Super Robot Taisen Alpha
Platform: Dreamcast
Publisher: Banpresto
Developer: Banpresto
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: GD-ROM
Released: Japan 08/30/01

Graphics: 75%
Sound: 85%
Gameplay: 92%
Control: 90%
Story: 88%
Overall: 86%
Reviews Grading Scale
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The prologue explains a bit about how all the crossover action goes down.
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A clash of egos.
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EVA-01: don't mess with it.
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If you're here for the graphics, best look somewhere else.
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Super Robot Taisen Alpha

Crossovers have been a part of the literary world since at least the early twentieth century; Maurice Leblanc had Arsene Lupin go head to head with Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and it has been a staple of western comics since Spiderman and Superman first met. It's somewhat surprising then, that this trend hasn't followed through to manga and anime; with a few exceptions there aren't many inter-author or inter-company manga crossovers. In the world of video games, on the other hand, the brand equity that crossovers bring to the table has been tapped to its full potential, with games like Dream Mix TV, Capcom's VS series and Banpresto's Super Robot Taisen.

Super Robot Taisen for Dreamcast is a retooled adaptation of Alpha which first appeared on the Playstation. The game is notable because it is the first Robot Taisen game to use 3D sprites for attack animation and, like the other installments in the Alpha line, has a more cohesive plot than most other SRW games. Alpha for Dreamcast has a strong line up of mecha from various anime series including SDF Macross, Evangelion, Gunbuster, Macross Plus, Mazinger Z and the usual suspects from the Gundam franchise. The execution of the story is excellent as are the battle animations, though this is hampered by awkward camera angles.

The story weaves together many familiar plot threads from the component shows into one cohesive story. Earth has reached out to the stars, starting with a series of orbital colonies grouped together into collectives called sides. The furthest side from the Earth, Side 3, has declared independence from the Federation and established itself "the Principality of Zeon." In the year 179 of the new western calender, Zeon declares war on Earth in the name of liberating all "Spacenoids" from a distant and callous government's oppression. At the height of the conflict, however, something momentous occurs: a colossal alien warship breaks out of hyperspace plowing through over half the combined armies of Zeon and the Earth Federation before coming to rest on South Ataria Island. This single event triggers a cease fire and brings and end to the one year war.

Dr. Zoldark is one of the first to examine the wreckage of the ASS-1, what will later become known as the SDF-1 Macross, and determines it was developed by a highly advanced and unknown alien civilization. He urges the Earth Federation to prepare to find itself thrust into the middle of an intergalactic war not of their own making. The Federation ignores him wanting to use the ASS only to consolidate their own power base. Zoldark funds his own organization called the Devine Crusaders to adapt the alien Over-technology into war machines that will be able to protect the Earth when the time comes. The general public is not told of any alien threats and resents the Federation as the resources required to refit the Macross caused an economic downturn on whole for the Federation. Unrest causes much anti-Federation sentiment especially among the Spacenoids and the population of Zeon. The exiled Neo-Zeon forces are just one example of the many Anti Federation factions that come into being. To deal with these renegades the special mobile suit units Oz and the Titans are formed. While all this is going on Mazinger Z and Raideen have their hands full with the Youryuu and Youma Empires.

Sound confusing? This is just the backstory of what happens years before we meet up with your character who will either be out in space if you follow the "Real Robot" story arc, or be a classmate of Mazinger Z's Kouji if you follow the "Super Robot" story arc. Either way, you'll find yourself traveling the world and the solar system, joining up with the AEUG, being transported out to Pluto along with the Macross and defending Tokyo 3 from angels. The plot unfolds mostly through visual novel-esque conversations in between the missions which will give you different options for branching story arcs, some of which affect what units you will be able to acquire later in the game. The game tries really had to tie everything together, for example while the Zentraedi still provide the melody of the song "Do You Remember Love" as they did in the Macross movie, the lyrics are provided by the angel Kaworu to Shinji. It's nearly impossible to explain most of the plot twists without spoiling multiple anime but suffice to say, the extent to which they go to make everything fit together is quite impressive. Unlockable character and mecha profiles will help you make sense of who's who and what's what, as well as add some flavor to the story.

The gameplay is tried and true Super Robot Taisen where each battle presents you with a certain number of available units which you can pick out of your roster (some units will leave, rejoin and switch sides depending on the demands of the plot at the time) and an objective: anything from wipe out all enemies to protect the Macross for eight turns. A lot of missions have hidden objectives which will give or take away story points. The battles' turn-based strategy on a grid, different terrain gives different bonuses to evasion and attacks, and units are affected differently depending on if they are flying, grounded or underwater. Each unit has a plethora of attacks, and unique to the Dreamcast version are the combo-attacks between different units from related series like Mazinger Z and Getter Robo or Nu Gundam and Sazabi. With each attack, the unit being fired upon will have the option to return fire if it has any applicable attacks or to try to evade and decrease the percentage of attack success; after the choice is selected the screen loads up an animation of the attack and BGM changes to that Robot's them song. This is skippable which is good because the load times are extremely long and seeing the same attack over and over can get quite monotonous.

Pilots and machines have separate stats. The pilots learn new tricks and increase their skill levels as they engage in combat, while machines have to be upgraded by spending money in between battles (money is earned in battles for kills and deducted for losses). In addition to the regular attack, defense and HP stats there are two key stats to manage in battle: one is energy, which can be used up by certain attacks or for the Evangelions if their umbilical cords are disconnected, and the other is morale. Certain attacks can only be made with a high level of morale; morale usually goes up with kills and down with the loss of a teammate, but some units gain morale for losses and there are other things that can affect it. Health and energy can be recovered in a few ways, either by occupying a base terrain square which recharges both or certain buildings which will recharge energy only, having it restored by another unit with a healing or refueling special ability or docking inside your mother ship. The last method will reduce your morale, however. You can mix and match pilots to different robots but the pilot and robot must be from the same universe and there are further restrictions. Furthermore, not every pilot can use a robot to it's full extent. Christina Mackenzie, for example, could not use a newtype only attack like funnels if put into Nu Gundam.

The graphics are very stunning, and it's great fun to watch the 3D super deformed robots zigzag as they dodge massive bolts of energy or see Combattler V unleash its spinning tops at the enemy, but there are some major drawbacks. Banpresto seemed to think it would be a good idea to let the camera roam free during attack animations but sometimes it chooses very weird angles to present the action; you might be watching the attack with a close up of Mazinger Z's left shoulder or the Macross' foot. The game also has two classes of movies: one is computer generated Non-SD movies that are beautiful but annoyingly only take up a tiny portion of the screen. When these videos queue up, a square roughly 1/8th the size of the rest of the screen appears in the middle to display the video. Given the game's amazing full screen opening sequence it's annoying that the rest of the videos couldn't be at least half screen like say Sakura Taisen 1 or 2's. The other class of cutscenes use the game's sprites with subtitles and character portraits for dialog. These full screen videos are unique to the Dreamcast version. The characters and backgrounds in the visual novel portion are clean looking and rendered in faithful style to their respective animations. The menus are suitably cool looking with a proper sci fi feel to them.

The sound in the game is awesome. Not only do we have a whole repertoire of some of the greatest mecha anime music, such as Kouhei Tanaka's Gunbuster music, but you have the ability to edit your settings so that each theme will take over as BGM after an attack or only play during the animation. In the final battle against the Zentraedi fleet there are even vocals, as Lynn Minmay sings "Ai Oboeteimasuka" or "Do You Remember Love?" for the length of the battle. The sound effects sound like they were ripped right from the anime, and are crisp and clear. The game also features voice acting for all the pilots so you can hear them shout "Breast Fire" and "Super Inazuma Kick." Voice acting also is featured at key plot points with some original dialog. The game also gets bonus points by including a karaoke mode as one of it's extra features. It's a little weird singing along to the synthesized versions of the tracks at first, aside from the Gundam Wing music which was synthesized to start with, but it's something that you can pull out on your Dreamcast to have fun with your friends over.

Super Robot Taisen Alpha For Dreamcast remains one of the most ambitious and projects to come of the franchise to date, perhaps only surpassed by the final chapter of the Alpha trilogy. With multiple story paths and tons of unlockable content it should keep you occupied for hours on end. If you like tactical battles or simply want to see a how well Eva Unit 01 would fair against the forces of Zeon, this game comes highly recommended.


© 2001 Banpresto. All rights reserved.

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