning on the part of Banpresto; as not only would it allow more modern mecha series (often with two story arcs) to be portrayed in more detail but it also meant we could be charged twice for effectively the same game.
However, this isn’t quite the case. Whilst Saisei Hen is very much the second of two gaming parts it still has a huge amount of new content on offer. It’s also noticeably easier throughout too, though your mileage may obviously vary on that point. Either way, we’ve been thoroughly enjoying ourselves with Saisei Hen and it was very much worth the wait.
Like the previous installment, Saisei Hen eschews the use of squads as per the console versions in favour of single units. Pilots are also again broken down to a main, who can be upgraded with a variety of skills, and sub-pilots that are basically along for the ride (though they thankfully bring their seishin with them). In addition, the mecha are similarly upgradeable and can be equipped with all manner of parts to boost certain stats or offer new abilities.
Whilst this may sound familiar to fans of Super Robot Wars, it is striking that this entry can be utterly rinsed without much forethought. Admittedly the knowledge and experience of how to successfully equip the right parts for certain units, as well as understand what the pilot skills do, isn’t something that most gamers will have. However for the Super Robot Wars throng, this game is much more forgiving than previous entries.
We’ve also always had a habit of playing the games by not upgrading units until very late in the game. That way you can appreciate their tactical nuances as well as focus more on the strategy rather than simple brute force. For the most part Saisei Hen was as tricky as the previous game in this regard, however upon upgrading our units it was very clear how big a difference it made. It’s definitely very satisfying to max out Chirico Cuvie’s Rabidly Dog and equip all manner of parts to make the unit literally “untouchable” but much of the tactical risk of using the mecha is somewhat absent, as it’s almost never going to buy the farm. This isn’t one unit either but pretty much anything you upgrade, something that’s more noticeable on account of the fact that we were able to max out the stats of an abnormally large number of units this time around.
Now all this may sound pretty damning but in reality nurturing an army of mecha from the last half century into an unstoppable force is very enjoyable. In addition, if you want to challenge yourself, then attaining the SR Points in each level should keep most people busy as the conditions to attain them are pretty tricky for the most part. Not to mention that many missions have very specific criteria for completion. Some of these are quite memorable too, as the re-enactment of the attack on the Memento Mori from Gundam 00. As it requires you to fly head on through a large force of enemies. All within 5 turns no less, so the pacing is nicely tight and just like in the show. Setups like that are quite common and feel like the development team really know their stuff when it comes to the disparate mecha series involved.
The other very important fact to remember is that this is also very much a portable game, much like the first entry way back in 1991 in fact. It’s not really intended to be played in long bouts. In that sense the difficulty is probably gauged about right, as the game is still very compelling nonetheless and lacks any real difficulty spikes.
What the game still does incredibly well though are the battle animations. Whilst many of the mecha have already been used in the previous game there are still a lot more units and upgraded attacks. In some places the animations are a little rushed but overall they look pretty damn superb throughout. The pacing and attention to detail is also again very impressive and for any fan of the series featured in the game, you’re very much in for a treat.
Overall then Saisei Hen is as good as the previous game and whilst it is still very engaging the amount of strategical complexity has definitely been replaced with a more brute force approach. In some ways the game echoes the more modern mecha series it contains; where the second story arc features far more potent mecha that obliterate all that stand in their way. In that sense Saisei Hen was always destined to be somewhat excessive and in that regard it succeeds pretty much flawlessly.
[spoiler show=”Specific Unit Animations”]