Super Robot Wars X review

Reviews
2 weeks ago by Jamie Geist

It's like that crossover fanfic sitting on your hard drive, but bigger.

Above all things, Super Robot Wars X is a game of passion. It's a tale of hot-blooded heroes and brave mechanical warriors, yes, but the real love here comes from the people responsible for bringing this game to the West.

The Super Robot Wars series, if you'll excuse my Dark Souls, is essentially the Super Smash Brothers of mecha anime. The series began in 1991 on the Game Boy, primarily featuring characters from series such as Mobile Suit Gundam, Mazinger Z, and Getter Robo. The series has gone on to include over 30 titles, and recently celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016.

Here's the issue: with the exception of the Original Generation subseries, none of the Super Robot Wars games have been released outside of Japan, China, and neighboring regions. The reason for this is simple -- licensing. As a series priding itself on including as many intellectual properties as possible, the rights can get messy, especially when some series are anywhere from three to 30 years old, and the rights are split among different corporations. The most notorious of these issues belong to a company known as Harmony Gold, a real estate development and motion picture distribution company. Harmony Gold snatched up the rights to Super Dimension Fortress Macross, which was then rebranded as Robotech in the States. (You may have vague memories of watching this badly butchered dub when you were a kid. Remember the space fish? -ed) While not the sole reason the games have not been released worldwide, legal issues such as this prevent the content from reaching a larger audience.

Fortunately, with the release of last year's Super Robot Wars V, series publisher Bandai Namco is rolling out something new in the international editions of its games: English subtitles. Despite only being accessible through imports or the Singapore PSN store, the game is now fully playable for an English-speaking audience, and it is clearly intended as such. This continued with Super Robot Wars X, and will hopefully become the norm as the series continues to grow.

With the series’ backstory squared away, let’s move on to how Super Robot Wars X plays, shall we?

Gameplay

Super Robot Wars X is your standard isometric strategy role playing game. It's easy to compare it to a series like Fire Emblem, yet the game has various subsystems and mechanics which allow for a greater level of depth.

On a given map, the player controls an army of various mecha, each of which have one or more pilots within. A mech can be upgraded with Funds, which upgrade its various stats, as well as damage output. Pilots can be trained with skill programs, allowing them to execute various abilities during battles, and they will also grow organically as they level up. Pilot skills can do anything from doubling the strength of a next attack, decreasing incoming damage by a large percentage, or even granting an additional action. Skills can also be granted to other mecha on the map, such as Trust, which restores 3000 HP to an ally on the map.

SRWX also features the ExC subsystem, where each unit accumulates a discrete amount of ExC points based on their performance on the current map. These ExC points can be utilized to perform five various options, such as ensuring a critical hit, ignoring enemy defenses, or allowing an additional action upon the defeat of an enemy.

Among your troops are the Cygnus, N-Nautilus, and Megafauna; three colossal battleships from the anime Buddy Complex, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, and Reconguista in G. Battleships serve as hubs for your mecha pilots and have the ability to retrieve your mechs, repair them, and allow them to re-sortie. In additional to the ExC commands, battleships can also issue ExOrders, which give the player the option of choosing between an additional five effects to utilize on their army.

These are only a few of the various systems available to the player in Super Robot Wars X. This amount of complexity is simultaneously Super Robot Wars X's greatest strength and weakness. While it affords the player a tremendous amount of customization, the sheer amount of information is intimidating. The game does not feature a tutorial section, but the base mechanics are at least easy to understand. The game isn't necessarily inaccessible, but it might be a lot for a new player to chew on.

Story

What sets apart Super Robot Wars from other SRPG titles is the amount of love and dedication to the series it contains. Each Super Robot Wars title prides itself with an intricate and detailed plot, the core of which is always an original storyline featuring an original mecha design by Banpresto; many of these designs eventually find their way to the Original Generations subseries. The plots and characters of EVERY series to be included in the game is then skillfully weaved into the world's rich tapestry of mecha lore. X features units from Shin Mazinger Z, Aura Battler Dunbine, Cross Ange, Invincible Steel Man Daitarn 3, Code Geass, Nadia: Secret of Blue Water, Buddy Complex, Mashin Hero Wataru, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Brave Express Might Gaine, as well as a multitude of Mobile Suit Gundam series. Despite their wild tonal differences or lore inconsistencies, these stories all mesh together well, and the interactions between pilots from different series are what really make this game what it is. Whether it's the various Gundam pilots repeatedly humiliating Char Aznable, Lelouche vi Britannia collaborating with Captain Nemo on the upcoming attack, or simply the hot-blooded energy of Simon the Driller fighting alongside Kabuto Koji, there's always something to surprise and entertain the player.

Super Robot Wars X’s plot does have a few weaknesses, which are inevitable given the scope of its crossover. It does tend to drag on in a few places; the content from Cross Ange had me feeling very uncomfortable, and the content involving Buddy Complex might possibly be the most bland scenario and plot I've ever consumed. But despite its lulls, the story never falls apart. Super Robot Wars X's world of Al-Warth maintains its integrity, offering clever workarounds for various inconsistencies between plots and characters. The game does a great job of making players interested in other series than the ones that brought them to the title; I came for Gurren Lagann and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, and now I plan on checking out Aura Battler Dunbine, Daitarn 3, and Nadia: Secret of Blue Water very soon.

The game's selection of mecha is also questionable. About halfway through the game, there are about nine playable units from Cross Ange, which also has quite a bit of importance in the beginning of the game. As a comparison, Gurren Lagann features only one solo unit until chapter 40, where four more units join it; but at this point, the player's already decided what mecha they're going to be sinking all their points into. Personally, I was further frustrated that my favorite mech from the series, the Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann, does not appear until the penultimate chapter. It's also odd in that the beginning of the game, new series and characters are introduced repeatedly and quickly in order to build up your army, yet some pilots are not introduced until midgame, or even late game, in the case of Mazinger Z and Zeta Gundam respectively. This is all personal preference, however. If you prefer Cross Ange to Mobile Suit Gundam, or Aura Battler Dunbine to Gurren Lagann, you'll have a blast.

Balance

One final thing to note about the game itself could be taken as either a positive or negative, depending on how you prefer to strategize; it is very easy to completely break the game.

There're many ways to do this, but my personal example was to fully upgrade the Gurren Lagann's stats, as well as equip it with power parts that restore its SP upon killing an enemy, as well as giving it a passive skill which ensures that every attack is a critical. Its pilot, Simon, has a skill called Resolve, which costs 60 Spirit Points to use, and restores 5 ExC points to the user. So I use that, get my 5 ExC points, spend 3 of them to activate Extra Action, and then activate the skill Valor, which doubles my incoming attack. So when I attack an enemy with Giga Drill Breaker, the unit's most powerful attack, I deal on average about 35000 points of damage. This is enough to completely one-shot most bosses. After that, I can continue to chain Resolve, Smash Hit, and Valor, allowing me to repeat this action about eight times before my SP and ExC are completely drained, and even then it's possible to restore it by using skills from other units.

Some players may feel loopholes like this are a dealbreaker, but I feel that it's appropriate. In a game featuring giant robots that have been known to rewrite reality, summon dragons, alter the flow of time, and throw entire galaxies around like frisbees, it seems only right that its units are just as absurdly overpowered.

The only frustrating thing about Super Robot Wars X is the method of purchase. I had to make an account on the Singapore instance of the PlayStation Network, buy PSN balance cards, and load them onto my PSN account to download the game. The game is also a little bit pricier than normal, clocking in at roughly 70 USD.

Is it worth it? If you enjoy strategy RPGs, mecha anime, or just anime in general, this game is absolutely worth the purchase. If you're a fan of any of the series included in Super Robot Wars X, it's beyond worth it.