Revival is a word becoming more and more common in the game industry. TV series that have gotten canceled are continually seeing their stories continuing through the art form that is video gaming. Such is the case with Dark Angel, the Fox sci-fi series that got the hook unfairly some months back. It’s getting a game continuation of its storyline. A similar case has been speculated to happen with Farscape, another sci-fi series that suffered the same fate as Dark Angel. There is currently one Farscape game on the market, though many people hope there will be a story-based sequel soon too.
Why are all these games getting game continuations? It’s pretty simple really. Shows like Dark Angel and Farscape create very dedicated fan bases that while small, are so devoted that they will eagerly play through a video game just to see what happens next in their unfairly terminated series. So, in a wise business move, developer Vicious Cycle along with publisher TDK have released Robotech: BattleCry for the Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube to feed fans hungry for new additions to the Robotech universe.
What exactly is Robotech though? For those who don’t know, Robotech takes place in the future, where the human race has landed itself in a universal war involving genetically created beings, alien races, and an evolved hive species fighting with giant machines, bio-mechanical systems and reconfigurable mecha.
Such a large scale war involves a large scale form of story telling, as Robotech is not only told through anime episodes, but also through adult novels, tabletop role-playing games, comic books, and now of course video games. Robotech: Battlecry takes place right near the beginning of the Robotech timeline, as humans are just beginning to discover the various other intelligent species that roam the universe.
Thankfully, developer Vicious Cycle was smart enough to explain the Robotech universe in the game, instead of assuming that you already know about it. Vicious Cycle has done a marvelous job too of creating a gripping Robotech plotline that is sure to suck in any sci-fi fan.
There is more to Robotech: Battlecry though than just a good plotline. The gameplay for example is sure to make anybody happy, and not just Robotech fans.
Given the transforming properties of many of the game’s playable machines, gameplay is split into two types, 3-D aviation fighting (like Ace Combat) or mech fighting (like ZOE.)
The flying parts are well done, as the crazy dogfights involving countless enemies are sure to get the old pulse going, and give quite a charge too any gamer playing the levels. The flying levels are also very well balanced. There will always be enough enemies to fight so that you will feel slightly overwhelmed, and in the midst of chaos, but there will never be so many enemies to fight that you’ll simply feel like there is no chance.
The game also finds a nice balance in navigating your Robotech jets, and aiming the guns that those possess. The way the game does this is by providing an auto aim that helps you follow targets, and giving you tracking missiles so that all your shots won’t have to be absolutely perfect. On the flipside however, you will still have to track your enemies to some extent, so you can’t always rely on your auto-aim functions to save your worthless navigating hide.
Such a gameplay balance ensures that the flight levels are fun, fast-paced dogfights. Anyone whose ever played an arcade flying game like Crimson Skies, will feel right at home with Robotech’s flying levels, and like that game, Robotech’s fighting levels are crazy addictive.
At certain points during the game though, you will have to touch down and transform your jet plane into a giant killer metallic mech. In these levels, you leave the skies for a while and instead touch down in the game’s futuristic cities, and other land based levels. Like the aerial dogfights, the land-based fighting is also quite intense and addictive, and also carries that great gameplay balance that the flying levels posses.
The only flaw that really can be found in the mech levels is that you cannot back up your mech. This becomes quite a problem when you are caught inside a tight city, forcing you to transform into a smaller mech and fly around to back up. Such a process takes quite a bit of time, and really poses problems when you only have so much time to dispose of countless enemies.
Other than that minor discrepancy however, the controls for Robotech: Battlecry are quite solid. Navigating your plane during the flying levels is a snap, as the controls allow for quick, easy movement once you get the hang of them. The same goes for the mech levels, although there is the little backing up issue which has already been discussed. Auto-aim works well, as long as you remember to lock on to someone else once your former target leaves your sight, otherwise your auto-aim will continue tracking some enemy that could be miles away. Transforming your mech is also of little challenge, due to Vicious Cycle’s wise decision to map transforming controls to the D-pad.
Transforming is quite a sight too, being complemented by the game’s awesome cel-shaded graphics. Following games such as Jet Set Radio, Robotech features a graphical style that looks much like comic book art. Such an art style fits well with the Robotech universe, seeing that it blends well Robotech’s anime roots. Vicious Cycle has used this graphics form to its advantage too, using it to make wonderful looking cities, and even better looking graphical effects such as explosions and buildings collapsing. These animations are also incredibly well detailed. Take blowing up a flying enemy for example. Unlike many games that just show an explosion and mark off the enemy as killed, Robotech’s animations actually vary according to how you hit the enemy. If you just barely caught the enemy with a missile, his jet will gradually disintegrate and fall apart as it goes through the air. If you hit the enemy head on however, he will blow up all at once, and leave a spectacular smoke display in place of where an enemy flying vessel once was. All of this detail makes for great eye candy, and only furthers the game’s excellent looking graphics.
Keeping with the game’s high quality levels, Robotech’s audio is also top-notch. Sound effects for things like explosions, buildings collapsing, and laser fire sound spot on. Music is decent, although the remixes of the classis Robotech themes aren’t quite up to snuff with the original beats. The voice acting is superb, no surprise considering Vicious Cycle’s recruiting of the series original voice actors.
All in all, Robotech: Battlecry is a pretty decent game. While its gameplay isn’t the most spectacular thing ever seen in a game, it is quite solid, and provides hours of fun gameplay for fans and non-fans alike. If you’re a Robotech fan, or if you’re just in the mood for some shooter action, you should take a gander at Robotech: Battlecry. It just might be worth your gaming buck.
Developers: Vicious Cycle
Platforms: GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox