An Abridged History of the Super Robot Wars Franchise (Part 1)

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While I’ve always wanted to get into these games in a major way, my inability to read moon runes prevented me from enjoying any of them (I tried playing α 3 on my old Playstation 2, but failed). It wasn’t until my recent discovery of the translated Super Robot Wars J that I had FINALLY experienced the fangasmic goodness of the most glorious fanwank in all of anime.

That is, until I played the translated Super Robot Wars α Gaiden which is just so awesome I’m still reeling (I had just completed my first play through a few days before I started writing this). I definitely feel, as a fan of robot anime, that I’ve started breathing some rarefied air. I’ve finally indulged myself in the goodness of these games, whose audacity to mash up SO MUCH STUFF is almost equaled by their ability to manipulate leitmotif of the included shows and stories.

The result is kind of like remembering love, only that the gaming aspect allows the experience to be an immersion, to be participative; and it’s just brilliant. In this post I present the information provided me by my friend and WRL’s new writer Great Boota – who is the biggest robot fan I know, and the mentor of WRL’s co-founder mechafetish. Here we learn the history of SRW.

–ghostlightning

THE GREAT BOOTA

Thanks very much for the flattering introduction, ghostlightning. I’ve been telling people that I’ve been watching mecha anime non-stop since I was born and, despite the fact that it’s an obvious exaggeration, it is still very close to the truth. I’ve been watching mecha anime since before I could remember, beginning with Voltes V.

I was born at the tail-end of 1981, and my family was already watching the show way before that. Thus, it wouldn’t be too hard to believe that my brothers would sit me down with them to watch Voltes V, even before I was a year old. Voltes V is one of my very earliest memories, and it marks the foundation of my anime fandom.

If it wasn’t Voltes V, it was something else. If it was mecha, I would pay attention to it. I watched Daimos, Voltron, Transformers, and Robotech very early in my youth, and, really, have never stopped watching the genre to this day. I have literally been watching at least one mecha anime title every year pretty much since my birth.

Shin Super Robot Taisen Box Front

In 1998, I bought my first Super Robot Wars game. Why? Because, despite the fact that I could not read a single ounce of text on the box, it had Voltes freakin’ V on the box art! I was blown away that something so far into my childhood was still relevant in some form, so I immediately took it home. The game was Shin Super Robot Wars for the Playstation. The game was entirely in Japanese, and I could understand none of it. I also had very limited access to the internet at the time and was still very much a newbie to it, so I did not know what FAQ’s were back then. In short: I played it without knowing what the hell I was doing.

I still loved the hell out of it, though. The sprites were large and beautiful, though they hardly had any animation. My natural love for all things mecha saw me through, but only for the first five or so stages. The fact that I couldn’t understand moon was just too painful, so I backed off. Still, I had become immersed in Super Robot Wars. In late 2000 (or early 2001), I bought my fifth Super Robot Wars game (I had purchased Super Robot Wars 2, 4, F, and F Final, all for the Playstation, in the meantime. I tried playing all of them, but still, not to much avail), Super Robot Wars Alpha, and it was absolutely glorious. The animations were such a huge step up from everything I had previously seen that I had to learn it this time around. Fortunately, I had already discovered Gamefaqs by this time, so, while still very difficult, conquering the game wasn’t impossible any longer. I finished the game by the end of 2001, and was now unable to turn back. I would finish it twice more before moving on to the next game, Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden, then the next, Super Robot Wars Impact. I was now not only watching at least one mecha anime series a year, but also playing at least one Super Robot Wars title a year. Fast forward to today, when I have just finished my second playthrough of Super Robot Wars L for the DS and eagerly await the next one that comes along.

HISTORY IS MADE

Introduction to SUPER ROBOT WARS for the Nintendo Gameboy

In 1991, Japanese video game company Banpresto made fandom history when they crafted the first of what would be many Super Robot Wars games. The concept was, and still is, incredibly novel. Take several well known mecha anime series, place them all into a single environment, and craft an enjoyable turn – based war simulation game around them.

The first of the series, aptly titled “Super Robot Wars” was released on the Nintendo Gameboy on April 20, 1991. The mecha series included are Mazinger Z, Great Mazinger, Getter Robo, Getter Robo G, Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Z Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, and Mobile Suit Gundam F91.

Since Super Robot Wars is a tactical role-playing game, it, of course, has a story, and it was very simple. The evil alien invader, Gilgilgan, a monster from the movie Great Mazinger vs. Getter Robo, has come to the world of Super Robots for sinister purposes. Using an electromagnetic ray of sorts, it turns the Super Robots into its slaves. Fortunately, several of them break their mental chains and wage war on the vile monster, all the while attempting to free their allies.

Aside from it being the first in the series, there are several interesting points to note about this game. The first is one of its entries, Mobile Suit Gundam F91, which was released theatrically in Japan on March 16, 1991, only a month before the game’s actual release! These days, there is what many fans call the “three year rule”, which basically states that the earliest a series can make it into a Super Robot Wars title of any sort is three years after it first begins airing (or published, if it is a manga – only title). Based on technicality alone, the very first game in the series has immediately proven this fan-made internet rule immediately false.

However, it is not without its merits. The “three year rule” is more of a generalization than anything, made so that fans can have a more or less accurate depiction of when a very recent mecha anime series (the more popular ones usually asked in message boards as of this writing include, for example, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, Star Driver, and Mazinkaiser SKL) will make it into the franchise. It is based more on experience of those who have been playing the series for several years and have noticed a trend of sorts, than any actual objective analysis.

Hardcore fans who have taken the trouble to go through such an analysis will discover that, even in recent years, the “three year rule” still proves to be false. It is still, however, used by many to answer the questions of others, usually those who are brand new to the franchise, within message boards and the like, to not get their hopes up when they ask when their new favorite mecha series will show up in crossover video game form.

Sample SUPER ROBOT WARS Gameplay

Still, however, there is still the trend of several years’ gap from when a mecha anime series first debuts and when it appears within a Super Robot Wars title. There is, of course, no official word from the creators (usually represented by one Terada Takanobu, a producer of the series), but, again, the fans have their own set of theories. From licensing debacles to marketing issues, fans have discussed nearly endlessly why their favorite series has or has not made it into the franchise. One scenario is agreed upon the most, however, and it involves story creativity. Unlike the very first in the franchise, Super Robot Wars games these days have extensively crafted universes, where each mecha anime series’ storyline crosses over directly with others. It is this aspect of Super Robot Wars that have held many fans’ attentions for years; to see their favorite series intertwined in what sometimes are brilliantly entertaining storylines, along with some engagingly fun gameplay.

Terada Takenobu Interview

The story creativity fan theory is also backed up by several interviews with Terada wherein, whenever they are creating a higher profile Super Robot Wars title, he usually talks about how the team worked very hard in order to create the story and the environment. It also backs up why Gundam F91 made it into the series much earlier than a series would be expected to these days, as the first Super Robot Wars game did not incorporate any of the included series’ storylines into its own.

The story utilized was entirely original, with all the mecha even having sentience , like how the robots in the “Transformers” series are.

The originality of the storyline extends actually into the next interesting point of the game, which is that, contrary to popular belief, it is the first in the series to have a Banpresto Original mecha. Many believe that the second game in the franchise, Second Super Robot Wars was the very first to have done, but the first Banpresto Original mecha is technically the Mecha Gilgilgan, which is the final boss of the first Super Robot Wars game. After defeating the Gilgilgan, it evolves (or powers up, if you will), into a stronger form, which the player, of course, has to beat in order to finish the game.

The final interesting point of this game is the design of the Gundams. Bandai actually has two separate franchise license types for the Gundam series, the Super Deformed (SD) franchise, which began in 1985 as a Gashapon series, and of course, the non – SD franchise. Because many Super Robot Wars games feature the mecha in a super deformed state, Banpresto, of course, uses the Super Deformed Gundam franchise license. One of the very interesting things about the SD Gundam figures is that the Gundams have funny cartoon eyes. These eyes were utilized in the first Super Robot Wars game, and were retained for many years, until they were removed so that the robots resembled their mainstream counterparts more.

If you would like to experience the wonder that is the first ever Super Robot Wars game, but do not want to endure learning moon runes, then fear not! The fantastic people over at Aeon Genesis have fully translated it for all your mecha needs.

This ends the first part of this history series of the Super Robot Wars Games. The next part will be posted within a month. Watch out for it!

About Great Boota

The awesomeness of all Super Robot Wars contained in a single, drill-powered pig-mole.
This entry was posted in Super Robot Wars and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to An Abridged History of the Super Robot Wars Franchise (Part 1)

  1. JoeQ says:

    Wasn’t Alpha Gaiden the one in which Alberto from Giant Robo fights Angels from NGE on foot? That scene alone justifies the whole series’ excistence. Also thanks for the link, interesting to se where it all started.

    Personally, I’m more interest Original Generation-branch of SRW-madness (heretic!). Very tempted to get Z2 though, that one features a buttload of my favorites. Too bad we propably won’t seeing any more of OGs officially released, apparently Namco-Bandai doesn’t want to play ball (not that you can really expect such niche titles to be big sellers). You should check OG 1 and 2 if you can still find them ghostlightning, they’re well worth it.

    • Great Boota says:

      It was actually Alpha (the first one), where that scene happens, but, yeah, you’re right in that it’s a particularly epic moment in the franchise’s history.

      Being primarily interested in OG isn’t too bad. OG is actually a blessing to some English-only speakers because it was their first experience of the franchise. Not being bogged down in any licensing issues, the OG series is the only branch of the franchise that is currently officially translated.

      • karry says:

        “the OG series is the only branch of the franchise that is currently officially translated.”

        1. Thats a blanket false statement, since OGS, OGG, and EFX were not, in fact, translated.
        2. Not only werent OG games games “a blessing”, but on GBA they are actually the absolute best SRW games. Reasons for that include emotion-dependent portraits, skill point system, and unprecendented (for GBA) sound quality. SRWJ doesnt come close.

        • Great Boota says:

          1. Okay, you’re right that I should have been more clear in that, but I did not post that literally all of the OG titles had, in fact, been translated to this day.
          2. I personally disagree with that, but to each his own.

          • karry says:

            Well, you could argue that “normal” SRWs have the inherent bonus of having recognisable mechas from actual TV series, thats a given. But in terms of gameplay and pure technical achievements “normal” SRW games have nothing on OG. Its quite obvious, that OG games were handled by a different, more competent team, than the “main” line.

      • JoeQ says:

        Yeah, that’s how it was for me. At first I was wary of all these characters and robots just being thinly veiled copies of popular franchises, but they ended up being endearing in their own right and their stories genuinely engrossing. Like Gurren Lagann, the OG games remember love with a knowing wink but still manage to be legimately great and stand on their own.

        I’ve since played SWR K and am more or less familiar with the rest thanks to youtube and summaries. Good stuff, but to be honest I’m only really interested in them for the fanservice, not the gameplay and story like with OG.

  2. WhatSht says:

    only SRW game i had was Super Robot War Alpha Portable on my PSP, with my understanding of chinese, i managed to get the hang of the game, and i stopped playing it after the devil gundam trashed my entire party for the third time, with domon kasshu dying last(if he dies, we lose)

    • Great Boota says:

      Yeah, that game’s particularly hard, and a lot of hardcore fans actually hate it, LOL. I personally really loved it, but can’t deny that it does give you a load of headaches.

  3. Matt Wells says:

    Alright, after youtubing videos of these awesome games for a year, my resolve has snapped. I’m going to get SRW Z2, and I will play it to oblivion. I only have to contend with the minor disadvantages of reading no Japanese and the lack of a PSP, but at least one of those problems is easily solved!

    • Great Boota says:

      Hi, Matt,

      If you really love the series involved with Z2(.1, I might add), then I highly recommend you get it!

      Don’t worry about the no-Japanese part (assuming that’s the one you were referring to not being easily solved, hehe). I’ll be publishing a “Super Robot Wars Z 2.1 For Dummies” article in the next few days, which will be aimed at folks wanting to pick up that particular title but have very little to no experience with the franchise, including reading moon runes, etc.

      My First Impressions article of the game (I can’t call it an actual review because I haven’t finished the game yet, LOL) will also be published here in less than a day of this comment, so that might also answer some initial questions you may currently have.

      • Matt Wells says:

        No, I definitely meant getting a PSP. I remain sadly unable to read these mystrious “Moon Runes” you refer to :)

        As for this Dummies Guide, THANK YOU! I’ve wanted to get into this series for a while, but the language barrier always frightened me off. I’m certainly not helped by my own aptitude for sucking at strategy games, but a basics guide to naviagting the menus and the game mechanics would help enormously.

        The only games I’ve ever imported were two fighting games for the DS, and the language barrier there was neglible with walkthrough guides to the missions. SRW thankfully has a large FAQ following, but an explanation of how to actually PLAY the series would prove invaluable.

        Regarding Z2, it just took a look at the cast list to make it a must buy. BOTH Dancougars, Getter Robo Armageddon, VOTOMS, Big O, Godmars, SHIN MAZINGER, Gurren Lagann, Xabungle, Dai Guard, the list goes on…Depending on how my first SRW turns out, would you reccomend Advance Portable? I’ve heard war stories of the punishing diffilculty, but I’d be willing to suffer it for G Gundam alone.

        Thanks again for the feedback and the excellent article!

        • JoeQ says:

          I’ll recommend tracking down OG 1&2 (GBA) while you still can. No licensed series of course, but as said, theyr’ really good games and a great to get started on SRW.

          • Matt Wells says:

            I would, believe me, they were the first thing I looked up when I found out about the series…only to discover they are incredibly rare to find, and expensive at that. And while we’re at it, how come we didn’t get no OG PS2 games in the west, Namco Bandai?!

            I know there are emulated versions of them out there, but I don’t know how to play emulated games full stop. When I finally work up the balls to get an emulator engine running on my laptop, I’ll download them, along with SWR J and Alpha Gaiden.

        • Great Boota says:

          I personally really like Advance Portable, but wouldn’t recommend it as your first outing in the series. It might turn you sour on the whole franchise because all those tales of the annoying difficulty level are, indeed, real LOL.

          Definitely try out Z2 first, It has a scaling difficulty level (the game becomes harder the better you do, and vice versa) and is a perfect starting point to the franchise, especially with all those awesome series in.

          After you get a few playthroughs of Z2, THEN you can jump on board Advance Portable. G Gundam is very well represented there: lots of mechs from the series are available, and God and Master Gundam are two of the strongest in the entire game.

          • Great Boota says:

            Also, thanks very much for the compliment about my article, I highly appreciate that.

            I also recommend JoeQ’s suggestion regarding the OG games. They’re fully translated and will give you the basic principles of how the overall gameplay works. If you can’t find them, then get at least one of them on an emulator to “train” on. You don’t need to finish them if you don’t like emulators that much; just get your feet wet enough to get you comfortable for Z2.

            That said, there are two other options if you wish to go “train” on emulators for the time being: Super Robot Wars J for the GBA and Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden for the PS1 are both fully fan translated.

            As far as OGS for PS2 not being translated, it’s primarily theorized to be because of cost, especially in the voice actor area. There were no voices in the GBA versions, but there’s a ton of it in the PS2 one, which would make the English conversion very expensive. That, and combined with the fact that the GBA games weren’t exactly break out hits in the US, pretty much prevented OGS from being ported over internationally.

            That doesn’t mean that there’s no hope left for future entries to the OG franchise being officially translated, though. Like I mention before, there are no licensing issues to jump through, and now that the Super Robot Produce Team is fully integrated into Namco-Bandai, they may want to try again.

          • JoeQ says:

            I’m not as optimistic as you. Remember that this Namco-Bandai we’re talking about, they don’t exactly have a good record when it comes to stuff like this (Tales series being a prime example, still for those DS installments…). We’re still missing two DS OG Saga’s, even though those would be much less risky aspects. Atlus hasn’t said anything official, but they’ve often indirectly implied that the main reason we haven’t more OG is that N-B doesn’t want to play ball.

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  5. Great Boota says:

    Oh, I’m not as optimistic about this issue as you might think LOL. You raise some good points about Namco-Bandai and I do recognize all of them, but I just wanted to post that it wasn’t an impossibility. Not a huge chance? Yup, but certainly not impossible.

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