Review by applekidjosh
"English SRW means good things for mech fans and strategy RPG fans!"
In Japan, the Super Robot Wars series is a long running multi-platform epic featuring cameos from more robot shows than any one person has any business recognizing. It's huge, but in America we never got to experience it due to various copywright problems (the same reason we'll never get Jump Superstars, etc.) Then Banpresto, the SRW company, threw us a bone. They made a new universe featuring only original characters from their previous games, and only original mechs, and because of that there are no copyright issues! (ban)Presto! We get Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation (and it's sequel, OG2) in America!
So the game in question here was made after dozens of prequels. Because of that, it has a very refined game and combat system compared to the earlier games! If you ever find youself annoyed at this game, take pleasure in the fact that if you were playing an SNES Super Robot Wars game you'd probably have eaten it by now.
Graphics: The first of the requisite "review areas" is actually a bit of a touchy spot in this game. You see, it was released in 2006 in America for the GBA. However, the game was actually released in 2002 in Japan, and because of that it has the graphics of a 2002 GBA game. It's not really very pretty. The graphics aren't going to assault your eyes or anything, and the little scenes that show during a fight are actually pretty good. In fact, if you compare it to its best American competition - the Fire Emblem series - this game actually has the advantage, 4 year old graphics and all.
Gameplay: As a strategy RPG, the main part of the game takes place on the battlefield. You command your units on a grid, move them and attack with them, and try to complete the objectives. Each mission has a regular objective that is usually pretty easy to accomplish, and a more difficult "Battle Mastery" objective that really pushes you and might make you retry a level a few times to get the right strategy. In this game, unlike in Fire Emblem, the "strategy" comes from figuring out how to beat a level in the requisite number of turns, how to beat a boss before letting him retreat, or how to level certain characters high enough to get bonus items. Fire Emblem's "strategy" comes from trying not to let your units die - permadeath - when one hit or wrong move can do it to you. Death in Super Robot Wars usually means paying a repair fee at the end of a level; in the worst case you'll have to start a level over for letting a plot important character die.
As far as the basics of grid based SRPGs, this game doesn't do anything too extraordinary. One of the things that makes it stand out comes between missions at the intermission screen. You can upgrade your mechs, upgrade your items, upgrade your pilots, switch your pilots to different mechs, apply items to mechs, sell the items you don't want in order to let you upgrade more... what it amounts to is a high level of customization. There are some units that are just way better than others, but for the most part you choose the mechs you want to use based on how much you like them. You upgrade them enough to be useable. If you like a weaker mech, or pilot, because of a silly thing like a cool looking attack, it is within your power to use that mech to the endgame.
It should be mentioned that this game continues the difference between "Real Robots" and "Super Robots." If you've ever seen a Gundam series, or if you watched Robotech after school back in the day, you are accustomed to Real Robots. These are mechs that are built by technology and are the invention of normal humans, often the military. They are customizable and use real world weapons - just in a larger scale. If you have watched shows such as Giant Robo or Gao Gai Gar, you're more used to Super Robots. These are robots that operate on more fantastical ideas, everything from a black hole engine to the power of love and hope!.
The aforementioned Battle Masteries have a deeper meaning than simply providing extra content in a level - if you maintain a high enough ratio of obtained BMs to missed BMs you will play the game in Hard Mode. Don't get enough of them, and you play in Easy mode. The game changes its difficulty throughout depending on how well you've been doing, and personally that just reeks of brilliance. Getting almost all of the Battle Masteries also unlocks an extra level after the regular final stage, giving even more incentive to work than for the bragging rights.
Sound: The music in this game is surprisingly good for an aging GBA game. Each character has at least one battle theme (which you can later customize) and there are good themes for different events and organizations. The sound effects aren't anything special, we have our basic explosions and stuff but that's about all. The Trombe! glitch must be mentioned as well. The theme of a certain ass-kicking pilot is Trombe!, and because of a glitch in the programming, it overrides any other currently playing music when it starts. Even bosses. This turned out to be so awesome that Banpresto kept it in future games.
Replay: The game itself has about 40 stages. Add to that choosing between two main characters at the beginning, with each of them having a dozen or so exclusive stages. It would take at least two playthroughs to see each facet of the game (Only one path is canon according to the sequel's storyline, but that doesn't mean the other isn't worth playing.) After beating it both ways, you unlock the NewGame+ option. Now you can replay while carrying over some money, pilot skills, and other trinkets. This addition makes getting some of the difficult Battle Mastery objectives much easier, and for a normal gamer it's the only chance to earn enough of them to see the final secret mission. To put it simply, this game offers a lot for an "outdated GBA game."
Summary: This game deserves so much more credit than it gets. It's no exaggeration to call it the best strategy RPG series on the GBA. The amazing thing is, as much fun as this game can be, it's only a warm up for its sequel. Original Generation 2 is better in every single way. But that doesn't mean it's not worth it to go through the first one once or twice and get a feel for the characters! One of the best parts about Super Robot Wars is that the characters have the depth of a cast from a robot show, because that's what they're based on. Even if we don't have Shinji, Heero and Amuro in here, we still have dozens of characters that really come of their own and stand out. Since the Original Generation games, the OG characters have made appearances back in the "real" Super Robot Wars games, and it is no small feat to be in the presence of Mazinger and Getter Robo and still be a fan favorite over them. Yes, the characters are awesome.
I've never had a significant problem finding this at a store, and I usually check while I'm browsing used games. If you see this, and you're a fan of the genre, you really owe it to yourself to pick it up. Even if you don't (think you) like mechs. This strategy RPG goes beyond simple constraints like that.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/05/08
Game Release: Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation (US, 08/08/06)
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