reviews\ Nov 24, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Robot Alchemic Drive (RAD) - PS2 - Review

Since man landed on the moon in 1969, they have always tried to find new and better ways to explore space, but any future trips resulted in the entire crew being killed. In 1975 the first space station is built, but the following year everyone mysteriously died. In 1980, scientists discovered the source behind all of these deaths, it is a substance called Nectar Radiance that covers the entire solar system. Scientists find that it is lethal to any organic being and nothing can provide protection from it. As a result any future space exploration plans were canceled. Now humans take comfort in the fact that nothing can escape or enter the Earth without being killed, so they dub this substance the Nectar Barrier.

Once players load the game and go into story mode they are to choose one of the three available characters, who happen to be the heirs of the bankrupt Tsukioa Industries. After choosing a character the player must then pick a Meganite (a giant robot), after these choices are made, players are thrust in the game. It is a quiet day, when out of nowhere, an enemy pierces the Nectar Barrier, and begins to attack and destroy any city that it comes upon. These mechs are called the Volgara who are mechanical beasts, which are composed of Repton carbonite alloy. They are relentless, containing unimaginable power, and possess a powerful defensive system known as the phantom system. This allows the mech to transport anywhere when it is about to be fired upon by an energy weapon. The Japanese military put up a fight, but are soon massacred. All hope seems to be lost until the Trillennium Committee contacts the players.

The Tsukioa Industries funded the Trillennium committee, and their purpose is to study any interplanetary resource extraction. Once players go to the designated rendezvous point, they show you the fruits of their labor, the Meganite. These weapons have the power to battle the invading Volgaras and defeat them, and it is up to the players to do this.

The story for this game is spread over numerous missions. During this time, any interaction players have with the NPCs (no playable characters) is recorded, and if they are not careful, players might face a backlash from it. For example if you accidentally destroy a building, a partner that is funding you might begin to lose their money, and then you will be in serious trouble because if they have no money to give you, then you can kiss those nice upgrades goodbye. Also the cast interaction is very important, certain events will only happen if players accomplish them. If you save a character early on, they will be nicer to you; otherwise they will be very hostile the entire game. Everything players do will have a cause and effect, which gives the game an astounding replay value, as each time they play through they might see something new.

The way players upgrade their mechs is very interesting. During the course of the game, players will get funding from the government and various other sponsors, depending how you do each mission. In the hanger, Meganites can acquire more armor; carry more ammunition; and new weapons. The heroes of the game can also get upgraded in the laboratory; they can get a personal shield, get faster foot speed, and even get the ability to carry hand grenades. This is a new twist to the game, since players will want to fight their best so they can get more upgrades for their next mission.

Robot Alchemic Drive has an interesting battle system. The d-pad will make the hero/mech walk, while the analog stick controls the corresponding arms (the left stick controls the left arm while the right controls the right arm). Pressing the Triangle button will fire a beam, and the circle fires another weapon. The square button is used from transforming into the mechs alternate mode. Pressing the L3 or R3 buttons will deploy the arm weapons, for example one of the weapons on a mech is a drill. L2 or R2 will make the mech crouch, and R1 or L1 will do a Grand charge. The start button will bring up the map of the city. Finally the select button will switch control form the hero and the Meganite.

Robot Alchemic Drive (RAD) is rated T for Teen for blood and violence. It will take up to 80kb on your memory card.

Gameplay: 8.2
The game controls can be a little weird at first, and can be difficult getting used to. Players will have to constantly remember that they are in control of two things: the hero and the Meganite, and the robot cannot function if the human is killed. Controlling the characters feels a bit clunky, meaning that the movement is controlled by the d-pad, and it is not as smooth as the analog sticks. At times when players are in the midst of battle, it will take time to turn the Meganite around to face its opponent, they are taking heavy damage. Once players master the controls it will be easier to do, but it will always feel somewhat stiff.

One of my biggest gripes about the game is that at times, it will be impossible to find a good viewpoint of the battle. So at times players will be in the midst of battle and they cannot see what is going on and are getting killed by the enemy. So they need to switch to the hero mode and find another place to observe the battle. Even though this is the key point of the game, there has to be a good viewpoint in each level, and some just don't offer it. This is why the game is so unique because players will have to formulate a strategy to find the best place for the hero to control the mech, without taking any damage.

Graphics: 7.9
Enix has developed the game to have the presentation be like an anime cartoon. Everything from the buildings to the mech themselves looks like something players would see on Gundam or something similar to it. All of Robot Alchemic Drive's visual flare is in the Magnites and the hero of the game, and everything else looks drab. The buildings sport little or no detail whatsoever, and the explosions are sub par at best. RAD has a lot of real time damage, and it is handled well enough, with the lumps of debris everywhere.

Sound: 7.3
I cannot stand poorly done voiceovers in games, and unfortunately some of these characters suffer this flaw. Every time the news reporters come on, I rolled my eyes, since they say their lines like a robot would. If a city were under attack by a huge robot, people would not be talking in a monotone voice. Their voice would covey a sense of emergency and fear of the impeding danger! The music and sound effects on the other hand, bring the score up as they are done with a little more class and help the gamers perceive that they are in an anime show.

Difficulty: Medium
Controlling the mech will take lots of patience as it will be one of the largest trials players will have to deal with. It will take about three missions before players will understand the mechanics of balancing where to put the hero and how to use the robot. After that players have to deal with the incoming evil that is plaguing mankind. The mission structure is weak, and could use some tightening up, but it gets better as players progress though out the game.

Concept: 9.7
You might be thinking, am I insane for giving this game such a high rating on the concept!!  I thought that this is one of the best ideas I have seen in a long time for this genre. In the past year I have played Z.O.E., MechAssault, and a few other mech type games, and they always offer either a first or third person perspective.. I think that Enix has developed a game that is truly unique, by giving players the chance to pilot the mech from a remote control, and not in a cockpit. This was a truly unique concept and I am glad that some developers still have the guts to make a game that breaks away from the standard formula. While other parts of the game could have used some tightening this has been a unique game from loading it, to finishing it!

Multiplayer: 8.3
Having the option to duke it out with a friend that has to go though the same stuff that you do is fun. They cannot just run in and attack you, but they to have to go find a safe spot and a good viewpoint before they can begin the battle.

Overall: 8.5
Even though the Robot Alchemic Drive has a few quirks, it is still a blast to play. Players will find enjoyment of the strategy they have to use when in the midst of a battle. Like I said earlier, it is refreshing to see a developer try new ideas out, and hopefully other developers will follow their lead, so we do not get the same games with minor differences each year. If you are into mech type games, anime, or games that stray away from the norm, please try this game out, as you might be pleasantly surprised!


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