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Robotech: Battlecry

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:   Vicious Cycle
Publisher:   TDK
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Action
ESRB:   Teen
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Unit
Date Posted:  

11-10-02

Let's make something clear from the beginning here: I'm not a fan of the Robotech series. Not because I hate it or anything, I just never bothered to watch it growing up. That's good in that I'll be able to approach this review without nostalgia (or anger over the canceled N64 version) interfering with good judgment, but obviously I won't be able to tell how well it sticks to the series' roots. Of course I did familiarize myself a bit with the series before actually diving into this review. What I can tell you without doubt though is that the action is intense, the transformations add a great deal of depth to the gameplay, and Robotech: Battlecry's unique visual appearance all add up to provide an entertaining and fun experience.

Set before the actual anime takes place, Robotech: Battlecry sees the player take on the role of Jack Archer. As Jack, the player helps to defend Earth from the oncoming horde of Zentraedi forces intent on reclaiming their technology that has fallen into the hands of us humans. While Jack wasn't actually in the original cartoon series, a number of the characters that showed up there will make special appearances in various roles. It's probably for the better that the player doesn't actually play one of the original characters as this allows for them to once again be viewed from an outside perspective (which fans are used to seeing them from), although I'm sure some fans will be disappointed.

From what I understand the original cartoon series had a very deep (and mature) storyline, and while this game has a good one as well it's really all about the action here. Plenty of action it definitely delivers. Piloting one of several different Veritech models, the player is able to instantly transform from Battloid to Guardian to Fighter by simply tapping the D-pad. Learning how to master each mode and pick the proper one for each situation is really the key to mastering the game, as each form is definitely better suited to a particular situation.

In each of the three modes, A controls boosting, X is the primary weapon (always a gun pod), B is the secondary weapon, and Y is the special ability that particular form possesses. The Battloid's special ability is a nice Sniper Mode, while the Guardian can pick up and drop objects and Fighter can launch decoy pods. The Fighter mode easily has the most powerful arsenal (and most stable camera), so for almost all-airborne situations it should be the form of choice.

It's here though that this game's first problem crops up, as the controls for each different form are different enough to be confusing. For example, boosting in the Battloid will hover, while in Fighter it will turn on the afterburners, and in Guardian mode it just moves you forward. I found it difficult to get used to the changing controls as I quickly changed from one form to another.

The camera also follows each type of vehicle differently and often blind spots crop up as a result. Many times targeted enemies aren't visible on-screen, so it's extremely important to become used to using the radar screen. Even if they are on-screen though, often everything else is so busy that it's hard to find and target them properly. This is a common problem among flight games of this type, but that doesn't mean it's any better here.

There are a lot of missions to play through, but in the end they all end up feeling pretty similar. From pure dogfights to protection, there's nothing really new here that hasn't shown up in other mech/fighting games of this type. As a result things eventually get repetitive and fairly boring, although the storyline is interesting enough to keep the player plugging through the "been there, done that" areas.

The graphics aren't terribly impressive, but the cel-shaded look goes a long way towards making the game look unique. Robotech's roots are in a cartoon series, and the cel-shading does a great job of updating that look while staying relatively true to the series' anime roots. The Veritech's are really well animated, with a number of different moving parts that react to the on-screen action appropriately. Enemy ships and robots also look good, but are obviously less-detailed than the good guys. Environments look nice and are scaled properly with the Veritechs and enemies, and exploding buildings look "cartoony" without feeling "kiddy". The overall graphic style is basically a cartoon world that can be enjoyed without feeling like your back in 6th grade.

The voice acting is competent, and (from what I'm told) a number of the original voice actors have returned. Regardless, they all sound good and fit each character's personality well. Jack's voice is somewhat annoying however, and since he provides most of the narration it grinds a bit after a while. The music sounds great, and again comes from the original cartoon series to lend a feeling of authenticity. Less impressive is the overall surround sound quality, as often some voice samples will almost mute other sounds and things don't always seem to track from the right area on screen. It's competent, but it could've been much better.

Highs:

  • Fast & furious action that rarely slows down.
  • Transforming from one form to another, and determining the best to use in each situation, adds a layer of depth to the gameplay.
  • Unique graphic look that updates the original cartoon quite well.
  • Good voice acting, using a number of the original stars.

Lows:

  • The camera has trouble showing all of the action properly, resulting in some cheap hits and frustration.
  • Control issues arise from changing from form to form.
  • Surround sound could've been better.

Final Verdict: 

Robotech: Battlecry is an excellent action game that should please long-time fans of the show. What else did they really need to do?

Overall Score: 8.3

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