The latest title in the established Super Robot Wars franchise is finally here! I’ve played dozens of games in the series and I can honestly say that I like all of them, at least to some degree. I’ve had my hands on this one for a few days now, so what exactly do I think of it? Is it a shining star or an ugly blotch in the king of crossovers in the mecha anime genre?
The animations in this game look absolutely gorgeous! The Youtube vids, magazine scans and screenshots you’ve seen plastered all over the net simply do not do the game justice. The game designers truly made this game fit perfectly fit perfectly on the PSP, as the 2D animations pop out with vibrant energy.
I’ve had access to some of my long-awaited favorites for a while now, including Mazinger Z (from Shin Mazinger), Getter Robo (from Shin Change!), Gurren Lagann, and many others, but my current favorite animation right now is Getter-2’s Drill Arm. Though the attack itself isn’t nearly as intricate as some of the final attacks made available early on, such as Gurren Lagann’s Full Drill Rise and Mazinger Z’s Photon Energy Beam, I simply adore the amount of care and details that went into this particular attack.
In it, Getter-2 darts around left and right, zigzagging and confusing the enemy with its great speed, before it fires its jets and launches its giant drill straight through the enemy unit. The opposing Ganmen pilots’ constant statement that they hate drills is immediately validated.
Unfortunately, though, the animations in the game seem to lack a particular adornment that I really wanted back. I would have liked the animation speed up feature that was present way back in Super Robot Wars Alpha 3, though the game at least has an animation segment skip in its place. This new feature is different from the animation cancel one, which is now a staple in all of the recent titles in the franchise. Instead of cancelling all of the animations outright and returning to the map, the game skips portions of the entire battle sequence. For example, if, during the enemy phase, a Leo uses its typical machine gun attack, you can skip it entirely, so you can go straight to beholding Gundam Exia’s Seven Swords Attack. I would have personally liked to have utilized both the speed up and segment skip features simultaneously, but, oh, well, maybe in the sequel.
I use Etymotic earphones most of the time when playing Z2.1, and the sound is just amazing. It’s crystal clear, sharp, and all the remixes of classic themes I’ve heard so far sound fantastic. No complaints here.
I also currently love all the in-game remixes of classic mecha anime themes I’ve heard so far. Daybreak’s Bell, Just Communication, Kanjite Knight, Sora Iro Days, Triangular, and so on all sound lovely to me, and make me yearn to relive the series they originated from.
The game decides to punch me in the face sometimes whenever I’m enjoying one of these classics, though. Whenever I play around with the BGM selections in the System menu (which I do a lot, since I like to constantly mix and match the music in the game based on my personal tastes at that particular time), the game resets the music to the default map one whenever I exit the menu, completely erasing the melody that was filling my ears; highly annoying, to say the least.
The overall gameplay of SRW Z2.1 is pretty much the same as the ones used by the more modern titles, and even goes back to basics by ditching any sort of squad system altogether, returning to the classic single unit playstyle. So, if you’ve played several of the titles in the franchise from around the past decade, picking up this one won’t be so difficult.
It’s really the minute particularities that get to me. I was incredibly spoiled by the SRW title I played before this one, L, which was for the NDS. It allowed the player to save at literally any point of the game, whether it be during the player’s battle phase, the enemy’s phase, or even during the intermission dialogue sequences. The feature being absent here isn’t that big of a deal, I suppose, but I found it incredibly convenient and so would have liked it to be retained.
That’s really my only complaint as far as gameplay, goes, though, since the game has several features that make you fall in love with the franchise all over again. One example is being able to view all the spells of the characters in multi-piloted robots simultaneously. Coupled with the now-staple feature of being able to select several of the spells at once, this adds a whole new layer of convenience to the game.
But what I really love the most is the new intermission feature called “Sub Orders”, which allows characters that were not deployed in the previous mission to gain Pilot Points, Kills, Experience, or Money. This is incredibly useful since pretty much all the characters can catch up and become with everyone else in one way or another. If one benched character has a high level, then have him earn you some money. If you sorely want to get a particular skill for someone else on the bench, then have him get some Pilot Points. It’s an amazing feature that takes full advantage of the wide range of characters that each SRW title has.
Finally, the game also has a very diverse scenario chart, which ensures at least 3 full playthroughs if the player wants to see all the unique stages. There are 50 total stages in each playthrough, and 83 unique stages. I really like this sort of setup since it makes the game even longer than at first glance, and truly makes the player appreciate the presence of a New Game Plus.
No, I’m not fluent in Japanese, but I do understand enough to get by from time to time and tell what the story is when I care enough to read. There’s a lot to like here in just the first 12 stages alone. I’ve so far explored some of the Shin Mazinger, Dai-Guard, Dancougar Nova, Gundam 00, Shin Change, and Gurren Lagann scenarios and found myself extremely pleased at what I’ve seen so far.
One of my favorite things in the SRW series is how they cross-over specific moments in the mecha anime series I love. For example, here, we see the famous “Sono na wo! Sono na wo! Sono na wo!” moment in Shin Mazinger, but joined in by a miscellany of characters. Celestial Being using Dragon’s Hive as their earth-based headquarters is also very neat, as well as Kamina and Ryouma having a sort of heated rivalry that leads to true friendship. Truly awesome stuff which I’m hoping to see much more of as I progress through the game.
KING OF THE HILL
Before picking this game up, I was playing Star Ocean: The Last Hope on my PS3, and my third playthrough of Super Robot Wars L for the NDS. Interestingly enough, whenever the release date got closer and closer, I was almost cursing myself every time I played either of those titles, and wishing I was playing Z2.1 instead.
Now, don’t get me wrong, though. I sincerely love Star Ocean and SRWL. It’s just that all the hype leading up to SRWZ2.1’s release had gotten so far into my gut, it was straining to be released in a barrage of gaming goodness. I’m all good now, though, I promise, and Z2.1 has my full attention.
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
Uh, uh, no way. I’m still in stage 12 as I write this, so there’s way more to see in this game. 83 unique stages, epic crossover moments, upgrades that will bring eyeball-exploding action, and the most hot-blooded yelling this side of a Bat-shit Ryouma and Kamina team-up still await. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to wrap this up, power up my PSP and once again immerse my brain in the world of Super Robot Wars Z 2: Break the World!