Robotech. One of the landmark anime franchises that influenced the mech genre for its time and went toe to toe with Mobile Suit Gundam. It had a long running story that spawned multiple sequels, spin-offs, side stories, continuations and reboots to this day. Most mech titles that came after Robotech also utilized it’s musical scores to accentuate the epic struggle mankind was facing, Chouju Kishin Dancouga, for example…hold on, I got my notes mixed up, that’s Macross. ROBOTECH is a localized hodgepodge of lies, misinformation, detours, and deception! And it was just as awesome (until characters are conspicuously retconned, and then it gets unintentionally hilarious). TDK and Vicious Cycle combined to produce a third person shooter action game for the PS2, and given the solid gameplay of the Mechwarrior series and Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 Side Story for the Sega Dreamcast, I was anxious to see how this would turn out.
Questions I had was 1) How will they incorporate the veritech’s multiple transformations? and 2) Will each of these forms, the Battliod, Guardian, and jet fighter mode, have their own separate stages? The aforementioned games, Mechwarrior and Mobile Suit Gundam, are good games in their respect, but featured giant, slow, lumbering machines of death. Admittedly, I preferred these towering sentinels as opposed to today’s sleeker, faster and more agile mechs in anime, but for sake of discussion in terms of a fun video game experience, Veritechs are perfect units for mobility, and this turned out to be one of the better games I played at the time.
VISUALS 8.5/10: The other two anime games I’ve reviewed thus far have had a rather bland color scheme. Victorious Boxers looked nice, but unpolished, and Eureka Seven New Wave’s hues just seemed watered down to drab shades of gray, brown, and green. Robotech is one of the first games I remember that used cel-shading effectively. While most closeups look like mech models were outlined in a 0.7 Sharpee permanent marker, its impressive. City and metropolis layouts are richly detailed and a treat to stare at, with civilians walking about in some stages (you can’t step on them, not for a lack of trying, mind you).
The animation is fluid, explosions are beautiful, the enemy’s trail smoke when they are badly damaged, so if a target strays out of sight, tracking them down is easy as pie. Action can get really heated and the screen will often become cluttered with missiles, bullets, and explosions. throughout all of this, I witnessed, no slow-down, mangled sprites, or lag time. For such an action packed game, I was expecting this to be a massive issue, since Armored Core 2 had some of these problems. Perhaps the only problems I may have comes from the overuse of the color blue. Picayune as this may be, but key elements that are required to see are colored blue in this game. Fine, blue is an indicator that things are good, but when my radar HUD is two shades of blue, and another circle with an arrow appears, highlighting my next location, is a slightly darker blue, it can be a bit disorienting in the fast pace of combat. Top off that with the highlighted ally icon (a shade of azure as well) during escort missions. As it takes damage, the marker that signifies that the health bar is depleting…IS BLUE!!!
There is a good chance that could be one of the pickiest rants I’ve ever written, and I’ve grinded most of my axes into pocket knives, but I need to be able to quickly locate the vessel I’m trying to protect!! There’s this space mission where you have to keep enemies off of this sonar tracking ship, and its blue icon just blends in with the blue shading of space!! I can’t see it until they radio in and beg for help.
SOUND 8/10: Voice actors who worked on Robotech reprise key roles, and they all do a great job. Cam Clarke, of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame, voices the game’s original lead character, hotshot rookie pilot Jack Archer, and does a good job with the role, hamming it up to Patrick Seitz levels of smug. The Robotech fanfare music is back, or at least a modified version of the theme, and based off that, gives it probably the best BGM in an anime game I’ve played. The hokey music in Eureka Seven had me wanting to tear my ears off!! Explosions are rich and off-screen enemy fire is easy to hear to evade, yet with all the fire that will be coming at you, its most wise to just keep moving regardless.
GAMEPLAY 5.5/10: While the controls aren’t the worst I’ve ever played, given the medium, they fall a tad flat in execution. Granted, it’s a nice touch that each of the three modes are ready at your disposal, the Veritech handles a little on the sluggish side, and that becomes very clear during certain missions. The training mode doesn’t quite get you up to speed as to just how cumbersome it can be to handle this machine. Battliod mode is simple enough, its special weapon is a sniper rifle with chargeable shot. This isn’t the first, nor the last game I review that does this, but in a game that involves absolutely no stealth, why a sniper rifle!? It’s not like there a lot of bluffs, cliffs, or tight corners to hide around and as soon as you shoot one enemy, you alert them to your presence they’ll be on you like bees on honey anyway!! Sniping is the last thing on your mind in these kinds of games, and makes the vulcan rifle Battliod’s only effective weapon. Agility-wise, battliod is the only form that can move in all directions and move backwards.
Guardian mode moves faster and has the most agile missiles, but this form pisses me off the most of the three. You can’t move backwards, strafing speed is slow as all hell, and instead of pressing forward to move, X, the boost for battliod, propels you. I hate this form, but you’ll wind up using it so much just to be able to move faster and for the missiles to take out larger foes, but not being able to reverse is just bullocks!! Jet fighter mode is the only one of the three that seems virtually flawless and the jet handles much better than even the latest Ace Combat game. These were nice attempt to make each Veritech mode feel unique, but it would’ve been much better if the left analog stick wasn’t so heavy-laden. It aims and moves, while the right stick just sits there, useless and ignored. I don’t know how that got screwed up, but right stick is just an alternative for targeting? Okay, thanks, but the bumper buttons have that covered. The stunning lack of weapon variety stuns me a bit, too.
DIFFICULTY 7.5/10: Battlecry is a game with inconsistent difficulty levels, it varies from what kind of mission you are saddled with. (First, I recommend unlocking and completing the various side missions as well as aceing qualifications to get newer Veritech models. The extra boost to attributes and missile stockpiles will come in great assistance in later missions) Destroy all Zentraedi objectives are easy enough, but then the game starts getting cute with protect missions and rendezvous points that are unclear and poorly explained. I had to replay certain stages and die on purpose just to find out where I had to go and how much time needed to get there before Mission Failed popped up on the screen. Again with all of the everywhere on my radar, it makes it a little tricky to get there in time before Chase yells at me worse than the professor from Battletoads!
Escort and protect missions are pretty tough. You’ll exhaust so many missiles and they don’t replenish fast enough to keep swarms of boogies off of the convoy. It took me quite a bit of practice to formulate a strategy on how to consistently succeed at these portions of the game, and to be honest, sometimes i just got lucky. Getting a grasp of the controls and learning to compete with manic pace of the rest of the game takes a bit of effort, bit it’s not impossible, just time-consuming.
ANIME RELATION SCORE 7/10: Battlecry follows a random pilot as he does what I assume is a great deal of grunt work during the TV series and he’s recapping it as it happens, but honestly, I’m still a bit baffled by continuity issues in regard to Robotech, that this score might be irrelevant. In
hindsight, since Jack Archer worked so closely with some of the major characters in the show, it’s pretty funny that he’s never spoken of in any kind of context. One could argue that in the big scheme of things, he was considered small potatoes, but given the hotshot/superior dialogue he shares with Helen Chase, you’d think he played a fairly decent role. All in all, I like hearing the memoirs of an infantry fighter pilot recapping events of the wars from a different perspective. Certainly makes more sense than the Inuyasha fighting game, where you can pit Kagome against Shippo for no good reason other than morbid entertainment!!
IN CLOSING: Control flaws aside, Robotech Battlecry is pretty fun experience and one of the better looking cel-shaded games at the time. There are a great deal of extras to unlock, including brief Q & As with soe of the voice actors who worked on the original(?) Robotech series like Steve Kramer, Melora Harte, and Dan Woren. As far as anime games go, Battlecry falls in the “good” category, but is killed by some avoidable mistakes. OVERALL SCORE 7.5/10
PROS: Great visuals, Top quality voice acting and music, plenty of missions and extras
CONS: Sluggish controls, unclear mission objectives, unimaginative weapon arsenal