Review by gbarules2999

"Rockin' the brilliant robot!"

Super Robot Taisen is an enjoyable, fulfilling game that wraps right into your brain with deep but fast gameplay. Combining the best aspects of some of the better games on the GBA, the game is complex enough to turn on gamers bent on console and PC beauties, but it's strategic and simplistic enough to interest fans of Advance Wars or Fire Emblem. Add a well written--but wordy--story and an overnight-and-well-into-tomorrow play time, and who needs fancy next-generation?

The game is a turn based strategic combat system: I hit you, you hit me, lets see how it all turned out; more often than none the results come out evenly. With a flash and a bang the combatants unitize mechs to battle--mechs being gigantic battle robots that Japan secretly builds in their backyards--with equipping weapons like swords and guns. Upon this a tasty layer of specific and interesting rules makes the game harder to get at first, but the well designed campaign makes it all move at mach speed. Considering that the game is largely based around scripted events in the thick of battle makes it a thrilling one, and it's a very different game from others in the genre.

Strategy is aged and bottled masterfully in terms of thought and effect: Ranged or melee, extra power or more range, weak Aya before souped-up Ryu, two-hit-death jet or defensive boss...which should you attack with and what and when? Of course the main strategic decisions don't fall far from the tree (the plantlife in this case being Advance Wars) but in Super Robot the whole thing comes together with the RPG segments and much better story to make a much more immersing experience than it's launch title genre-brother.

And it's much faster than it all, as well; a simple few hours of gameplay fly right past as the mechs zip around the battlefield, clawing and ripping each other without mercy. The campaign is very well paced, hands down better than other SRPG games; huge maps take smaller amounts of time to traverse and the combat feels tighter. Being a handheld game, this is a glorification, because fast combat and a quick objective-based plotline is much better suited for the GBA. Besides, there's a one-handed mode to play while you eat, so your life will be non-stop robot power.

Is it derivative from other SRPG games? Oh, sure, but it's also much more fun in certain respects. It takes the RPG elements of Fire Emblem, the map layouts and unit ebb-and-flow from Advance Wars, the customization from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and the linear structure of the campaign from Tactics Ogre. From those four, the game is most like Advance Wars (which I am not a fan of) but if you make the game an RPG and add a few extra menus, I might listen.

I might also listen if you tell me about the story. The future holds many things for Earth: curious meteors, engaged armies, corrupt politicians, hidden organizations, and the holy grail of all anime-mech plot-lines: ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE! Given, when the dialogue is put in a game and called a day without a whole lot of context, it is very confusing to follow, and if you expect a clear-cut Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy sort of yarn you will be disappointed. The dialogue goes much too fast and without much exposition at all, and some gamers might have to replay the first hours to understand the characters better, much less at all.

Once you get past the complexity of the way the game tells its story, you will find a hallmark of all episodic manga/anime/Japanimation stories, this being the excellent pacing and movement. Again, the game succeeds by being nimble, moving the main character quickly down their path to fate, and eventually, the robot-bug-mech things that are trying to kill everybody. Not everyone on Earth is a friend, however, and it is extremely complex; enough to keep any fan of serialized fiction on their toes.

Of course, let's not build this up too far: this isn't Halo--close, but not quite. Some of the talking is a little broken (some characters seem to say *giggle* to the exclusion of any other sound effects, including your half-sick mother) and many of the characters are a little too hard to differentiate from one another. Especially in the beginning--when many new characters are having multiple conversations at once--the whole thing moves by much too fast at a few computer-controlled cursor gestures and a press of a button or two. Fast doesn't always mean swell in the end.

But the rest of the Japan-esque storytelling is all present and accounted for: character development, strong morals and learning, thrilling politics, teamwork and fighting for the better of the mankind species...shoot, it might as well be an episode of Power Rangers. Thankfully it pulls off the mech material quite well and without enough cheesiness to topple in on itself (as it seemed it might), and the entire thing melds very well into the gameplay.

The ESRB rating warrants a mention. Through romantic endeavors to the constant mild swearing, through the references and violence, the game is not for youngsters. The plot is deep and the gameplay is thick, and the material has a few too many swear words to make me want to suggest it for a younger brother. Teen in a perfect rating for the present material and emotional requirements, and 13 and up is a good age restriction. With all that's going on in the story, you might want it anyway.

Besides, the polish from the story and such extends well into the gameplay; the AI will challenge you to a tee--not amazing, but competent--and the menus are well sorted enough to make you interested in what you are doing. If only this polish extended into the presentation, which this game suffers slightly.

The presentation is mediocre at best. Beyond intimidating user interfaces and ugly text sprinkled throughout for good measure, the mechs themselves are simple and boring, and nothing ever really resonates with the GBA's power. It won't exactly make a Titanic out of the game, of course; the game looks comparable to Advance Wars (in yet another comparison) but it does make it a little less appealing. What comes out of your speakers, as well, reminds me of old Godzilla movies, which is what the explosions sound EXACTLY like. The music is a fair written ordeal, but it gets old way too fast with annoying happy-military style repeated too many times.

Except that nobody cares, because the game is LONG! When I mean long, I mean fifty hours per playthrough, two possible campaigns that split in several missions, and a whole lot of customization. Not only that, but the story has a sequel of even more long and excellent gameplay, and the game offers replay because of the tricking-out possibilities; it's fair to say that the game's lack of presentation is well founded. Would there be any missed possibilities, the game neglected to offer a pass-around mode for multiplayer, so the AI is all they have left.

And yet, none of the nitpicks that bothered to rise against Super Robot Taisen really affected my enjoyment of it. It's simply a fun, long, well made game. That's not to say that it's perfect, because there are some features that I would have preferred to see included rather than not. But at the end of the day, when I want to relax, what better than a well made mech battle game? Being the last GBA game worth spending your money on at this point? Heck yes!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/09/07

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