Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Games You Should Know About (But Probably Don't)

This is a new feature I've wanted to try out for a while. There seems to be video games that go unnoticed in America, whether it's because they don't have the same recognition as the games that come out from the big companies or they're made for a niche audience that only the hardcore would appreciate. Either way, these games don't get the appreciation they deserve. Remember when Prince of Persia: Sands of Time came out and no one picked it up at first. Now, you all know about it. And who can forget Beyond Good and Evil? If you don't know about BG&E, get off your ass, go to your nearest used game retailer and pick up a copy. I actually gave this game as a present to my nephew for his birthday one year. He had no idea what it was, but when he played it, he went apeshit over it. Anyway, I'm not going to talk about those two games right now, as POP has got enough recognition and Ubisoft listened to fans of BG&E and are working on the sequel. Today, we begin with a series of games that originated on the Game Boy in 1991 and not only became a huge success in Japan, but helped bring a resurgence of interest in the genre of anime that inspired the games. Which genre? Only the God-King of Japanese animation... GIANT ROBOT ANIME The series is called Super Robot Taisen, also known as Super Robot Wars and SRW for short. This is actually a series of Tactical Role-Playing games that spans two decades and multiple systems, both console and handheld. I actually discovered this series when I purchased an old Japanese gaming magazine at a Japanese festival. When I saw the game in the pages, I was floored. Why? Because these games feature characters and robots from just about every giant robot anime that came out. Everything from Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, and Mobile Suit Gundam (which were the three franchises featured in the first game and stalwart staples of the games, thereafter) to Evangelion, Nadesico, Full Metal Panic!, and Gravion has been featured in these games. Hell, even King of the Beasts GoLion (which kids in 80s America would come to know as Voltron) is in there. What does this mean? There's a shitload of gian robot mayhem in there. But before you ask me, "If it's just a turn based strategy rpg, doesn't it tone down the awesomeness that comes from watching the anime. To this, I tell you hell-to-the-no. A lot of strategy rpgs, like Shining Force, for instance, had battle animations that played out the individual blows that came between combatants. I must say, never before have I seen battle animations so kick ass as the ones in SRW. Just take a look: That's just from one attack. Imagine that happening all the time. I know that some people may whine, "but that stuff slows down the gameplay and gets repetitive." Seriously, if you're not into sweet battle animations full of giant robots and kick ass music, then this game wasn't made for you. Shut up. I'm usually not that big a fan of turn based strategy rpgs, to be honest, but this is just too fucking awesome to pass on. Now before any of you want to pick these games up, know this: Most of these games are never coming to America. Why? Most of these shows have been released in America by different companies. Can you imagine trying to work with all of these American companies to secure the rights to each and every one of these anime. It would be shitloads of red tape and shitloads of dollars just to get permission to localize the game. So if you want to get some of these games on the PS2, which, by the way, has the most visually impressive battle animations, you'll need to tweak your PS2 to play Japanese games or buy a Japanese PS2. Fortunately, the Nintendo DS has no region coding on their systems, allowing you to play Japanese games without any hassle. There are a couple of SRW titles available for the system, but the latest one seems to be giving no love to the original three series that started it all. No early Gundam, no Getter Robo, and only Mazinger Z is available (no Great Mazinger) is there to represent the old school. But there is hope. Atlus got the rights to release a few of the SRW games in the States that are under the Original Generation title. The first two, Original Generation and Original Generation 2 for the Game Boy Advance, do not include any characters or giant robots from any of the anime series, but features an original cast and new robots. While it does not have the appeal of pitting your favorite giant robots against each other, it still has great battle animations and is still a satisfying fix for any giant robot aficionado. Atlus is soon releasing their first SRW game for the DS. Entitled OG Saga: Endless Frontier, it actually takes a departure from the rest of the games. It was co-developed by Monolith Soft, the guys who made the Xenosaga games. Instead of a strategy rpg, this one is more along the lines of Monolith's other game, as it plays like a standard rpg, but each character individually does combo attacks to beat the bejesus out of the enemy. I never played Xenosaga, but I did play Xenogears and it sounds a lot like the gameplay in that. Also, no giant robots. They're all a little taller than people, but no giants. There is, however, a few characters from other games that do make an appearance. Reiji Arisu and Xiaomu from Monolith Soft's other awesome game, NamcoXCapcom, show up as well as KOS-MOS, the robo babe from Xenosaga, as playable characters. Now that you know about the series, see what you can dig up for it. Check out places like Play-Asia.com, where you can find the imports. The Original Generation GBA games you can find on Amazon.com and OG Saga: Endless Frontier comes out the end of the month (already got mine pre-ordered). And if you already know about this series, then take comfort in knowing that, somewhere out there, there is a kindred soul who knows about the awesome games that are out there, waiting for people to look past the veneer of tried (sometimes tired) and true established franchises on the shelves and be daring enough to try something different for a change. For only when we decide not to buy the same old shit again and again, do we challenge game companies to bring us these overshadowed titles that you should know about (but probably don't). Until next time, Kaiser out

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