Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Super Robot Wars Series -- It's finally in English, but what is it?


A few days ago something happened many people never expected to see -- Super Robot Wars has officially released in English! Now, why is this a big deal? Well that's simple. It's because it is a game that basically cannot be released in the West (but now there's ways around it)! So, why is it can't be released in the west, and what exactly IS this game? Well, let me explain.

The Super Robot Wars series is a Banpresto game that has been going on for many years now, with so many games that it would be impossible to list them all here (well, not impossible, but it would take too much time). It's a tactical role playing series, similar to other well known games like Fire Emblem, where you build a team of different characters, but rather than playing as units on foot, everyone is in some sort of giant robot. These robots and characters are taken from a wide verity of anime, manga, and game series, and the game gives you multiple ways to customize them as you battle your way across the story. You can buy and equip different equipment, you can upgrade and unlock different weapons and abilities, you can upgrade the different stats of each unit, and you can even unlock skills and level up the unit's pilots as well -- which can also be in different mechs unlock as the story goes on as well. There's a lot of dept to this system, and some games in the series take it even further by allowing you to group up units and have sub pilots, and there's also support attacks.

As for the main gameplay itself, maps are grid based with you moving each unit during your turn, and you are given different options on what each unit can do during their turn. Example, in the brand new SRWV characters can use spirit actions to buff themselves or activate other special moves, but when close to an enemy you also have the ability to attack them using a wide verity of weapons. Mechs typically have a wide verity of both ranged and melee attacks, and each one is effective against different types of enemies (some weapons have an ammo limit as well). The size of enemies you are fighting matters as well, and depending on what weapons the enemies are using it will determine if they can counter attack you or not. Example, you could use melee attacks on a giant long ranged cannon enemy, but that enemy would not be able to fire at you with such close range. This same concept applies for you as well, so when are are being attacked you are given even more options on how to respond. Rather than just using attacks, you can use a defensive state to try to block some damage, or you can ready yourself to evade. It's also possible to pull in other units as support if they are close by and have the abilities unlocked, which can sometimes be key to surviving.  On top of all of this, battleship units can fight and support your main units as well, and you can even recall units for repairs. Once you have finished your turn, the enemy will take theirs (which is where the counter attack and defensive options come into play), and then the game will switch back to you again. This is pretty typical of tactical games, but what isn't typical is how the mission structure plays out.


Rather than simply having a main goal in each map, the game also throws an optional objective at you. Completing these extra objectives will unlock "SR Points" that will reward you with extra money for earning them, but at the same time the game will get harder or easier based on how many SR Points you have. Get a lot of SR Points? Game is going to get harder for you. Start failing the optional objectives after? Game will go back to normal mode. It's a way the game tries to scale based on your skill, but it can be stopped by simply ignoring SR Points once in awhile. There's also split paths throughout the adventure, and multiple secrets to find and unlock. Thankfully the games have a New Game + mode where you can keep on playing to see what you missed.

Now hold on, does this seem familiar to anyone else? Well, if you're a Nintendo fan it should. Although Super Robot Wars has never been released in the West due to all the licensing issues (as it contains series like Gundam, Full Metal Panic, Macross, Evangelion, Code Geass, Zoids, and many, MANY, others -- depending on the game), "versions" of it have made it here. Starting on the GBA, Super Robot Taisen OG (Original Generation) has been released here. OG1 and 2 were both released on the GBA, and they follow their own stories with original characters and mechs that were both created for the OG games and have appeared in mainline SRW games. In other words, some characters and mech designs may appear to be similar to that of other series, but they are characters all their own thus there are no legal issues. Of course despite us getting 1 and 2, the following games were never released in the West -- nor were the remakes of 1 and 2. Instead what was released here after was quite a bit different.

Endless Frontier is a more traditional turn based RPG set within the SRWOG storyline, but it's history and legacy are both a lot more complicated than that. While it is a SRWOG game (set within another universe), the game itself is a sort of sequel to another Banpresto title called "Namco X Capcom." Yes, that's right, the Namco and Capcom crossover tactical RPG that we never got. This game was in a similar style to SRW when it came to it's tactical gameplay and crossover based storyline, but rather than picking attacks and watching the attacks play out in a cutscene, it introduced a new action like system where you press different buttons to use combo attacks. Each attack was set to a different button, and the goal was to dish out as much damage as possible during each turn. This is the very same battle system that was adapted for the Endless Frontier system, and it's one that 3DS fans may know as well (which I'll explain shortly). Besides using a version of the battle system from Namco X Capcom, the lead characters Reiji and Xiaomu also appear in the Endless Frontier story along with some other characters and crossover characters. Basically, Endless Frontier is a side story to the SRWOG story, that takes place after Namco X Capcom, and is important to the overall SRW story -- as well as to Project X Zone.


As mentioned above, the combat system from Namco X Capcom and Endless Frontier may sound familiar to 3DS players. Well, that's because it's a version of the one seen in the 3DS series "Project X Zone." Although Endless Frontier did receive a sequel that was exclusive to Japan, the 4th title in this line of games (or technically second mainline title) was released in the west, and so was the 5th. Project X Zone takes place after Endless Frontier 2, and once again plays a lot like a mainline SRW game. It's a tactical role playing game, it has it's own original characters, Reiji and Xiaomu are back, two of the main characters from Endless Frontier are here, and like NxC before it, it features a wide verity of characters from different series. Again, it's the same style of crossover game as SRW's mainline, but with characters from Namco, Capcom, and SEGA instead (and Nintendo in Project X Zone 2).  Still with me? Hopefully, that's a yes.

Although a few of the Original Generation games made it overseas, and Project X Zone happened, the main Super Robot Wars series was still too much of a legal mess to ever be brought over. Some games were automatically not allowed here due to the inclusion of the Macross series (which is one of the biggest legal messes you'll ever come across when it comes to entertainment), while others would have still been difficult due to the amount of crossovers in them. While series like Gundam and Cross Ange (which is in SRWV) wouldn't be an issue (considering Banpresto is a part of Namco which is a part of Bandai which owns Sunrise as well), series like Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and Getter Robo wouldn't be as easy. Considering this series isn't one that is well known in the west and is more for a niche audience, it may not even be worth paying for the licenses at all. Really there's a lot of reasons why this series hasn't been released here, and it may never be... But wait, then what was all of this about? Are you saying this game still hasn't been released in the west? Well, yeah. Yeah I am.

Super Robot Wars V is the latest entry in the mainline series, and it has not been released in the west -- instead it was released in Asia! Rather than dealing with all the legal issues, the game was fully translated into English, and released in Asia instead. The game still features a Japanese dub, but all menus and text are fully in English, and the cutscenes are subtitled as well -- the same as how things were handled in Project X Zone 1 and 2. Of course the down side to this is some funky grammar errors may pop up from time to time, but in general the translation is done very well (and A LOT better than SRWOG Moon Dwellers which was also released in Asia with English last year). Also since the game is on PS4 anyone who is willing to import it can play it, but you would need a second PSN account if you want to purchase the optional DLC.

So, now the question is... Is this a series you should get into? The answer to that is, it really depends on  you. First of all, unless you know Japanese you cannot experience the entire thing. Super Robot Wars V is the start of a brand new series within the mainline titles (so English speakers do not need to worry about the past), but if you want to see all of stories you have no choice but to play the vast majority of them in Japanese (I say vast majority as there are fan translation projects out there). Secondly, it's going to depend on what types of games you like, and if you know the characters or not. If you like TBS games, then this series may be worth it to you either way. They are a lot of fun with a lot of depth, but they are even more fun if you know the characters and stories that are being told -- and that's the main deciding factor. These games are pure fan service, and that alone will be the deciding factor for many. So, ask yourself. Do you like any of the series represented in these games? Then go for it if you do.

Ok, that's a lot to take in -- I know, but what about the games we do have access to here (officially)? Well, although I mentioned them all above, I figured I'd include a short list here at the end for those of you who are interested in this series and would like to try the games out in some form. So, here they are:

Super Robot Taisen OG - GBA Tactical RPG, and first game in the SRWOG series.

Super Robot Taisen OG2 - GBA Tactical RPG, and second game in the SRWOG series.

Super Robot Taisen Endless Frontier - DS RPG, with the combat system from Namco X Capcom and Project X Zone, and is a story set in another world within the SRWOG series. It's also the "sequel" to NxC.

Project X Zone - 3DS Tactical RPG featuring characters from Namco, Capcom, and SEGA games. It's the follow up to Namco X Capcom and the Endless Frontier series.

Project X Zone 2 - 3DS Tactical RPG featuring characters from Namco, Capcom, SEGA, and Nintendo. Sequel to PxZ1.

Super Robot Wars OG Moon Dwellers - PS4 Tactical RPG. Released in Asia in English, and is the latest in the OG series. It features characters from Endless Frontier as well.

Super Robot Wars V - PS4 Tactical RPG. Released in Asia in English, this is the first SRW mainline game to be officially released in English, and the reason I typed this to begin with.


Well, that about covers it! For anyone who has been waiting to play a SRW game for awhile, now is your chance! And for those of you who have never played the series or any related titles (like PxZ), then you have a good starting point as well.

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