Bandai Namco Entertainment (studio)
23 February 2017 (released)
06 March 2017
When it comes to mecha, I’m a big fan. And no game has served my love for mecha better than Super Robot Wars. A Strategy RPG series with multiple mecha franchises, such as Gundam, Mazinger and Getter Robo, in which the plots are put into a blender, and fun times are had by all who dig giant robots., But sadly, for its 25 years of existence, in spite of multiple iterations, and an attempt to attract western fans with a game featuring only original characters a few years back, the mainline franchise has remained exclusive to Japan, and only in Japanese, save for an odd couple of the older games that have been patched with English translations.
That is, until now. For its 25th anniversary, Bandai Namco announced Super Robot Wars V, a game that would not only celebrate the long history of the series, but also be the first mainline title to ever be released in English (albeit in Singapore) as represented by the V standing for ‘Voyage’.
How does it compare to its predecessors, and is it a good introduction for newcomers?
Firstly, the translation quality this time around (compared to the last game, OG Moon Dwellers) is a vast improvement. We’ve gone from barely legible and illiterate to perfectly readable by anyone. This was a much needed improvement on what was the biggest failing of the English release of Moon Dwellers, and hopefully Bandai Namco sticks to this quality level in any future English releases.
A quick breakdown of the gameplay; you move your units across an isometric map in turns and attack the enemy, as is typical of Strategy RPGs, but here you also have to be mindful of each units specialties. The common divider is Real Robots and Super Robots. Super Robots (such as Mazinger Z) are big, strong and well-armoured machines capable of standing strong against anything that gets dished out at them, whereas Real Robots (such as Gundams) are light and fast, able to dodge like crazy and dish out the heavy damage. It’s a tried and true system that the series has relied heavily on for nearly its entire existence, with a few outliers here and there. However, this isn’t a concrete set of rules, and if you so wish, you can force the Supers to be fast, or the Reals to be heavy on health and armour. Indeed, this game seems happy to let you break the game, if that is what you desire. For example, you have 10 levels of upgrades for each stat on a mech, but to fully upgrade a mech is unnecessary for game completion. Hell, the halfway mark can be just fine for most players. There is however a joy in having that freedom to go nuts and send a small contingent (or maybe even just one) of your group to lay waste to all opponents. This can deter some players who are looking for a challenge, however one can easily be created for those who want it; simply by ignoring the upgrade system. It is possible to finish the game without ever spending a penny on upgrades.
The plot as well is standard fare for SRW; nearly all of the plots for each respective anime are thrown into a blender, and out comes this amalgamation of their stories. What is noticeable in this game is just how many series are post-plot (i.e. their plot is part of the backstory, but has already happened) or lack any plot at all, such as Hathaway’s Flash. Thankfully however, even though the game will make several references to things that occurred in these plots, it does it’s best not to leave you behind; anytime a phrase of term comes up that is relevant to the backstory or plot, it can be looked into with the Square button for more details, allowing anyone not familiar with these series to get a better look at what they are all about. The same can also be done for named characters, of which there are many. The star of the show this time around is Space Battleship Yamato 2199, (known in some areas of the world as Star Blazers 2199) as its plot both leads the beginning and end of the game.
Graphically, this game is nothing impressive. However, after a long stint of purely 2D maps with just the heads of mechs as icons, V is a welcome return (for the mainline series) to the long-missing isometric view favoured by fans of the older games. Even if the OG series of games have maintained this view throughout their existence (and evolved to 3D map sprites rather than 2D) this view helps the maps pop to life in a way that top-down entries just can’t match. Even when it’s something as empty as space itself, it still looks a hell of a lot better this way. However, what really matters, and what is really the fanservice of every SRW game, is the attack animations. Now sadly for some fans who played Z3 (the last home console release in Japan) many of the returning units have had their attacks almost copy-pasted over from that game, and some units are still bad to watch as a result. Even some of the new attacks for these units (such as the first combo attack from Daitarn 3 and Zambot 3) look pretty underwhelming. However, where the budget really went is in the new units, and some of them are absolutely gorgeous to behold. Mazinger ZERO and Mazin Emperor G are standouts here, being that they are both fresh units for the series, and both look wonderful. And while some fans are divided on the CGI animations for the Yamato battleship, I personally think it adds a special touch to those attacks, given that the anime it is from used CGI.
The sound quality here is about what you’d expect from a mecha fanservice game, with various sounds seemingly being lifted from their native shows to add that special feel. And then there’s the music, all of which is taken from the anime represented in this game, and then redone by the in-house team (without any vocals) to add the final touch. The music has always been a key point of SRW and this game does have some great choices, although some repeats from Z3 would have been better off replaced, in my personal opinion. Thankfully, in what (to my knowledge) is a first for the PS4, you can save MP3’s to your hard drive, allowing you to play what you want with whatever character and mech you please. You can even pick songs for specific attacks.
Overall, SRW V is about average for the series. It does a good job at picking up the slack of the lacklustre Z3, and for newcomers it has everything needed to give you a good introduction to how things are done, and just how wacky the plot can be. It’s not great, but it is an improvement over the disappointment felt by some over recent entries. And above all else, it shows promise for the series in moving forward with official English translations of the game.
++ New animations are mostly great
++ Great translation with only minor hiccups
+ Game is improvement over previous entries
+- Great music with some poor repeats
- Plot can be a little hard to follow at points
-- Many recycled animations that need improving or replacing
-- Game can be far too easy if you allow it to be