Does the T in This Super-Sized SRPG Stand for “Take My Money” or “Throw It Away?”
Playing the Super Robot Wars franchise in English was thought to be nothing but a dream for the longest time. However, over the last four years, Bandai Namco Asia has made that dream a reality. To mixed results each time.
The Moon Dwellers had potential for fans of the old Original Generation games on the GBA Atlus localized in 2006. However, it’s clunky translation just served to confuse the fans of those games. Super Robot Wars V, meanwhile, would be the first SRW with licensed characters to be localized in the West. While a fascinating game, the localization still needed some work. 2018 gave us Super Robot Wars X, which had a more natural sounding localization but wasn’t as cohesive in its story and characterization. Which brings us finally to Super Robot Wars T.
Super Robot Wars T’s goal is to firmly establish the SRW franchise as an international property. Just look at the inclusion of Western favorites such as Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Gun x Sword, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Cowboy Bebop as proof of that. Having platinumed both V and X on the PS4, I can tell you that the talent is there. However, does the franchise’s first outing on the Nintendo Switch fair any better than the previous two games? And, has the localization continued to improve? Let’s dive in and see if the T in this edition of Super Robot Wars stands for “Take my money” or “Throw it away”. Let’s begin our look with explaining the premise of this massive crossing of stories.
The Twilight Age
The year is New Universal Era 200. The Earth and solar system have spent the last ten years in a state of constant decline. With wars breaking out thanks to the likes of Dr. Hell and the Mycenaean Empire (Mazinger), the Invaders (Getter Robo), El-01 (GaoGaiGar), Black Noir (Mightgaine), and the constant struggle between the Earth Federation, Zeon, and Cosmo Babylonia (Gundam, Zeta, ZZ, & F91) humanity has stagnated. Even the 13th Gundam Fight (G Gundam), which left Japan in control of the Earth Federation government, almost ended in disaster thanks to the Dark Gundam incident. In fact, even the future of the Gundam Fight is now in question. It’s here, in this chaotic era that our story begins.
On Earth, the VTX Union is preparing its newest creation, the Tyranado, to be a candidate for the Earth Federation’s newest mass-produced unit. In order to refine and test the Tyranado, Special Section 3 is created and dispatched to assist Domon Kasshu on Mars at the behest of the Japanese government. Things, of course, are never that simple though as Special Section 3 soon find themselves involved with far more than they ever imagined.
From a man in a tuxedo’s quest to avenge his wife (Gun x Sword); to the rise of the Martian Successors (Nadesico); to group of space cowboys just trying to survive (Cowboy Bebop); to a threat lurking past the edge of the solar system (Gunbuster) and beyond (VOTMOS & Expelled from Paradise); to even lands bordering on the fantastical (Dunbine & Rayearth). Special Section 3 is going to have to put in some serious overtime in order to ensure humanity survives the Twilight Age. And this just the premise mind you.
A Cast of Titans to Discover and Reunite With
As you can tell, Super Robot Wars T is immense. I couldn’t even cover every included series in those three paragraphs. But that should give you an idea as to the state of the world. With this in mind, I’m going to be focusing this review on two series in particular: Mobile Fighter G Gundam and Gun x Sword.
The reason for this is that they’re the only two shows I’ve seen in their entirety. So, I’ll be using them as my yardstick. That said, SRW is a franchise that expects you not to have seen any of the shows it’s based off. So, don’t let the cast list intimidate you. Instead, use SRW to get familiar with shows you’ve never seen as well as reunite with some old friends. With that forewarning out of the way let’s delve into one of the best parts of any SRW title: the graphics.
This Hand of Mine Is Burning Red and Looks Amazing in HD
SRW is a very cinematic game. In fact, the main draw of the franchise before it was translated was just watching the various attacks each mech had. And yes, I did say attacks. Each mech tends to have anywhere from two to six attacks. There are exceptions of course. For example, the Gunbuster has a total of ten by the end of the game. Conversely, the Billbine’s Wing Calibur mode only has one. With over 70 units (including transformation modes) that means there are well over 150 unique attacks. And I’m being conservative here. Still, that’s quite a lot to animate for one game. So, how is it done?
Well, some attacks are very simple. Your basic attacks will often just use the mech sprite and maybe feature a pilot cut-in. But the heavier attacks will almost always do their best to recreate scenes from the anime the show is based on. It especially looks amazing when you consider that both G Gundam and Rayearth, for example, were both made in the ’90s. Yet you’d swear that some of these attacks were from a show that recently came out. Part of the reason B.B. Studio (formerly Banpresto) can do this is through reusing some attacks between games.
An example of this is Great Mightgaine. Having already been in V and X, many of Great Mightgaine’s animations come from those two games. Though he did get some additional animation for the Great Fire attack. If a unit appeared in V or X, then expect its animations to be from that game. Even so, they still look great and it gives B.B. Studio time to perfect the new attacks. Like the El Dora Soul’s Dungan Bombardiero.
If you’ve never seen any footage from SRW then I highly recommend you check out the embedded video below. It’s from the second preview for T and should give you an idea of what I mean. As for the rest of you, let’s move onto our next topic: hot-blooded voice acting.
Over-The-Top Yelling Is the Only Option
Being an Asian-English release, Super Robot Wars T does not have an English voice dub. Now, normally this would be a source of disappointment for me. However, I can completely understand why there’s no dub. The number of contract negotiations that would have to take place would be insane. Considering SRW already is a licensing nightmare when it comes to the West, I’m quite content with just having the Japanese voice track. Which is fantastic, of course.
The Japanese voice track is stuffed full of amazing and legendary voice talent. Nobuyuki Hiyama voices both Guy Shishioh (GaoGaiGar) and Maito Senpuji (Mightgaine), for example. In fact, if you’re ever curious about who is voicing a particular character, you can go into their bio page to not only see who the voice actor is, but also play a few sample voice clips. In short, this voice cast is awesome. Thankfully, the music tends to be just as splendid.
A Symphony of Super Robot Compositions
With so many iconic series included, you’d hope that some of the music from these works would make it into the game. And, in fact, they do! B.B. Studio has always tried to include instrumental versions of iconic opening themes or incidental music in the SRW series. What’s even better is that the music is customizable. Both by unit and by attack.
For example, if you’re not a fan of “Trust You Forever” from G Gundam, you could set the Burning Gundam’s theme to “Gun x Sword” from… uh… Gun x Sword. But you can also set the Burning Finger’s attack to use “Waga Kokoro Meikyoshisui-Saredo Konote ha Rekka no Gotoku”. Or the Sekiaha Tenkyoken theme. Though, I’m sure you can already see an issue based on that last sentence. Many of the song titles are in Romanized Japanese.
Now thankfully, the songs are sorted by series. So, you can just look for the series you want and play each track to find a particular song. But if you’re looking through the original music to find a theme (like “Shori to Asu o Kasanete”) then it’s a bit of a problem since Westerner’s don’t tend to think in Japanese and thus aren’t going to remember or recall an exact song title in Romaji. For convenience, I’d urge Bandai Asia to translate the song titles next time to aid in the player experience. Next, let’s move onto the game design itself and see how SRW handles turn-based tactics.
Familiar, yet Unique in Its Own Way
Like Fire Emblem, Super Robot Wars T is a turn-based strategy RPG. In fact, Fire Emblem is one of the closest comparisons you can make. Both games operate similarly on a fundamental level.
Each turn begins with the player phase. During this phase, the player will select a mech, move with it, and possibly attack. Once all mechs have been moved or if the player wishes to end their turn early, the player can open the menu and select the End Phase command. This then shifts the turn to the computer. The computer will then do the same thing. Move their mechs, attack when it can, and pass control back to the player. This constitutes a turn in SRW. Where the game differs from Fire Emblem is in all the extra options the player has.
For one, each unit has several attacks. Some of these can only be used before moving. So, a big portion of SRW’s strategy comes from setting yourself up to respond to enemy attacks. Another is the use of Spirits.
Spirit commands are basically the magic spells of SRW. These commands cost SP and provide a wide range of effects. Some will heal HP; others will allow you to dodge or withstand a single attack. Still, others allow you to do double damage. A lot of the strategy of SRW revolves around using your spirit commands wisely. Especially if you’re going for the optional SR points.
A Foe That Gets Stronger Alongside You
SR Points are optional objectives that the player can complete on normal mode. These objectives can be as simple as completing a map in under a certain amount of turns; to needing to defeat certain bosses in one attack or a specific order. While, for the most part, these goals may seem impossible at times, they all are possible with some good planning. I was able to obtain all 53 SR points on my first run. Though certain objectives may take a few tries. Still, why would you take on this challenge? Actually, there are multiple reasons.
For one, each SR Point awards you with 10,000 credits. These are used to upgrade your mechs (more on that in a bit). Another reason is that the amount of SR Points you have is used to determine the difficulty of the game. The more SR Points you have the harder the game becomes. Though this only applies to normal mode. Super Robot Wars T also has two other modes, Beginner and Expert.
Beginner Mode will lock the game into easy and will award you with credits and Tac Points (TacP) for clearing each stage. Expert mode conversely locks the game into hard and will only award you the SR Point bonuses from clearing a stage without retrying (reloading, of course, is allowed). This means Super Robot Wars T can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. Especially if you’re a fan of self-imposed challenges.
So Many Mecha, So Many Options
One of the main features of Super Robot Wars is the level of customization the player has. While pilots do level up based on EXP, this really only provides some minor stat boosts and access to more Spirit commands. Instead, the bulk of your upgrading is done through credits and TacP.
Credits are used to not only upgrade your mech’s stats but can also be used to increase the base strength of its weapons. This means you can take a unit you just got or a unit who’s struggling and give them a much-needed boost. In addition, upgrading each of a mech’s parameters, except weapons, to at least rank 5 will unlock that unit’s Custom Bonus. Similarly, pilots can also be upgraded using TacP.
TacP used to be known as Pilot Points in older SRWs and was tied to each character. TacP, conversely, is shared by the whole squad. Meaning you put every skill on a single pilot to create a nigh-unstoppable hero or spread the love by beefing up the various supporting character’s and making them the stars. How you develop your crew is up to you. Especially since you can never use everyone in one playthrough.
Most maps will limit you to a few units required for story purposes and 16-24 additional mechs. So, each playthrough allows you to experiment with new characters. This is especially true as Super Robot Wars T gives you two protagonists (Sagari Sakurai and Saizo Tokito), several route splits, and two endings (with variations of the story and ending depending on who your protagonist is). This game is meant for repeat playthroughs and even rewards you for doing so. However, you still need to get through it the first time. And you’ll only do that if it’s interesting, right? So, let’s look at the story briefly to see what works and what doesn’t.
Top-Tier Fan Fiction or Bottom-Shelf Personal Pandering?
Super Robot Wars is essentially professionally produced fan fiction. In fact, B.B. Studio has often tried to correct things that fans take issue with from the original included series. Examples of this include Shinn Asuka’s characterization from Gundam SEED Destiny; The plight of Ange and the Norma from Cross Ange; and even the fate of Master Asia from G Gundam. Speaking of which, he’s in Super Robot Wars T.
Yes, the Undefeated of the East returns (he was revealed in one of the commercials), which is significant since T takes place after the end of G Gundam How, why, what he’s doing, and if he’s playable, I leave for you to find out. But, this a great example of how B.B. Studio tries to cater to the fans of each included series. This extends to characters from different franchises meeting each other.
Another good example is Allenby Beardsley (G Gundam) and Pricilla (Gun x Sword) meeting each other. Turns out Pricilla is a huge fan of Allenby and looks up to her. This not only works, but the two also comment on how similar the cockpit system of Pricilla’s Brownie is to Allenby’s Nobel Gundam. It’s little touches like these that show B.B. Studio knows what they’re doing… most of the time. There are a few instances where I just scratch my head.
When A Space Cowboy is Just Along for the Ride
One of the major draws for Super Robot Wars T was the inclusion of Cowboy Bebop. A series that is beloved in the West. Putting Spike and company alongside the cast from Gun x Sword and Arcadia of my Youth – Endless Orbit SSX does make sense. However, outside of a few early missions, the cast of Cowboy Bebop are mainly just there instead of being integrated. To be fair to B.B. Studio, it’s not for a lack of trying.
Spike, Faye, Jet, and Ed do contribute to conversations and don’t feel out of place. In addition, B.B. Studios lovingly recreated the opening of Cowboy Bebop as one of the Swordfish II’s attacks. It’s genuinely impressive and shows they were trying. The problem is that Cowboy Bebop isn’t really a mecha show. While I’ve only seen bits of it, I remember a lot more on-foot action than ship-to-ship action. Honestly, I think something like Outlaw Star would have been a better idea since there was a lot more ship combat there from what I recall. Conversely, the cast of Rayearth left a big impression on me.
The Bravery of the Magic Knights
Magic Knight Rayearth was one of the franchises I was ecstatic to see included. I had always heard that it was a great series but never was able to see it. Now, I could learn about these characters and their plight. And despite the fact that I didn’t follow the route that dealt with their story (I was following the G Gundam and Gun x Sword characters at each route split) I still felt like I got to know Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu. Which is the big difference between their integration and Cowboy Bebop’s. I got to know one cast while I merely got to meet the other.
I saw Hikari, Umi, and Fuu not only try to protect Cephiro but the Earth as a whole. Not because they were asked to, but because it was the right thing to do. I legitimately felt heartbroken when the truth about their destiny was revealed. And concerned for their wellbeing in the aftermath. I was more than willing to invest my hard-earned credits and TacP into them despite not always having them available because I connected with them. When you inspire bravery in both the hot-blooded queen that is Noriko Takaya and the King of Braves, Guy Shishioh, you know you are awesome! Rayearth did not disappoint and it’s just one of the many reasons I’m going to play through this game again. But, we’ve gone on long enough so let’s wrap this up.
The War for Terra is One Worth Joining
Super Robot Wars T is a delight. If you have any interest in this game, then I highly recommend giving a shot. The story and characters are fantastic, the animations fun, the music lively, and it’s just a joy to play. For the last three years, the Super Robot Wars games have been something I look forward to and T is no exception. That said, this a technical review and it’s not all perfect, starting with the price.
The price is an issue for some since you’ll need to import this one. That means not only paying a higher a price ($69.99 for the Switch Version or $74.99 for the PS4 version) but you’ll need to pay for shipping as well. Then comes the issue of DLC. DLC has been part of both V and X, with both extra stages and Day 1 DLC. The PlayStation 4 has access to these while the Switch version does not. In fact, the Day 1 bonuses had to be patched into the Switch version since the South East Asia (SEA) region does not have an eShop. Then comes the topic of the localization.
While the localization is probably the most consistent of V, X, and T, it still has issues. There’s the occasional unintentional bit of “Engrish” (Using “Chest” for the Japanese battle cry of “Chesto”), intentional odd localization choices (Domon uses his Japanese title “Gundam the Gundam” instead of the proper English “Gundam of Gundams” or “Shuffle Union” instead of “Shuffle Alliance”), odd text formatting (similar to, but not nearly as bad as The Princess Guide), and an aversion to using contractions or plurals (“King of Heart” instead of the proper “King of Hearts”). While it’s passable, it’s also a hard sell considering the premium price and the fact this is the third game that’s had many of these issues. Still, I can’t help but love this game.
I could write several articles nitpicking all the things that Bandai Namco Asia needs to fix. There’s a lot of room for improvement. But, when your base product is this good, it certainly shines through. B.B. Studio deserves a lot of credit. They know how to make a crossover. If you’re on the fence though I’d recommend picking up either Super Robot Wars V or Super Robot Wars X for the PlayStation 4 to get your feet wet. But if you have the money to spend then I can see no wrong in adding Super Robot Wars T to your Switch or PlayStation 4 library.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4; Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia ; Developer: B.B. Studios; Players: 1; Released: March 20, 2019 ; Rating: 16+; MSRP: $69.99 (Switch), $74.99 (PlayStation 4)
“Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Super Robot Wars T purchased by the reviewer.