Hello, this is ChrisX.
If you have noticed some of my posts… yeah, right now I’m REALLY big on the Super Robot Wars series. For those who doesn’t know, Super Robot Wars is a franchise by Banpresto (now merged into Bandai Namco) that is a crossover between tons and tons of mecha anime. It’s pretty much an anime geek’s dream come true.
Since it’s come to that and the Super Robot Wars games are recently being officially translated to English, let me use this time to talk about Super Robot Wars in general to brief you guys what the series was like.
What is Super Robot Wars?
As stated above, it’s a crossover between A LOT of anime. It all started with humble beginnings, a GameBoy game at 1991 by Banpresto that featured titles like Mazinger Z, Getter Robo and Gundam. And like many Banpresto licensed games before, it’s almost like the Super Deformed series: The machines are sentient and they were just united against an original common enemy. Plot wasn’t something that you could try to bother with there.
When the game eventually gets a sequel in the Famicom system, Banpresto created the archetypical new way to tell a story. Rather than sentient machines, the plot was more like an amalgamation between various series, united against a new foe that brought up many of the existing villains together. In other words, imagine a Japanese robot version of Avengers or Justice League. Throw in one or two original characters that has links with the new enemy and the preparation was complete, all that’s left was to put the plots in a blender together to create a symphony of new stories and possibilities.
Oh, and can’t forget adding new franchises together. Yeah, you think it was just Mazinger, Getter and Gundam that got all the fun? Gotta share. And so, the roster gets crazier and crazier, with additions of the likes of Macross, Voltes V, and later on big names like Code Geass, Gurren Lagann.
It’s a crossover not for classic titles only, but modern titles are also allowed to join in the fun.
Oh and the plot quality? Well, if you think that this is just a lazy mish-mash of plots… well, sort of. In the earlier days, maybe that was what Super Robot Wars was like. But after a few years, they pretty much made it their mission to make a coherent story that merges multiple plots and treating the cast fairly.
So if you understand Japanese (which is not an absolute requirement to enjoy these games, as you can see below), you may end up appreciating some ‘improvements’ that Super Robot Wars did to some of your shows that you deem problematic. And even on the shows you like, you will enjoy to see how your show walk on a new possibility when the neighboring show also has a part in building up your plot. If you see a villain somehow getting away scots free in the original show… well chances are, you get to be the relentless hammer of karma that gives that villain an undue retribution for their crimes. Happy times for justice!
It’s THAT kind of crossover, not some mindless brawling excuse plot crossover.
Gameplay and Presentation
So after you get all that, how do you think this is presented for gamers?
Well, it’s a turn-based strategy game, similar to Fire Emblem. Gameplay-wise, admittedly Super Robot Wars wasn’t really that hard or punishing compared to other strategy games. You defeat enemies, fulfill objectives (though mostly ‘kill this unit’ or ‘kill all enemies’, but sometimes ‘hold the line’ missions pop up. Oh and also, protect your battleship.), gather money to upgrade your mechas and pilots. With enough money and participation, your squad of mecha will become hyper powerful and overpowered… well you’re going to need it because eventually you will face an overly overpowered final boss that only by combining your squad that you stand a chance. But aside of that, if you didn’t perform as well, all you get is a reduction of cash at most. Banpresto has added extra perks of challenge and difficulty, but it’s not as severe as ‘You lose this unit permanently if it dies’.
In other words, it’s an easy to pick up game and sometimes offer a good enough challenge.
What shines the most in this game is the animation. Whenever your unit attacks, you’re treated with a series of animation that stays faithful to the anime show featured, with a bit of upgrades touched in. These animation tend to be very epic and can make you feel like watching an anime movie or show by yourself.
And that’s why I tell you that you don’t need to know Japanese to enjoy the game overall. As long as you know turn-based strategy games and you enjoy those, you can already enjoy the game PLUS the nice animations. Of course, if you got bored with animations, don’t worry. After a few games, the franchise allows you to skip those altogether.
I’d try to talk more about this, but that’d be getting in-depth, and we’ll get to that later. But bottom line, it’s quite easy to navigate through and finish the game by getting through the system.
At first, I was REALLY averse to Super Robot Wars games in general. That is, until I came across the game known as Super Robot Wars Original Generation.
Remember when I said Super Robot Wars made a lot of original characters in each installments? Well, eventually their bank of original characters started getting bloated that they think they could market a game consisting no licensed shows, just original characters. And they could translate it to English no problem.
It was a cult hit, but I liked how the story moves as well as the easy to pick up and rewarding gameplay and of course, the kickass animation, even for GBA. And if it also helps, I LOVE the cast of characters, which showcases various colors of personality and quirks, while remaining lovable and developed.
And then out of curiosity, I decided to try out licensed Super Robot Wars games that contained some of my favorite Original Generation characters. Sure, it’s Japanese only and there was only a few series I know of (notably Gundam Wing). But thanks to playing these licensed Super Robot Wars games, it opened me to the characters within the Mazinger series, other Gundam series, Getter series and other featured series. I liked them and ended up scouring for episodes of the shows there, becoming a fan of those anime.
So… what’s the lesson learned here? Super Robot Wars is a goddamn gateway to watching robot anime! If you didn’t like robots, after you played through Super Robot Wars and provided you enjoy the game, you WILL like robots!
Also, personal thoughts, but because of my experience there, this is also why I wouldn’t underestimate the Original Generation games, unlike many who held the belief that you’re in SRW only for its licensed shows (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It may very well become your very gateway to the Super Robot Wars series in general. Had I not grow attached to the OG cast, I might not even try out the licensed Super Robot Wars at all.
Or try to learn the Japanese language, at first just to understand these games, but by the time they announced the translations, I’ve gone too far and fascinated on the language to stop learning… (It’s a very slow process, however)
Or being able to understand Japanese words so I do not have to completely rely on subtitles when watching Japanese shows. Plus there’s the beauty of comparing between translations…
Or… appreciate Japanese foods!
You get the idea!
Super Robot Wars also had its ups and downs, but it is a franchise that has been running for about 28 years and still going on great. Crossovers containing burning spirit with mostly good storyline are always a real treat. With them opening the gateway to the International fanbase, I know that their fanbase will expand. And I cannot wait to see what the future will bring to this crossover mecha anime.
And on a personal level, it’s also a game-changing franchise of my life. Without Super Robot Wars, maybe I wouldn’t be that heavily interested in Japanese series and language, and learning about it more than ‘trying to sound too cool like anime’ (That’ll get me ridicules, or be called as you coin it, ‘Weeaboo’).
If there’s a contender to be one of my favorite franchises ever… this is one of them. I am ChrisX and…
You know what? Perhaps I should dedicate some of my next posts for this franchise. What do you say it… “Super Robot Wars Season”? Yeah, sounds reasonable…