reviews\ Oct 14, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Robotech: Battlecry - XB - Review

I love games like this. They bring me back to a time in my childhood where I had virtually no responsibility and all the time in the world to play Intellivision, Nintendo, or watch cartoons. Part of that was parking my behind on the couch or chair on weekend mornings and tuning into “yet another exciting episode” of the Robotech anime cartoon. I mean hey … what kid wouldn’t like a cartoon about huge robots that transform into big fighter planes? I watched and played the Robotech RPG up until my senior year of high school, and the enjoyment of it spawned my interest in other mech shows like Gundam Wing. I was overjoyed when I heard that it was coming to the next gen systems, and stayed pleased for the most part after playing it.


Robotech : Battlecry goes into telling the story behind the devastating crash of a huge alien vessel which caused massive destruction and chaos throughout the world in it’s downward collision course. It landed on Macross Island in the South Pacific, at which time human scientists began using the Robotechnology they found within to create huge machines to guard the earth due to threat of an alien attack by a race known as the Zendraedi. A group who are known as the Robotech Defense Force pilot these massive robots, and you play as rookie pilot Jack Archer … gun for hire turned hero … as he joins the RDF on the brink of the Zendraedi attack. 


One of the things that always made Robotech a little more interesting to me than Battletech (I know I’m going to get 50,000 e-mails about that comment) was the fact that the mechs were able to transform into three different forms, depending on the situation. Battloid mode was the full mech soldier style formation, which enables you to launch anti missile machine gun fire and snipe out enemies from a distance. Guardian mode is a sort of cross between a plane and a robot, and enabled for faster movement, quicker turning, and usage of cluster missiles. Finally, Fighter mode puts you in control of a high speed jet fighter, outfitted with decoys, homing missiles, and machine gun fire. The game enables you to switch between any one of the three forms with just the press of a button, and you can feel the strengths and weaknesses of each mode while dogfighting with Zendraedi invaders.


You would expect that a game bearing the name “Robotech” would be a high speed, fast action shoot – ‘em – up title, right? Well … it definitely is that. The game is a mission based battle through the world of Robotech, and at the beginning of each mission you can choose the style and coloration of your Veritech fighter. Up front, there’s only two to choose from, and three paint schemes, but as you progress through the story mode missions and meet certain requirements you will unlock new Veritech body styles, like the Sumo, and a variety of color patters as well. Missions range from search and rescue to escort to defend, and they have a nice variety to mix up the action so it doesn't get repetitive. Some missions will also start you off zipping through the clouds in a ship to ship dogfight, then descending to the city below to demolish landing ground forces before they can take over. It’s mostly edge of the seat, adrenaline packed action that will leave your palms sweating.


Now, Robotech is really going to appeal to the Robotech crowd, but what about those gamers who may be new to the series and wanting to see what makes it so popular? Well, the above mentioned should get you reading on, but there’s a couple of areas which bring down the whole experience overall and would make it a mediocre title if it didn’t bear the famous Robotech name. First off is the control … not the transform or weapon firing buttons mind you, but the sluggish and sometimes inaccurate targeting system. The right analog stick allows you to choose your target while in all three modes, and it does OK some of the time. Other times it seems to take an eternity to switch from one target to the next, or picks the one you didn’t want, which can be crucial while chasing after a zipping attack craft. Battloid mode has the most accurate of all, and can change out targets at the press of a button. Unfortunately, it’s way too slow to use in a dogfight, which makes it almost useless in that situation. 


The next thing is the difficulty. There is a cool training mode, which is definitely one of the best I’ve seen in an action title, and helps to learn the ins and outs of the mech overall. The difficulty comes not in the gameplay itself, but in the missions. Each one has specific things which need to be done, and can be really simple when you hear what they are … like “Defend the SDF – 1”. OK, easy enough, right? Well, there’s not a lot to explain what exactly needs to be done to complete the objective, and can lead to frustration when you spend 10 minutes dogfighting only to learn that the SDF – 1 has been destroyed. So, you try it again, and this time go after the laser turrets on the Zendraedi cruisers. After 10 minutes of dodging clusters of missiles and huge lasers, you destroy the turrets … but the SDF – 1 gets destroyed again. Anyway, you get the idea, and that was just one example. Sometimes you will be left looking for the next area to visit or trying to figure out what the game wants you to do next, and I started wondering at times if there was a glitch which was keeping me from moving to the next stage.


The final downer for me, which is more of a personal issue, was in the cutscenes. One of the things that made the cartoon so great was the narrator and the story being laid out anime style. The game, however, tells the story through still slides. They look great, but it’s just not the same thing. I would have loved seeing the game played out more like the TV show.


The real winner to this game comes in the department of the sound and graphics. The voice acting was done really well, and the music contains cuts which have that Japanese “original TV show” flare to them. The explosions, weapons, and whooshing thrusters all sounded great as well. The graphics are like watching a computerized, updated version of the show … and are done in a neat looking 3-D cel shaded technique. The smoke clouds and fireballs from exploding ships all have the same look to them, and city building will crumble to dust before your eyes when pummeled with firepower one too many times … all adding to the fast pace and excitement of the game overall.


After it is all said and done, I would definitely recommend this title to any Robotech fan … of course … as well as anyone who is into other mech shows, like Gundam or one of the many other anime titles out. If you liked the older Xbox mech – turns – into – fighter release, Gun Metal, you’ll probably enjoy this one as well. If you’re not a fan of any of the listed stuff, then you may want to rent or skip this one and check out a different title … since the downside elements may prove to be more frustrating than the $50 will warrant.    


Gameplay: 7.8
While the buttons themselves aren’t too hard to learn, and all three Veritech modes are easy to flip around to, the lackluster targeting system and sometimes confusing mission endings can be more of a hassle than an enjoyment. There’s tons of unlockable mechs, patterns, and two player arenas to be found, and that’s part of the fun. This game has a ton of action packed gameplay in it as well.  


Graphics: 9.4
Wow. TDK did a fantastic job of blending elements of the original anime with the video game in a sharp, clean, cel shaded presentation. The mechs, Zendraedi, and backgrounds are big and look fantastic … and some nifty little extras like crumbling buildings or the “yellow crescent moon” laser explosions popular in anime titles were a nice touch.


Sound: 9.2

Well done here also. The action noises were done in a clear and realistic sounding manner, and the background music adds a neat, nostalgic kind of touch to the popular title. The voice acting was just right, and not overdone or cheesy.


Difficulty: Medium
There are three difficulty settings overall, and each one presents it’s own challenge. Don’t think easy mode is a pushover, though … and it will keep you busy enough to have to do over quite a few times.  


Concept: 9.0
This has got to be the best adaptation of the popular Robotech series which kicked off the American infatuation with giant, destructive robots that I have seen so far. Adding some more of the TV elements, like FMV and the narrator, would have been fantastic … but well done anyway.


Multiplayer: 8.5
Two players can go head to head in a deathmatch style game throughout various landscapes … some of which are unlocked as you progress through the story mode, and it’s a lot of fun.  


Overall: 8.3
While this game will appeal to the Robotech and anime crowd for sure, it may also be a lot of fun for the action gamer out there. If you are in to fast paced shooters, this may be a good title for your collection … but I would recommend a rental first due to the control and frustration issues which may be found.  


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