Preview: Super Robot Wars Z2 Saisei-Hen

Okay I may have made small mention in some of my past articles about this series called Super Robot Wars. Well, I’m a huge, huuuge fan of SRW games. I’ll be previewing one of the games that is going to come out April 5th of this year, Z2 Saisei-Hen or Z2.2. Okay, let me back up a little bit and talk about Super Robot Wars as a series. The series started on the Gameboy in 1991 and has become fairly prolific across consoles and handhelds since. At its core SRW games are basically a mecha fanboy’s wet dream. Almost any mecha series you can think of (especially the popular ones) have all been in SRW games. What SRW does is crossover all these various mecha series into some sort of original plot, and put it in a neat little strategy RPG package for all of us to enjoy. And enjoy we do~

The cover. I'd name all of the machines in there but I think that exceeds the purposes of a caption. See if you recognize any, though!

So the one I’m covering today is Saisei-Hen. To back up a bit more, the latest greatest SRW series (from time to time there are series of games, like 1-4 or Alpha 1-3) is the Z series. Z1 started on the Playstation 2 back in 2008, and last year the sequel called Z2 Hakai-hen or Z2.1 came out on the PSP.  And this year the next sequel, and the end to Z2 is coming out, called Saisei-hen. Some trivia… Hakai-hen is the breaking chapter, and Saisei-hen is the rebirth chapter. Anyway, like I said, the SRW series is a dream for every mecha fan. All manner of exciting mecha series you’d never think to put in the same game come together to kick ass and take some names… They’re usually out of names. Just for an example, Saisei-hen will have a cast list including such popular recent titles as Shin Mazinger, Gundam 00, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and Code Geass. But it also has some older series, like Godmars or Dancougar or Trider G7 or Tetsujin-28 Go. I’d like to think I’m a pretty big mecha fan… But of course I don’t remember some of these older titles they’ll pull out like Trider G7. But that’s what’s really nice about SRW as a series; you get to learn about these mecha series you didn’t know about, use their robots in some great action, and who knows, maybe you’ll watch the anime series some day. Anyway, as you can see, a cast list like this (and these are only a few of the series in Saisei-Hen) is just really exciting mashup of all of these series kicking ass together to make the world (and/or the universe) a safer place.

Just a scene of a battle, Kallen's Gurren MkII Flight Type getting ready to use her Radiation Wave Arm.

So let’s get into the gameplay for this series a bit more, particularly Saisei-Hen, though the gameplay hasn’t changed much from the very first SRW game. It’s a strategy RPG, so think something like… Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. You have these units, who are your mecha, and you move them around a grid and attack the enemies. That’s pretty much it at its most basic. So, say you deploy something like Lelouch’s Gawain and Kouji’s Mazinger Z together. Each of them have different pilots (obviously) and different machines. These machines have a variety of attacks to use at different ranges to take down the enemy. For example,  Mazinger Z’s Breast Fire attack can only be used from range 1 (aka 1 panel away from the enemy), but can be used post movement (aka after the Mazinger Z moves for the turn). In contrast, the Gawain’s Hadron Cannon attack can attack from ranges 1~7, but you have to attack before moving, and unless you have a special skill, you cannot move after attacking. In addition to moving and attacking, there’s another important facet of the game called “Spirits”. Basically these are spells but instead of attacks which are tied to the machine, spirits are tied to the pilot. There are a variety of spirits, such as Focus (increase hit % and evade % by 30) or Hot Blood (next attack does 2x damage). It may seem weird that pilots have spirits and mechs have attacks when normally they should be one and the same, right? I mean, what kind of pilot would abandon their heavily customized machine? And while this is true in SRW for the most part, there are some really nice crossover moments that are only possible in a SRW game. For example, looking just at Gundam… You can switch around pilots quite a bit. Since series like Char’s Counterattack and Zeta Gundam are more or less linked (they take place with the same characters more or less and within a reasonable time frame of each other) you can do interesting things like stick Camille of Zeta Gundam in Amuro’s Nu Gundam, or Amuro into Loran’s Turn A Gundam (there is a bit of a joke/theory going around that Turn A Gundam is supposed to be the last Gundam series and links all Gundam series, and SRW carries that on). So there’s a lot of interesting gameplay possibilities in these kind of switches, but more than anything else it’s pure fanservice. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see Amuro Ray piloting the Turn A Gundam?

Of course there's an original plotline and characters, and they fit right at home with their own machines. This is Esther and her Blasta unit. Specifically, this is a cut-in of her during one of her attack animations.

Okay, going on to one of the other major reasons to play this game. The attack animations. For each attack a unit has, there is generally a pretty elaborate and involved attack animation involved, which can run up to a minute or more, detailing the attack. For some games (for Saisei-hen) this includes things like voiced cutscenes and pilot/mech cut-ins that generally look really really cool. For Saisei-hen in particular, which is on the PSP, the graphics are gorgeous and really similar to the PS2 Z1. I think that the SRW team has done a marvelous job of putting a PS2 quality SRW game well within the limitations of both the UMD file format and the PSP’s technical capabilities, and at least for Saisei-hen, delivered a stunning performance that is truly one of the best SRW games to date.

Lastly the music. While there are a fair number of original tracks (usually for the original characters and the like), most of the music is actually from the various anime series represented in SRW. Anything from Dancougar Nova’s Tori no Uta to Macross Frontier’s Seikan Hikou or Triangler, SRW generally provides excellent instrumental renditions of these songs (they aren’t really ever voiced). Of course some incredible songs are picked, and can lead to some fantastic moments while playing the game. For example, earlier this week I was playing Hakai-hen and got to the stage where Gurren Lagann got its Giga Drill Breaker attack. Of course, I proceeded to spam that attack to the tune of Macross Frontier’s Ranka singing What ’bout my star. And it was glorious, and it was the kind of thing that you’ll only ever find in these kinds of games. Conversely, of course, I had Alto attack some Vajra to Sorairo Days… just to even the score, I suppose.

A picture of the other part of the game, where the grid-based movement and whatnot occurs.

So there you have it. A primer on the SRW series in general, and a little preview into what’s bound to be the best SRW to date, Z2 Saisei-hen. Coming April 5th… and, sadly, only in Japan. Won’t stop me from playing it, of course, but it is a huge barrier to so many people out there. If you’re interested, though, the PSP is in fact NOT regionlocked, and provided you live in the States, the game would run you somewhere around $90.

And here’s the second PV in all of its glory (you really have to watch the game in motion to see how cool it looks!)

 

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Kaushik

I write about anime and stuff. Giant robots are pretty cool, too.

Kaushik

I write about anime and stuff. Giant robots are pretty cool, too.

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