By Yew Jee Lim / Originally published on Saint-ism on December 22, 2012
May 2011. It was just barely a month since Super Robot Wars Z2 Hakai Hen had been released, and many people were still playing the game. Then Famitsu drops the bomb – Original Generations 2 announced. For PS3.
Needless to say, expectations for this game were enormous. This was going to be the first SRW game on PlayStation 3, the first time a SRW game would be drawn in high definition. Originally set for a 29th September 2011 date, the release was postponed indefinitely and it would be more than a year later that we’d finally see it.
Now that the game is here though, the first thing you’ll notice is the incredibly detailed HD sprites and animations. Everything has been redrawn to accommodate the 720p resolution of the PS3, and 3D backgrounds have been added, allowing for more dynamic camera angles during the elaborate battle sequences. Not only that, but the game looks just as amazing in stills as it does in motion, a testament to just the amount of love and effort put into it. Simply put – robot porn now comes in HD and Super Robot Wars has never looked better.
The bar has been raised for cut-ins, which are now anime-like in their quality
OGs2 progresses the story by adding Banpresto Originals from SRW4, MX, D and the highly anticipated EX. Other sources which have been drawn into the OGverse include Ariel from Real Robot Regiment, and Ing, from the Lost Children manga which is based off the Alpha series. Without spoiling too much, BB Studio have packed a lot of story into the game, with a few twists and surprises, leading up to the probable inclusion of Alpha 3 for the next game.
A standard playthrough is 63 scenarios, but with 3 route splits along the way, there’s about 90 unique stages in total. Once you’re done, there’s EX-Hard mode and Special modes to tide you over, and with trophies to collect, you could easily rack up 100 hours on the game. Progression is handled much better as well – compared to OGs and OGs Gaiden, there are far fewer scenarios where you are forced to used certain characters and there are fewer stages where you have to whittle down bosses who have ridiculous amounts of HP. All your old favourites return relatively early, and you also finish acquiring units around the 50-stage mark, giving you a good 10 scenarios to play with most of your uber toys.
Depending on which route you take, you can acquire old powerhouses like Daizengar as early as stage 10
Mechanics-wise, you’ll find yourself right at home if you’ve played Original Generations, or the Alpha series. The game builds upon the Twin Battle System (TBS) established in the first OGs, which allowed you to pair up units. It felt much like a third wheel in the first game, because the game was never really originally balanced for its inclusion.
In OGs2, though, the TBS has become an integral system. The morale requirement is now gone, and you can now deploy units in pairs, pretty much doubling your unit count, and manage Twin units in the intermission, as well as on the fly during missions. Anyone who’s played Alpha 2 or 3 will find it similar to the squad system present in those games.
The tweaks keep going too. The seishin system, which allows characters to perform special abilities such as doing double damage or boosting evasion and accuracy, has been rebalanced. In contrast to the first game, SP pools have been lowered greatly for OGs2, meaning it’s less about spamming skills for an easy win, requiring you to plan ahead and make harder choices more often. The pilots themselves also have one less seishin command, and a whole slew of new Twin seishin commands have been added, which can only be used when the pilot has been Twinned up. Some seishin commands like Confuse, which lowers all accuracies by 1/2, were also converted into Twin Commands, putting further emphasis on the use of Twins.
SRW EX finally makes it’s appearance in the OGverse, along with other games such as Real Robot Regiment
With the inclusion of characters from SRW D, EX, MX and more, the cast list has ballooned, but thanks to the TBS, you can deploy most of your favourites for the majority of the game. BB Studio have also done a pretty decent job at making characters a bit more unique. At first glance, oldies like Kai and Kyosuke may not be as effective as some of the newer cast, but they have the “leadership” skill that allows them to execute the deadly Maximum Break combo attack. Radha, who most people probably benched in OGs1, is now a venerable support pilot, having one of the largest SP pools in the game, along with the SP Regen skill, which is now also exclusive to certain pilots. This, in combination with the various exclusive Twin Commands, makes each pilot valuable in some way or another.
The game throws you a balance of filler missions along with epic batles
While the game is still fairly easy, all of the above tweaks lead to a game that’s more fun to play and far less tedious than Original Generations and Gaiden. I’m playing the game without upgrades at the moment in preparation for EX-Hard mode, and I have to say I’m actually enjoying the strategy element again for the first time in quite a few SRW games.
The game does add two new systems, Maximum Break and the Ability Slot system. Maximum Break allows you execute a 4-person platoon attack, but only people with the Leadership skill can start it. It’s essentially the new boss-killing move, allowing you to dish out a ridiculous amount of damage in one attack, as long as you can meet its relatively high morale requirements.
Maximum Break allows for some epic clusterfucks
The Ability Slot system though I feel is a bit of a missed opportunity. It’s a system where you can equip various power-ups to your pilots and mechs, such as Evasion Up, Accuracy Up, Melee Damage Up, etc. ...except the ability only activates when you equip three of the same type across a Twin Unit. It’s needlessly over-complicated and can be confusing to beginners, especially for what it’s trying to accomplish.
I get the idea though – it’s supposed to create certain synergies between Twinned units. The way it’s implemented, however, makes it "just" another item system, because you don’t get any special bonuses for smart placement or distribution of abilities. If each mech or pilot came with innate skills that couldn’t be removed, or if certain skills combined to grant additional special ones, it would’ve been slightly more interesting to work with. Still, I won’t deny it adds a bit more to the game, though you probably won’t get too much mileage out of it unless you’re playing EX-Hard mode.
Twin Management is much better handled in OGs2, while the Ability Slot System is a bit of a wasted opportunity
Speaking of EX-Hard, it’s back, and with a vengeance. Unlike most SRW games of the past, diehards will be happy to know that the EX-Hard mode in this game doesn’t allow any upgrades of any kind. It’s almost a challenge to the players, saying "Yes, you can definitely beat the game without upgrades, do it!" There’s even a trophy to go with it, finally giving the no-upgrade run which many hardcore fans have been doing for years some kind of legitimacy.
Despite being the first SRW on PS3, not everything in the game is completely new. Most of the existing character themes in OGs2 are ported straight from its predecessor. Even though all the mechs and pilots got a HD makeover, some of the attack choreography is completely as is from OGs1, such as the Soulgain’s and Compatible Kaiser’s animations. It’s probably not that big a deal considering the amount of new content in the game, but may irk some fans out there.
Some robots like Compatible Kaiser and Soulgain got their animations recycled from Original Generations. Still pretty…but you’ve seen it before
My other complaints are minor. SR Points are still mainly of the "finish the mission by X turns, or defeat Y boss who flees at Z HP" variety that we’ve been seeing for many games. As I mentioned in an earlier impressions post, the volume controls in the game are just useless, compared to what we got in Saisei Hen. It’s something that most people would overlook, but after spending so much time making Arranged Battles for Saisei, it was kind of heartbreaking to see that OGs2 didn’t offer the same kind of support. Quicksaving and loading is also a bit slower than what you’d be used to on a PS2 or a PSP, which is the down to the XMB's handling of save games.
I also wish they did something with the way Twin animations are handled. You get a straight split screen as each unit attacks, and while this may not be a problem for some of the weaker attacks, the sheer amount of crap that can happen on screen when you do a 4-person finishing move can make your brain melt as it tries to figure out where to look. If only BB Studio could implement a system where the game could smartly cut between each of the various animations (like my arranged battles hurr).
And finally, with the inclusion of so many new series, plot arcs can seem kinda rushed at times, such as the MX storyline, while the EX story can seem a bit dragged out then suddenly vanish. The character rivalries aren’t quite as fleshed out as in the first game either, and never quite reach the levels of say Axel/Kyosuke, or Zengar/Wodan.
For BB Studio’s first SRW on a new console, this is a fantastic effort. Just take a look at the train wrecks we got for the first entries for PS2 (Impact) and PSP (MX Portable) and you’ll see what I mean. If this just the beginning of what we can expect from future console Super Robot Wars games, ladies and gentlemen, we are in for some good times ahead indeed.