Reviewed: October 25, 2002
Reviewed by: Mat Houghton
Released: September 23, 2002
I havenít seen Robotech as an animated series, so the most I know about it is that itís where the creators of Battletech got their original designs, so if you see anything in the game that looks, well disgustingly familiar, thatís why. The designs are about the only thing the two series have in common though.
Can you dodge a salvo of twenty missiles? Can you evade three? Can you shoot them all down? Well, youíd better learn fast because these are skills that you will need to survive Robotech: Battlecry, because the Zentradi arenít going to take it easy on you.
For those of you unfamiliar with Robotech, Iíll provide a (excuse the pun) crash course. An alien ship plummets to earth right smack in the middle of a world war. This of course brings the war to an abrupt end, as everyone realizes that thereís something bigger to be worried about. World makes peace, studies ship, reverse engineers the technology, and builds the Veritech fighter. Long story short, the owners show up to take the ship back with five million, yes thatís FIVE MILLION, warships. No I didnít say fighters, five million capital ships, and all chock full of pissed off forty-foot aliens. Pointlessly long odds? Yes. Do you have to fight them all? Well, I havenít made an exact count but the way that the odds are stacked against you on every mission itís pretty close. Target rich environment takes on a whole new meaning in this game. Wedge Antillies would be hard pressed to shoot all these guys down.
I digress, and in so doing skip one of the draws of the game. Did I mention that the Veritech fighter can transform into three different modes? Itís a plane, itís a robot, and itís half of each. There are of course advantages to each mode and appropriate times to use them. Itís also very well done, but more on that later.
This game separates those of you with truly callused thumbs from the armchair amateurs out there. You have three separate but very similar control styles to acclimate yourself to, and switch between the three fluidly. The most awkward of the three modes is Guardian, or as I call it, half and half mode (because youíve got your sugar, your half and half, and your black coffee). Despite the counter-intuitive controls of the Guardian mode, controlling your mech is still simple to get the hang of thanks to the tutorials that are more than adequate for the job.
Make no mistake though; I said the controls are easy - the game is not. At best you are at odds of thirty-to-one on every stage, and you have no wingmen for the most part. There are no health power-ups, so itís one life bar for you and your enemies will hurt you...a lot...more than once.
This isnít the only difficulty youíll face though, because the estimable game designers (die! Die! DIE! DIE! DIE!!!) decided that about half of the missions should be those that are the bane of gamers everywhere: the "protect mission". Most often you have to guard a base, or a scout ship, or hostages, or something. "Make sure this isnít destroyed Wolf 10. Escort the hostages out of the city Wolf 10. Rescue the downed pilot Wolf 10." They need to hire about a hundred more pilots and then you may have an effective fighting force.
Despite all this though, the game is like putting a carrot on a stick in front of a donkey. It gives you just enough hope that you can get through the mission that youíll keep beating your head to a pulp against them. Keep going, almost there, almost there and little do you know Darth Vader is sneaking up behind you with his two wingmen.
Battlecry does it effectively though, youíre frustrated yes, but not so youíll put down the controller in disgust. The controls are such that you know that you can do it (I especially like the auto and multiple lock-on with your missiles) so you do just keep trying until you succeed.
Cel shading may become too ubiquitous for itís own good. By the time we finally see titles that should be using it, such as this one and future titles such as Auto Modellista, weíre jaded by the technique. Mini-rant aside, this game was made to be cel shaded. Not only is it like playing the animated series, but also itís probably the only way the programmers can have as many objects per level as they do and not slow the frame rate down to a crawl.
It wasnít merely for necessity though; this was the best way you could transfer the Robotech mythos onto a console, or any anime series for that matter. The whole game looks like a cartoon (I wonder if they meant toÖ. nah), with vibrant colors and a nice flat rendered look. Some of the buildings look a little like cardboard cutouts in some places, but they fit the overall image, so thereís some excuse for style over substance in this case.
What are really nice in the game are the effects, with smoke being high on that list. The contrails on missiles and smoke coming off of damaged fighters are excellent, as is the animation for buildings coming down floor on top of floor and smoke and dust from the whole lot. Explosions, lasers, and the occasional lens flare top off the whole lot.
The final aspects of the graphics that really make an impact are the level designs. You fight anywhere from in the midst of a city to near earth orbit to a canyoned wasteland and a production facility. All of these levels are beautifully rendered and usually quite unique (though again the buildings are a little too cartoony sometimes), from the battle around a downed capital ship in the middle of a city to the dog fighting in space through a debris field.
The only really disappointing thing is that the between mission movies are all still animation. I like how it works to tell the story, but itís just not very impressive, especially when they use the same picture over and over just zooming in on different parts. I also would have really liked to see some better quality pictures if they were going to take this route.
Voice acting is a tough thing to nail sometimes, especially when youíre cross pollinating from a genre thatís riddled with bad examples. Iím not sure but I think they got a lot of people who did voices for the original series to get on board for the game; however, I havenít been able to verify this so donít quote me on that. Maybe one of the interviews they have for you to unlock will illuminate the subject, because they have little segments with some of the voice actors that you can earn by meeting certain challenges in the game.
While the voices in the game arenít bad, they arenít all that good either, so it falls somewhere in the middle. If they were trying to achieve a styling as close to the original as possible then they get a few more points in my book, but as far as I know, itís just a bit off. Though the fact that there are some really good lines throughout really makes me want to forgive them for it (who canít laugh at a main character who has to ask why they call it Ambush Canyon?). They did kind of bail on the random one-liners your pilot spouts every now and then. They get a little old early, and are very repetitive.
The music is a lot of rousing martial stuff. Bright brassy horn pieces that are vaguely patriotic and pretty good; not enough to buy a soundtrack but a couple of MP3ís wouldnít be out of the question.
Effects are good, but not brilliant. Honestly most of the sound is forgettable, but that has more to do with intensity of gameplay than a lack of quality. You donít notice the sound of the missile thatís coming to blow you to pieces, you focus on not getting blown to pieces.
This is of course why you bought the game; to get hours of fun away from the cubicle you spend ninety percent of your life in. While many of these hours may not exactly be fun, they are constantly challenging and will keep you at the TV long after you should have been in bed, and when you finally do beat that bastard level youíll celebrate and trash talk that PS 2 into itís rightful place as a worshiper at your feet. That is until the next level.
Included in the game is of course a versus mode, with multiple stages, all but one of which you have to unlock, and there are multiple Veritech fighters and paint jobs to unlock, though the problem is that the fighters are only different in that they have different heads. All of the unlockables are listed in a medal screen so thereís no endless searching and trial and error, itís just a question of whether you can get through all the boss battles twice, or kill fifty male power armors with the sniper rifle.
Thereís lots of game time in Robotech, and if you can get through the story mode thereís plenty of replay value, and more challenges to be had. Not that there isnít enough there to begin with.
This is one of the most effective translations of an animated series to either the console or the PC. This is also one of the most accurate and effective (no I didnít see Robotech, but I have seen Macross Plus and itís like a sequel of a sequel) translations of anime to game that Iíve seen. The bright, crisp colors and nearly drawn effects reinforce the over the top flair of most anime.
While the sound and voice acting does fall a little short, the pure production value of this title and its constant challenge make this an easy recommendation for your PS2 library. So strap in, loosen up that flight stick and get ready to shoot down more enemies than there are pixels that make up this review.