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There’s a scene in the old Nintendo Power comic based on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, where Link and Zelda are finally facing off against Ganon himself, the primary antagonist of the Zelda series. As Ganon has Link and Zelda nearly beaten, Zelda says a prayer and desperately fires a seemingly plain wooden arrow at Ganon, only for the arrow to transform into the legendary Silver Arrow mid-flight and slay the pig demon. The whole notion of the Silver Arrow as Ganon’s one weakness is taken from the video games, but as anyone who has played Link to the Past knows, you don’t need one Silver Arrow to defeat Ganon, but four. Essentially, while there are a number of approaches that could have been taken, in this case the comic dramatizes the impact of the Silver Arrow by having its singular appearance act as the climax of the story in order for it to function better as a narrative.

If the Link to the Past comic is a case of taking a gameplay element and transforming it into a plot point, then the Super Robot Wars games, especially the recent ones, are a strong example of the opposite. Based on the idea of taking robots from actual anime and having them fight together, the SRW franchise is all about the conversion of story elements into gameplay, but the early games were limited by an emphasis on statistics. The result was that certain characters and robots became less useful because they lacked effectiveness in the game itself. There have been attempts to mitigate it, such as creating an original upgrade for one of the robots, such as the relatively weak Mazinger Z into the mighty Mazinkaiser, but recent SRW games, particular the series, have sought to remedy this discrepancy by completely prioritizing dramatic impact over a sense of logic. Thus, not only are the most powerful weapons transformed into attack options, but the most powerful moments in the original anime are given a gameplay function.

Thus, what you see is not simply the robot Godmars’ strongest technique, but a recreation of the moment when Godmars and its pilot Takeru draw upon the last of their energy to deliver a final blow to the main antagonist of their story. The “Super Final Godmars” technique is meant to carry the same weight as Zelda’s Silver Arrow in the comic, only it’s made repeatable throughout the game so it also functions as the Silver Arrow from the video game.

This approach even transcends specific moments in a series, as is shown when looking at how the characters in those robot series are themselves given unique properties to show off their individuality. Lelouch, protagonist of Code Geass, is meant to be a strategic mastermind in his story, and so the game gives him the ability to boost allied units in specific ways which make him best suited for staying out of the front lines and for issuing commands.

What I find interesting about this transformation of plot point into gameplay elements is that the actual end goal of such a function is to invoke intangible qualities by way of tangible mechanics of intangible moments. In other words, in order to give players the feeling of re-enacting those climaxes from anime, the SRW games look at those dramatic moments, figure out how it should impact the game in terms of requirements/damage/etc., but then has to arrange those numbers to best replicate the feelings created by those original scenes. This is probably what makes the original robots which appear in SRW games to have such over-the-top animations compared to the robots with actual source material; they have to add another step to try and convince players that they should be just as into their (at the time) ahistorical designs as they are the robots straight from anime.

A new Super Robot Wars game was announced yesterday, Super Robot Wars UX for the Nintendo 3DS, and the amount of new and unexpected entries makes me want to talk about it, as well as some other SRW-related thoughts.

I think you can roughly categorize Super Robot Wars into two types of games: the flagship titles, and the experimental ones. The former consists of the titles with the best animation and the most-anticipated anime entries into the franchise. The latter can go in a number of directions, from aesthetics (3D models instead of 2D sprites in Super Robot Wars GC) to gameplay (a switch from turn-based to real-time strategy as with Super Robot Wars Scramble Commander), but often times “experimental” simply ends up referring to the titles chosen for that game.

That’s pretty much where UX is. Just look at the debut works for this version.

  • Kishin Houkou Demonbane
  • Fafner in the Azure: Heaven and Earth
  • Wings of Rean
  • Cyber Troopers Virtual On’s Fei-Yen HD
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00: A wakening of the Trailblazer
  • SD Gundam Three Kingdoms Legend: Brave Battle Warriors
  • Mazinkaiser SKL
  • Heroman

When you include the other titles that are in this game, the first thing that jumps out is just how new most of the anime are. Not only is the Mazinger franchise represented by its latest one-off OVA series, but the actual oldest anime in the entire game (and the only two from the 1980s) are Aura Battler Dunbine, and then Ninja Senshi Tobikage of all things. If it were a flagship title, there would have to be certain staples, but with a “lesser” SRW like this, it’s possible to inject a ton of new blood into it and not offend anyone.

Not only that, but when you look at some of the recent titles chosen for UX, they seem to be among the least likely candidates even among non-flagship SRW games. Brave Battle Warriors is actually an already-super deformed Gundam anime done entirely in 3DCG and based on classical chinese literature, the sort of title one would least expect to represent Gundam even with the fact that SEED Destiny and 00 are there. Though I’m sure it’s based on the anime version, Demonbane‘s inclusion may be the first instance (and correct me if I’m wrong) of a visual novel appearing in SRW, which opens the gate for things like Muvluv Alternative.

Heroman I wasn’t even sure counted as a giant robot anime, though I guess if you think about it, it’s basically a combination of Tetsujin 28/Giant Robo with Gold Lightan (though Gold Lightan has yet to make its debut). Possibly craziest of all is the inclusion of Virtual On in the form of a Fei-Yen dressed like Hatsune Miku. Virtual On in SRW Alpha 3 paved the way for non-anime/manga to appear in Super Robot Wars games, and this takes it to another level, as I’m pretty sure Miku Fei-Yen is nothing more than a model kit!

It might sound like I’m complaining, but I’m really not. I actually love it when SRW games go a little wild like this, though one complaint I do have is that the DS SRW games have never been the most impressive when it comes to animation. My issue isn’t even with the quality of the sprites or an unfair comparison to the exquisitely animated Z series of SRW, but that a lot of the shortcuts taken to try to make the games look better actually end up making them look worse. In particular, I’m referring to the way the DS games including UX incorporate cut-ins, and detail shots. Instead of creating the images to better match the sprites and the visuals of the rest of the game, the DS SRWs basically take screenshots directly from the original anime, and while this means things look accurate, it also sticks out in an odd way and messes with the way the attack animations end up looking in a manner which didn’t quite affect previous games with worse sprite animation.

But it might just be that with a game with this daring of a series list, some things have to give. In that case, I’ll take it, but will still hope for better the next time around.

Recent events have made me aware of how out of the loop I am with the mecha fandom. Whereas I would’ve once known and posted about it within days of the first announcement, this time I wasn’t even aware of it until someone linked me to a video the day it came out.

(Thanks, Jorge.)

Probably the most surprising thing about the new game is that, finally, after something like 20 years’ worth of games in the franchise, the grandfather of the heroic giant robot, Tetsujin 28, has made its SRW debut. Now, all of the questions about how Shoutarou factors in will be put to rest (he doesn’t even appear next to the robot, meaning he won’t accidentally get smashed by falling debris).

Granted, it’s not the original 1960s Tetsujin 28 here, but rather the 1980 remake, Emissary of the Sun Tetsujin 28 (not to be confused with Emissaries of Light Cure Black and Cure White, or Brave of the Sun Fighbird). I have to wonder why they decided to go with this iteration, as opposed to the ultra-90s remake, or the more recent Imagawa adaptation, but I figure it probably has to be for one of two reasons (or maybe a combination of the two). First, its style meshes the best with all of the other robots in the series, and so it has the least chance of sticking out. Original Tetsujin, which also appears in the 2004 version, is too clunky and rough, and the 90s version is too beefy and doesn’t share enough of the iconic look of the original. Second, as per the reason Space Emperor God Sigma got into SRWZ (the director said, “I liked it as a kid so now it’s in the games), maybe someone just wanted it in there.

One thing I find interesting, however, is the fact that they managed to get Tetsujin 28 in any form into the game at all. I remember hearing that back when Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 came out that they were originally going to have Giant Robo: The Animation in, just as they had it in the first Alpha game, but that the license had become too expensive after the creator of Giant Robo and Tetsujin 28, Yokoyama Mitsuteru, passed away. But now years later we have what might be his most lasting legacy ever in an SRW game. What gives? Was that rumor merely just that? Is the cost perhaps the reason why there are so few new series in Saisei-hen? Does being an adaptation factor in, much like Godmars?

In any case, check out the game’s animation. It is fantastic.

In very exciting news, Super Robot Wars Z 2 (Part 1) has been announced. Subtitled Break the World, the game has some surprising new entries into the world of SRW, from both recent and not-so-recent anime. Before I start elaborating on my thoughts concerning the lineup, I’m showing the complete series list uses for the game.

Italics means this anime has been in SRW before but was not in SRWZ.
Bold means this anime is brand new to the SRW franchise.

Muteki Choujin Zambot 3
Muteki Koujin Daitarn 3
Muteki Robo Trider G7
Space Emperor God Sigma
Space Warrior Baldios
Rokushin Gattai Godmars
Sentou Mecha Xabungle
Armored Trooper VOTOMS
Armored Trooper VOTOMS: The Last Red Shoulder
Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Red Shoulder Document – Roots of Treachery
Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Pailsen Files
Super Dimension Century Orguss
Mobile Suit Z Gundam
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
New Mobile Report Gundam W
After War Gundam X
Turn A Gundam
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 1st Season
Choujuu Kishin Dancougar
Juusou Kikou Dancougar Nova
Shin (Change!!) Getter Robo: Armageddon
Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z Saga
Earth Defense Corp. Dai-Guard
The Big O
Overman King Gainer
Choujuushin Gravion Zwei
Genesis of Aquarion
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann the Movie: Gurren Saga
Macross F
Macross F the Movie: The False Songstress
Psalms of Planets Eureka Seven: good night, sleep tight, young lovers

There’s a lot to talk about here, especially with shows like Code Geass, Gundam 00, and a major curveball in the form of Dai-Guard, but probably the two newest entrants which are the biggest deals are VOTOMS and Gurren-Lagann, though for somewhat different reasons.

VOTOMS hails from early 1980s and is considered among the “realest” of real robot anime. It has a grittiness to its robots and overall setting that is rarely seen in mecha, let alone anime in general, as can be seen from my reviews of the series (though I must apologize for never actually writing my final review). For years people thought it was a shoe-in for the SRW series, but when years and years went by and VOTOMS still wasn’t included, fans started coming up with excuses. Oh, maybe the robots would be too weak and bland, or Chirico would be too strong of a pilot, or it somehow wouldn’t fit in among the earth-shattering forces that populate the roster. But as if to lay those possibilities to rest, SRWZ2 puts it into the same game as Gurren-Lagann, one the biggest example of escalating power levels and over-the-top, universe-rending attacks in a robot anime ever (which is the “problem” with Gurren-Lagann), as if to say that while all of those possible reasons may have once been valid, they’re history. Sure this first part of SRWZ2 is going to avoid having to deal with the really crazy stuff, but it’s inevitably going to have to confront the big guns of Gurren-Lagann by the next game. And it’s the movie version on top of that!

I understand that the reason this lineup works is that the plot of the game is based heavily on Orguss, which involves going to different dimensions and universes, so they can even do things like have Shin Mazinger where they once had Mazinger, and the Eureka Seven movie to replace the TV series, but that’s all right. Plot was never exactly the strong suit of the SRW games, after all, as the latest anime proves.

So to conclude, various fanboyish notes:

-Can’t wait to see Zeus in action.
-Mazinger Z is going to get not one but two crazy powerful finishers. No need for the Kaiser here!
-I wonder if Zambot, Daitarn, and Trider are going to have a Final Muteki Special. Sun, Moon, and Phoenix?
-Re: Godmars – ポゥーン
-I wonder how much Dai-Guard will cost to replace if it blows up in battle?
-I’m looking forward to the VOTOMS BGM.
-I know I’m jumping the gun and putting expectations on the next game, but Amuro vs Ribbons? Hell yes.
-Setsuna F. Seiei gives the best (worst) pep talks.
-I think movie Eureka and Fyana from VOTOMS will get along swimmingly.
-I wonder if the geass will factor into gameplay in any way, shape, or form?
-Aquarion and Shin Getter better not accidentally deface the moon too much or they’re going to make Loran Cehack sad. They’ll also make Garrod upset but for a different reason.

I was thinking about my early experiences with the Super Robot Wars series when I remembered the first SRW game I bought, Super Robot Wars R for the Game Boy Advance. The animations at this point were still very much “paper cutouts sliding against a background,” but I was stoked whenever I could land a finishing move on a boss, especially one of the crossover attacks. However, I think what characterized my play experience for R more than anything else was the fact that I could not read Japanese too well at the time, and so for the first 70% of the game I did not realize that your units had the option to “defend” or to “dodge,” rather than just trading hits with the enemy.

I think it’s very possible that if that game were more difficult, I would have gotten fed up with it a lot more quickly, trying to wonder how I could overcome those seemingly insurmountable odds. Perhaps ignorance was bliss for just the right amount of time.

When it comes to the Super Robot Wars series, there tends to be an unspoken rule. For the big-budget main games in the series, such as the Alpha series, the cast lists are for the most part breadwinners and series that people have been anticipating to be in SRW, while for the games on other platforms they don’t expect to do really well with, they let the cast lists run wild and free, as is the case in the recent Super Robot Wars Neo, as well as Compact 3.

So I was thinking, “What series has practically NO chance of getting into SRW?” It’s getting kind of difficult to determine, with more and more shows managing to find their way in. Then I remembered one.

Getter Robo Go, Anime Version

The Getter Robo Go anime, adapted loosely from the manga of the same name, came out in the early 1990s and centered around a team of new Getter pilots in a new Getter Robo which didn’t use Getter Energy as its power source. The concept alone isn’t the problem, however, so much as the show is really, really lame.

Some will complain that the original Getter Robo anime was de-fanged compared to the manga, where Ryouma and friends are all literally violently insane people, but even with a nicer cast they were still pretty extreme, and they don’t compare to the character neutering that happens in Getter Robo Go. You don’t even have to read the manga to know that something is amiss here. It looks and feels like a failed attempt to bring Getter Robo into the 90s.

That opening I posted up there can be misleading, because with the vocals of Aniki the show seems awesome. Let me show you the FIRST opening (which people mistakenly label the second opening).

It’s no wonder they changed the opening!

So, the reasons Getter Robo Go has no chance in SRW (at least in its anime incarnation) are thus: Practically every SRW has Getter Robo in it, and with so many Getter anime available, why would producers pick the lamest one? On top of that, if you want that same robot design but awesome, you can just go with Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo, which is a sort of retelling of the Getter Robo Go plot but with characters more in-tune with the original Ishikawa manga vision of them.

Of course, in the end, I would be glad to see Banpresto prove me wrong. C’mon guys.

The first trailer for the Wii-based Super Robot Wars NEO is out, and as you can see from above, the game has gone to great lengths to be a rather odd egg in the SRW franchise. Not only are all the robots being modeled in 3D, something usually shunned by SRW fans as a whole, but the cast list was a surprise to absolutely everyone, and the gameplay itself has seen some drastic modifications which stem primarily from the move to 3D.

The game is no longer boxed in by a grid, and characters have relatively free range of motion across the battlefield. As you can see from the video, each unit has a circle around them, making the game reminiscent of Phantom Brave, while the previous SRW games were closer to Disgaea. There are also many more types of attacks now, rather than just MAP attacks and basic ones which hit one or more units clumped together, as you now also have attacks which have arcs and angles that can go over certain terrain as well as attacks that push enemy units back and so on. And even more intriguing is that the units’ sizes are displayed on the map and even affect battle more readily than their attempt in SRWGC and XO where size difference could make one robot unable to attack another in a critical spot. Size affects many things in NEO apparently, such as attack range and evasion rates, and it’s another example of how much they’re willing to go through with this 3D SRW thing. Oh, and battles can now take place right on the map, a la Battle Chess. That’s pretty cool, I think.

While there are people who say that 3d SRW games are automatically worse, with how ambitious NEO is I want to give it the benefit of the doubt. Besides, it’s only in these non-breadwinning off-shoot SRWs that we get to see the truly crazy casts, and this one is the craziest of all.

Weekly Famitsu has announced a new Super Robot Wars for the Nintendo Wii, and boy is the cast something. I don’t care who you are, there’s no way you could have possibly guessed this list. It is craziness incarnate.

Series new to SRW in bold.

Mazinger Z
Great Mazinger
Juushin Liger
New Getter Robo

Sengoku Majin Goshogun
NG Knight Lamune & 40
Ginga Senpuu (Galaxy Gale) Braiger
Zettai Muteki Raijinoh
Genki Bakuhatsu Ganbaruger
Nekketsu Saikyou Gosaurer
Kanzen Shouri Daiteioh
Shippuu! Iron Leaguer
Mobile Fighter G Gundam
Lord of Lords Ryu Knight

THIS LINEUP IS BONKERS!

Also, as you can see, there’s a bunch of super robots, and then a bunch of robots which may or may not qualify as real robots. This isn’t the land of sissy whiny boys, my friends!

For those unfamiliar, Raijinoh, Ganbaruger, Gosaurer, and Daiteioh are from the same “series” called the Eldran series, similar to how Exkaiser, Might Gaine, Gaogaigar, etc. are the “Brave” series.

It’ll be 3D instead of the normal 2D sprites, which some say is a death sentence for SRW games, but you know what? I LIKED SRWGC. And really, I will take 3D graphics because they gave us this psychocrazy series lineup.

What I find most hilarious of all is that on the Anime 3000 Giant Robot podcast that I participated in, I had a brief discussion with Mike Dent from R5 Central about whether or not Juushin Liger was a giant robot. I was like, “Naaaaahhhhh…!” and Mike Dent said that it was possibly a Powered Armor or a Bio Armor, but I think we agreed that we couldn’t really call it a giant robot per se.

WELL I GUESS YOU PROVED ME WRONG BANPRESTO/BANDAI/NAMCO.

What I’m looking forward to is Great Mazinger channeling a Thunder Break through Liger and creating-

Nah, too easy.

I’m also wondering if I’ve accidentally stumbled onto some terrible power where my offhanded comments actually affect the SRW series…

Last week the first trailer for April 2009′s Super Robot Wars K was released. The unique thing about SRWK is that the vast majority of the series included are incredibly new by Super Robot Wars standards. Mazinger Z is the only product of the 70s, Dangaioh the only series from the 90s, and the rest are from 2000 and beyond. These are the young, slick upstarts on the block and they’re fixin’ for some trouble.

So, the trailer.

The game is on the Nintendo DS, and so is a step down graphics-wise from the especially well-animated Super Robot Wars Z, but you really shouldn’t hold that against it. The animation is slick and colorful and there’s a lot of awesome fanboy moments like Godannar’s Heart Breaker (the attack shown in the trailer) and the appearance of the Z-Gradt from Virtual On (what Temjin is fighting, also in the trailer). You’ve also got Cagalli representing SEED in the trailer AS SHE SHOULD. However, I do have some criticisms.

First is that the cut-ins where the characters appear or it cuts to non-super-deformed footage of the robots appears to be lifted straight from the shows. While it looks all well and good on its own, it creates a jarring inconsistency when paired with the sprites and their animation. This was an issue in SRWW as well.

Second is the lack of voices. I don’t know much about the hardware of the DS, but I’ve played Phoenix Wright and that game has voices, and that was even originally a GBA game. Being unable to hear Yukana as Tessa in Full Metal Panic’s SRW appearance in W was a disappointment, and this just kind of extends that.

Third is that even now on the DS, they’re still using the GBA-era sound effects that started with SRWA (which recently got a PSP remake). It’s like they spent all their time on updating the animations and none of it on the sound library.

Overall though I’m looking forward to this and probably will buy it because hey DS’s are region free. I know some people are complaining that the series lacks UC Gundam but really now, the SRW franchise is nearly 20 years old by this point. If you want UC in your SRW go play the other 95% of SRW games, which also INCLUDES SRWZ.

It is awfully strange though that with all of these NEW series, they didn’t bother to put in Mazinkaiser. Maybe it’s too played out by this point.

Super Robot War K has been announced for the Nintendo DS, and the lineup consists almost entirely of shows that have aired in recent years. While it’s kind of sad to not see some of the old guard there, it’s also a big deal that they would include shows like Koutetsushin Jeeg, Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu and even SHINKON GATTAI GODANNAR.

Those of you who know me might know that there have been two series I’ve really wanted to get into SRW: Eureka Seven and Godannar. Eureka Seven made it in with Z, now Godannar has its chance to shine.

Godannar is a seriously good show to put in SRW due to the fact that all of its robots are AWESOME. You won’t run into the problem of having useless units from the series taking up space or having missions where you’re forced to use them be unpleasant. Every single one is supposed to be able to carry its weight.

The list so far (who knows they might reveal more later)

Mazinger Z
Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu-
Koutetsushin Jeeg
Zoids Genesis
Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!
Shinkon Gattai Godannar!! Second Season
Gun x Sword
Haja Taisei Dangaioh
Overman King Gainer
Soukyuu no Fafner
Cyber Troopers Virtual On Marz
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED C.E.73-Stargazer-

SHINKON GATTAI GO

GO GO GO

-ING TO CHINATOWN TO BUY THIIIIIS

Official sources for Genshiken Second Season

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