Side scrollers are in my opinion some of the most fun games you can play on a console, or at the arcade for that matter. Nowadays there are quite few of them, but playing old classics like R-Type or Tyrian always proves to be tons of fun. The gameplay is not like most other games, because you need to respond very quickly to very dangerous scenarios. Usually you’re the last hope, the one-man-army that the government sends out when they need someone to save the planet. Usually there are enormous hordes of enemies, plenty of huge bosses and tons of challenge. Robotech: The Macross Saga fits nicely into that description, but it adds some interesting gameplay elements and lets us play it with colorful graphics and catchy background tunes.
In Robotech, the Zentraedi aliens are visiting the Earth, and they are definitely up to no good! Luckily, the pilot you choose to use will get to use the Veritech VF-1, a transformable fighter that both lets you move around as a robot and fly like any other plane. This is the main innovation that this game presents; being able to move up and down quickly, utilizing both modes’ advantages. Sometimes it’s much easier to walk on the ground, firing upwards at the enemies than flying, but with a varied selection of enemies you’re never really safe anywhere, so you’re bound to go up and down a lot. Luckily moving between the two different modes is silky smooth. What makes the gameplay difficult is mainly that the enemies attack very quickly. Often you’ll find yourself to the very right of the screen, where instant reflexes are required. When going on foot you can simply hover a bit and the screen will move forward.
The missions don’t have an awesome storyline, but they make up for it by being entertaining. Usually you have to defend a base, perform a sneak attack on someone, or even save someone. In general all you actually do is to move from the start to end, shooting down anything that moves, including huge bosses. Luckily there are plenty of power-ups to pick up while you’re playing, so for a short period of time you can add the ability of multi-fire, or being able to use a powerful beam weapon. The power-ups sadly only last a short period of time, but instead of just having a ship that can never improve, the developers chose to add a slight RPG-ish element. As you shoot down villains you also earn experience points, which you can use after having finished a level. There you can buy upgrades that will beef up the following parts of your ship: power, stamina, strength, piloting and speed. Even though being able to upgrade your ship is great alone, it would’ve been a whole lot better if they would have chosen a solution similar to Tyrian, where adding for instance, a new generator would have a big impact on the game, instead of only slightly noticing the added speed your precious upgrade got you.
And, instead of only having the typical side-viewed space shooter gameplay, the developers included missions where you control a Destroit (fancy word for mech) that moves around in moon-like environments where the goal is to blow up enemy buildings. Because of awkward controls this mode doesn’t work as great as the main one, but it does add a grain of variation to the game. Also, Robotech’s graphics aren’t exactly spectacular. The levels are mainly situated in space, with space buildings, and all the kind of space “things” you would expect. The environments don’t look incredibly realistic in terms of how they’re built, but they’re fairly colorful, and should look decent to fans of the genre. If only the backgrounds had a slight sense of animation... The villains you’ve been sent out to remove also look on par with similar shooters, nothing more, nothing less. Their animations are fairly basic, but they never look crude. The most impressive looking enemy has to be the final boss, who happens to cover a good portion of the screen.
Even though this game is far from easy, it surprised me how few levels they chose to include. The decision was probably made because they couldn’t stretch the pretty weak plot to eternity, but it’s still a letdown. What’s nice is that besides the initial pilot selection you’re able to unlock plenty of secret ones, so if you’re up for several rounds then you should be able to knock yourself out before you’ve tried everyone.
If you’re still breathing after having done that then you should clearly check out the CO-OP and VS mode. Both are very easy to set up and play, so be sure to dig up your link cable if your friends are coming over.
Finally, the musical score of Robotech is, like most of the game, up to par with similar games. The original theme music is included, and with a decent number of sound effects fans of the huge Robotech universe should be pleased. The downside is that for people who may not even know the Robotech universe or its theme song, the music will get annoying and the sound effects will get slightly cheesy in the long run.
Games like R-Type and Tyrian don’t come along every day, and that’s why my first impressions of this game were great. I have been itching to play a game like this for a long time, but after completing the game in two days of on-and-off playing, I doubt this is a game I’ll remember for long. Here in Norway very few people know the Robotech universe, including me. I may have missed out on something, but after having played the GBA interpretation I still feel as if more fun can be had by playing old classics. This game does offer decent graphics, sounds, music and gameplay with some nice twists that should increase the replay-value, but can’t we expect more before we cough up our hard earned money?
Fans of the Robotech universe or the genre itself should make sure you inspect this game further. Personally I don’t think it’s worth the money, but those who are in dire need of a way to spend a boring weekend, could find an interesting challenge in Robotech: The Macross Saga.