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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!