Ah, Super Robot Wars. Super Robot Wars (SRW from here on) is perhaps the longest running Anime strategy game series still going on. It has spawned well over a dozen incarnations over various systems and each one manages to sell well into the 6 digits.
What is Super Robot Wars? It's a turn based strategy game that uses various mecha shows starting back from the late 60's all the way to the present and makes a huge crossover with them and somehow manages to make it all fit into one coherent storyline.
The great thing about SRW is that it gives the player control of all the mechas that they probably grew up watching, such as Grandizer, Getta Robo, and the various Gundams out there. Even better, with the CD-ROM incarnations of the series, you can actually listen to the battle cries of each pilot voiced by the actual voice actor! In other words, SRW is any mecha fan's dream come true.
SRW 2 is the beginning of the storyline that continues on for the next three games. In the not too distant future, Dr. Zoldark becomes convinced that an alien attack is imminent. Fearing this, he creates an organization called the Divine Crusaders (DC for short) with himself as the leader. Zoldark, believing that only a planet united under one government can hope to ever repel this alien threat, begins to take over countries, by force if necessary. This of course makes the rest of the world look at DC as the enemy, and it is up to the Super Robot Squad to put a stop to him. Not exactly the most interesting of storylines but it does the job well enough.
The SRW series, being originally a Gameboy game, is quite simple to learn and play. You move in the overworld map, pick the weapon you wish to use, aim, and the screen changes to show the battle itself taking place. Once you're done with an "episode", you upgrade your mechas using the money earned from killing enemies and you repeat. Easy enough, isn't it?
Each pilot also has a set of hidden skills that he/she can use, pretty much the same as magic in normal RPGs. These skills range from healing to raising your aim and evasion rates higher. Heck, you can even revive (rebuild?) destroyed units in combat! Aside from these skills, there are special abilities that some pilots may have. A genius will need 10% less experience points to level up, NewTypes have heightened reflexes and barriers such as I-Fields which will nullify beam attacks from enemies.
This simple gameplay is actually the very reason why it has been so popular. It is very easy to learn, with even a novice being able to pick up within minutes of playing, but the game itself is deep enough to make the player keep playing through. You add in the multiple routes you can take to beat the game and the hidden pilots and mechas waiting to be discovered, and you're looking for some serious playtime.
Because this is a remake of the NES original, SRW 2 features better graphics, full voice-overs by all pilots during combat, better sound, and slight alterations to the map layout. By alterations to the map layout I mean that the positioning of the units have changed. It's nothing major and only players of the previous game will probably notice that something has changed.
And for the graphics...well, while the remake is certainly much better than its NES counterpart, it is still using low-res 256 color sprites from the SNES days. In fact, if you compare this with SRW 4, which came out almost a half-decade ago, I doubt you can tell the difference at all! It's something that long time SRW players probably have gotten used to, but it's certain to irritate others, especially with the load times still being too long despite the poor visuals.
As for the sound... well, they're all remixes of the various battle themes for each mecha series and they are all quite good. Even better are the tracks they've made for the original cast of mecha that is introduced here, with Cybuster's theme being the best out of them all. Of course this isn't Redbook audio, but the quality is good enough to satisfy fans and most of them will probably appreciate the remixes that have been done to their favorite theme songs.
As mentioned before, the best feature of the remake is that all battle cries are fully voiced. While this may just seem like a minor addition, it does wonders for giving the game a more realistic atmosphere and since many of the battle cries are ones not seen in the anime, it can be seen as a form of fan service as well.
SRW 2 is an excellent way to get started in this series, and the low price that SRW is going for (3800 Yen at my last count) should be enough of a reason to give it a shot. Playing the series from the beginning is also pretty much the only way you'll actually get the entire storyline, so this is a must buy for anyone that has any of the sequels. Oh and the remakes of SRW 2,3 and EX comes as a pack-in for SRW Collection, but it was a limited print so your chances of finding it are slim. So if you do find it and plan on getting the rest anyway, do it!
While SRW 2 is definitely the worst of the entire series (not counting 1) it still is quite entertaining and I recommend it to any other SRW fans out there. Otherwise, you might want to give one of the more recent SRW a try first. I just hope you don't mind the long loading times too much...