They waited 3 years for it in Japan, but we lucky Americans only waited a few months for a sequel to the GBA strategy RPG “Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation.” This game, which was originally published across the Pacific in 2005, easily trumps its predecessor in nearly every way.
The biggest, most obvious leap in quality was in the graphics department. For starters, battle animation actually turned out to be animation instead of still portraits of robots being rammed into each other. The animation quality was particularly excellent for a GBA game, sometimes rivaling its 2D peers on the DS. Better yet were the character portraits that appeared in battle sequences when a character used a special attack. This is a trademark graphical feature that Banpresto has been using for over a decade, and I’m pleased to say that it looks cool, even on a handheld.
The field where battles take place is still pretty bland, but then again, it’s bland in nearly every SRT title, even the most recent outings on PS2 and Xbox 360. The maps were, at the least, more detailed than they were in OG1.
The music in OG1 was great, but things get better in OG2, if only because there’s more aural love to go around. Not only is the sound slightly improved, but there are at least a dozen new character and event theme songs throughout the game. The sound effects are decent, as well. Of course, as a GBA game, there is no voice acting, but (and this is pure speculation) I imagine that an attempt at English voice acting on a game like this could make or break the game, as it is so dialogue-heavy.
Control, customization, user interface, and the like were all vastly improved. Displaying relevant information on friendly and enemy mechs while on the map without having to hit any buttons or enter various menus was the key factor in my judging the control score. Also handy was what I call “dialogue navigation.” Hitting B will allow you to skip backwards in conversation, and holding R and A will fast forward the dialogue at an incredible rate: which is a very useful feature considering how often one will end up dying and repeating a mission. I also appreciated that the Battle Mastery was displayed as a separate menu option rather than being hidden on a second page of objectives (something many gamers simply missed in the first OG).
There’s a popular internet cartoon character, the anime version of one Strong Bad, whose catch phrase is “are you asking for a challenge?!” If he ever said that to me, my response would come in the form of a gift-wrapped box with a GBA SP and this game inside. OG1 may have been difficult, but OG2 is absurdly difficult. It is stupid hard. That, or I’m terrible at these games, but others who have played the game tend to agree with me, so I should be accurate with what I’m saying here.
Advertised as a 40+ hour Strategy RPG, I actually put over 100 hours into this game. I made a mistake, and that mistake was to try and get “the best ending.” There are only two, mind you, and the only difference is a bonus stage after the standard 42 missions. To reach this stage, one has to earn “battle mastery” points in each level, with only a few being missed (sources vary on how many points you need; I can tell you now, though, that 34 out of 42 was too low). The battle masteries are earned by completing secondary objectives that generally make the mission itself more challenging. Usually, they involved killing a certain number of units (or a boss) before so many turns had passed. More challenging masteries included defeating bosses that normally retreat at a certain HP level (meaning your last hit has to be big), defeating optional bosses on the map, and there was even one dreaded escort mission where the mastery involved the cargo going untouched through the level.
The gameplay mechanics are virtually identical to that of the first OG, so I won’t give much detail; nor will I give tips for success, as I myself seemed to have failed at completing this game in any reasonable time. With all the experience I had with the game, I could easily say a lot more about the gameplay… but honestly, after all that play time, I’m just too exhausted to do so. Don’t make my mistake: if you want the extra stage and the best ending, don’t even consider attempting it unless you thought OG1 was a cakewalk.
Oh, and if you haven’t played OG1, I would strongly urge you to do so before picking up this game. The storyline will make virtually no sense without the precursor under your belt. That said, let’s talk about the game’s plot.
The game opens six months after the end of the events of OG1. There’s been some political turmoil, and most of the team members from the first game have been split up, assigned to different groups for various tasks. During the game, you slowly reunite your old crew while picking up some new members along the way. Unlike OG1, which allowed you to choose one of two protagonists, OG2 doesn’t seem to have a defined “main character” this time around. One might argue it’s a joint role between Kyosuke and Excellen, but it’s tough to say for sure.
There are three different “paths” you take in the game. For two or three missions, you follow one of two paths depending on a choice directly made in-between levels. With these paths, you get to develop different characters (both in statistics and storyline), fleshing out different aspects of the game. Unfortunately, since you don’t see the other path, there is a lot to be missed. Perhaps this was designed to encourage a second playthrough (same goes for the “EX Hard” mode); but again, unless you’re an expert at these sorts of games, one time through will have taken more than enough time.
The enemy factions that you battle against are many, and things get mighty confusing. First, there are the DC (Divine Crusader) Remnants, who later become the Neo DC. Within their group are the Shadow Mirrors, an enigmatic bunch whose hobbies include building intelligent robots to do their bidding and creating endless conflict. Then, there are the Inspectors, a group of aliens who think humans are a violent group, a disease that will spread throughout the galaxy and must therefore be stopped. And, finally, there are the “Einsts,” the most mysterious and fearsome threat of all, as they have the capability to teleport anywhere and everywhere as they please – and they seem to hate everyone.
Some of the best emotional bits of dialogue revolve around the children brought up in “The School,” a facility run by the late Adler Koch and Agilla Setme. One of the girls from OG1, Latooni Subota, was rescued from this facility, where children were reconditioned to become fighting machines for particular factions by giving them fake memories while still allowing them to retain their capacity for thought and emotion. Three of Latooni’s schoolmates (Seolla, Arado, and Ouka) become the center of attention for much of the game’s story arc, and their subplot was a very moving one for this reviewer.
Though more characters get fleshed out, particularly the newer ones, many of the characters already had their big moments in OG1, and despite their roles in the game as leaders, they have much less character development. This left a sour taste in my mouth.
Without spoiling too much, the game’s ending shows a triumph of human will over both those who would seek eternal conflict and those who would seek eternal tranquility (in the form of nothingness, perhaps). It’s a very typical message, but it’s one that ought to be heard, and I do think that they did a good job explaining it at the end. In terms of dialogue, however, it was a shame how much of the heady theoretical stuff was saved for the very end of the game.
Also, there were some characters whose mysteries aren’t even remotely revealed, perhaps because they are better known in other SRT games that never came to the US. In particular, the character “Gilliam” could have used a lot more fleshing out, particularly in his backstory. In contrast, the pasts of Rai, Elzam, Aya, and others are all explained much better in OG2, and I appreciated this. Again, like the last game, be prepared to do a boatload of reading. There’s plenty of text to go around.
I’m greatly pleased with Atlus’ decision to publish OG1 and OG2 in the US, and it was particularly enjoyable to receive both games in such a short span of time. However, there were a few GBA RPGs released in 2006 that managed to top this game by a tiny bit, so I didn’t feel it was worthy of receiving a 90+ score. The game is very well balanced, and I think it deserves a balanced score of a perfect, middle-of-the-road B. The game gets an 85%, and you (the reader) get best wishes of luck from me if you attempt to tackle this mammoth of a Strategy RPG.