Super Robot Wars 30 Review (PC)

Super Robot Wars 30 Review: Should You Attend this Mecha Crossover Bash?

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Featured Image

30 years later and this Massive Mecha Crossover is still going strong

30 years. It’s not every day that a series or franchise not only hits such a milestone but also manages to stay healthy and relevant during that time. Sure, Mario and Mega Man are examples of series that have managed to accomplish such a feat. But when you consider you have others like Bomberman (which has struggled with its identity) or Blaster Master (which has been making a fantastic comeback) that haven’t fared nearly as well, it’s easy to see the many pitfalls a series can have over the years. But, if the Super Robot Wars franchise is more akin to Mario and Mega Man, why is Super Robot Wars 30 possibly the first time you’re hearing about it? Well, let’s answer that question as we dive into the absolutely massive 30-year celebration of one of gaming’s greatest hidden franchises.

 

The Beginnings of a Super Robot Soul

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Super Robot Wars 1 - Title Screen - Ver2

1991’s Super Robot Wars. The game that started this beloved franchise

 

The Super Robot Wars (or SRW) franchise got its start on the humble Game Boy way back in 1991. A lot has changed from the original game. Especially, when you consider that game had you playing as sentient versions of mechs from the Getter Robo, Mazinger Z, and Gundam series. However, some things have stayed the same. The first is the Strategy RPG nature of the series. While the second is that it’s retained its crisis crossover roots and expanded them.

The original game contained mechs and enemies from 10 different series from those three franchises. By the time we get to Super Robot Wars 30, there are units and characters from over 25 different games and anime in this most recent title. Heck, if you consider the franchise as a whole, it has the Guinness World Record for “the most intellectual property licenses used in a role-playing videogame series”. What started as a simple licensed strategy game has become a proud legend able to stand in the pantheon of pop-culture… If you live in Japan.

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Super Robot Wars 1 - Mazinger-Z Rocket Punch

Mazinger Z’s Rocket Punch from SRW 1. While the series has seen very few releases internationally until recently, fans have helped to the Super Robot Spirit shining brightly with fan translations such as this one from Aeon Genesis

Probably the biggest reason you’ve never heard of the series is that it’s been primarily Japanese only due to the licensing issues. Think about it. Imagine how difficult it was for Masahiro Sakurai and his team to get the licenses to every single character and song in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. A game that everyone knew would sell well and was worth taking a risk on. Now, imagine that same process for a game that features several anime or series you’ve probably never heard of. Even if the licensing costs were reasonable, I’d imagine that latter point is why Bandai Namco has never tried to bring the series to the West. Well, that is until 2016.

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | The Moon Dwellers - Latiooni Double Zamber

Latooni from The Moon Dwellers. The first time many of us had seen her again since Original Generation 2 was released on the GBA by Atlus in the West.

In 2016, Bandai Namco decided to release Super Robot Wars: Original Generation: The Moon Dwellers in the Asia region in English. While getting into the Original Generation series is a bit beyond the scope of this review. The important thing here is that it was enough of a success that the next year the Asia region received the first title with licensed series in it: Super Robot Wars V.

From there we’ve gotten each new Super Robot Wars game other than DD which is a mobile-only title. Hey Poor Player even reviewed Super Robot Wars T in 2019 and included it on our Top 25 Games of 2019 list that year while Super Robot Wars X made our list in 2018. This brings us to 2021 and Super Robot Wars 30. The first licensed SRW to be released worldwide.

As a fan, I never thought I’d have seen the day. But, as a critic, it made me all the more curious. Could Super Robot Wars 30 prove to be as much of a success in the West as it was in Japan? Let’s start answering that question with a look at what many people know Super Robot Wars for. Its graphics.

 

Flashy and Dynamic as any Anime

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Kallen Attacks

Kallen from Code Geass showing just why the people would often import the SRW games just to play them. These attack animations are gorgeous.

Despite the language barrier, Super Robot Wars has had two things that have been universal to fans all over the world. The first of these is the attack animations which each mech uses.

Most mechs have at least two attacks you can choose from. With many of the main mechs having six or more. These range from simpler attacks such as Gridman’s “Melee” to GaoGaiGo’s “Hell and Heaven”. Some of my personal favorites would be the Ikaruga’s “High Mobility Attack” and the Victory Gundam’s “Wings of Light”. Some of these attacks also have an extra little scene play if you manage to down an enemy with the attack. That said, we do need to bring up one thing that has been contentious among SRW fans: reusing attacks from previous games.

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Van's Hat Bell

While Van’s attack animations are reused, they did remember to include the closeup of his hat bell and the chime when he downs an enemy. Too bad we still have the awkward localization of “CHESTO!”.

One of the things B.B. Studio (the developers) do is reuse animations for units that are returning from a recent game. For example, both GUN×SWORD and Magic Knight Rayearth return from Super Robot Wars T. As such, their attack animations are reused. However, they are touched up a bit. For example, Van’s iconic hat bell will appear when defeating an enemy with certain attacks. Personally, this doesn’t bug me like it would in the Neptunia franchise. Sure, it’s a cost-cutting measure, but it does make some sense.

The difference between the two franchises is how they reuse assets. Using an existing asset to supplement things while you create new content is ok. Yes, we shouldn’t see the same animations for three games in a row as we did for Brave Express Mightgaine for the VTX trilogy. However, if the amount of new content I’m getting outweighs the reused content I’m fine with it. Especially when the reused content is good. It’s a lesson other budget-conscious developers should take to heart. Now, before we move on there is one more thing we should touch on and that’s the new dynamic cut-ins that are used before each attack.

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Dynamic Cut-in of the Ikargua

The new dynamic cut-ins that play at the start of each attack work beautifully like with the Ikaruga’s “High Mobility Attack” here.

In the previous SRWs, after an attack, it would just seamlessly transition into the counterattack phase. So, let’s say Gridman attacks an enemy Kaiju. Providing the enemy survives, rather than cutting to black the enemy would then proceed to counterattack. This makes the entire process look more like one continuous action scene. In Super Robot Wars 30 this was changed so that there would be a cut to black and then the enemy would rush onto the scene and attack your unit. This has been met with mixed opinions among fans.

When this works properly, it does make the action feel more dynamic and interesting. The problem comes from when it doesn’t. It’s really jarring to see an enemy get hit, then have the cut happen, then have the enemy rush onto the scene to stand in the same position. It just feels… off. This is something that will get better in future games. However, it is something I think B.B. Studio should take another hard look at. Still, graphics aren’t everything. A good game needs a good soundtrack. Thankfully, SRW knows a thing or two about that as well.

 

Rocking out to Giant Robot Tunes and Hot-Blooded Fury

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Time for L-GAIM

Looks like it’s “Time for L-GAIM”

Remember how I mentioned there were two things that have been universal to SRW fans? Well, the second is the music. And it’s still awesome.

SRW acknowledges that each series has its own music and thus musical identity. As such, the developers have always created their own instrumental renditions of themes from each series. For example, when using the L-Gaim, “L-GAIM -Time for L-GAIM-” will start playing. Sure, it’s not the actual song with MIQ’s legendary vocals, but it still gets your blood pumping and instantly helps you identify the mech (which you may not be familiar with) is from that series. Each series has at least one song representing it while some will have multiple. SRW has its own original compositions as well.

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Music Select Screen

With 17 pages of music to sort through sometimes it can be tough to find the one you want. Especially since most of them are in Romaji.

Many of these are more incidental pieces that are made to match the mood. But the last few games have each introduced a theme that tends to play when it’s time for your squad to lay the smackdown on your foes. This time is no different with “Shisen o Koeru Tsubasa ha Wareni”. Another returning favorite of mine is “Isshinittai” which was introduced in Super Robot Wars X. Though, from those titles I think you can see a bit of a problem. Many of the original songs retain their Japanese naming.

To some, this might not be a problem. However, while I know a little Japanese, my primary language is English. Thus, it’s easier to remember things in English. The reason I bring this up is that it sometimes makes it really hard to take advantage of one of SRW’s best features. Being able to customize which themes play for each attack and each mech.

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Select Music Screen 2

One of the best parts about SRW is that you can customize the music just about any way you see fit.

Let’s say you’re not a fan of the theme that plays by default for the Mobile Suit Z Gundam units “Kantaisen”. Well, you can change that to “Main Title” from Mobile Suit Gundam Char’s Counterattack or “GUN×SWORD” from, well, GUN×SWORD. Now, let’s say you want to use one of the original songs since it fits the mood. Then you can save one of the main themes for near the end of the stage when you’re ready to take on the boss. It’s really hard to find said original incidental piece when you can’t remember what it was called since it’s all in Romanized Japanese.

Yes, this is a minor complaint, but I don’t see it as a big ask. You’re localizing the game, Bandai Namco. Think of your players and just localize the song titles for your original compositions so we know what they’re called. Before we move on, we also need to touch upon the voice acting.

Super Robot Wars 30 features a ton of voice acting. Though it’s primarily for its attack animations. You see, the dialogue that occurs during the battle scenes is all voiced. However, the text in the non-combat segments isn’t. Normally this doesn’t bother me, but this time it kind of does.

 

Super Robot Wars 30 | Epic Voice Acting

Seriously, I want to watch Gundam NT just to hear more of Zoltan’s VA. I just wish we would hear more of him and the others during the regular dialogue as well.

The reason being is that there were times in the previous games where they would use a few voiced lines because they were impactful. These were normally saved for major story notes or climatic battles. However, this time I don’t recall that ever happening. It does make some scenes ring a bit hollow since you feel like there should be some voice acting there. Again, it’s a minor thing, but it does bug me. Also, please note that the voice acting is all in Japanese for this game.

While that normally would be an issue for me, Super Robot Wars, is one of the few series where I’m content with only having the Japanese voice track. Mainly because while I’d love to see a dub of this, the costs for it would be astronomical. Still, the Japanese VAs are excellent, and many (if not all) of your favorite VA’s reprise their roles. With the audio covered, let’s delve into what the gameplay of Super Robot Wars 30 is all about on the next page.

 

Benny Carrillo
A gamer since the days of the NES and SNES and a reporter since 2015. This hat-wearing otaku loves niche Japanese games, but has a soft spot for visual novels, Super Robot Wars, Mega Man, yuri, and Nepgear. Benny has covered E3 and Anime Expo since 2015 and served as Operation Rainfall’s Visual Novel Manager. Now, this seasoned reporter spends his days trying to clear his epic backlog in between writing analytical articles and reviews.

Join Our Discord!

Join Our Discord!

Click the icon above to join our Discord! Ask a Mod or staff member to make you a member to see all the channels.

Review Archives

  • 2022 (159)
  • 2021 (523)
  • 2020 (302)
  • 2019 (158)
  • 2018 (251)
  • 2017 (427)
  • 2016 (400)
  • 2015 (170)
  • 2014 (89)
  • 2013 (28)
  • 2012 (8)
  • 2011 (7)
  • 2010 (6)