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The Super Dimension Fortress Macross
  opened by paleface at 04:24:44 11/05/03  
  last modified by paleface at 12:25:50 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Shooter_3D; reg=JPN]
Download added: mars.jpg (18355 bytes)
  "You can tell it's Mars because it's red."
Super-sharp graphics and controls--you wouldn't really expect anything less from Sega-AM2, but it still comes as something of a surprise attached to a Macross game, after such debacles as VF-X2 (entry 160). The Western-made Robotech: Battlecry (entry 230) was decent, but still can't really hold a candle to what has been accomplished in those departments here.
Of course you're driving the old transformable "Valkyrie" fighters--how many billion toy editions of these babies have been made by now? Anyhow, transforming between its three forms is pretty much instantaneous, and quite important: jet form can dodge and shoot missles, robot form can quickly lock on and gun down targets at close range, and is a must for ground maneuvers, and the middle "gerwalk" form packs perhaps the most ready firepower, something of a floating gun platform that can turn on a dime and shoot of buckets of missles with ease. You don't have the unlimited missles of Battlecry but you start with over 700 missles per mission, and I don't think I've even had time to shoot off over 3 or 4 hundred in a single mission, even when firing pretty much non-stop.
And you'll do a lot of that. Turn, lock, fire, turn, lock, fire--over and over, like VF-X2, except here it's rather fun. So many things are whizzing around so quickly that you can't really get bored, there's just too much adrenaline. I haven't had a game make my hands this sore from pure button mashing in quick some time, and I mean that mostly in a good way. At first I found the turn, lock thing frustrating because the jet turns rather slowly, at least compared to the other forms, but I finally realized that I wasn't taking advantage of my transformable fighter: what you do, instead of turning slowly as a jet to look for enemies, is switch to robot mode, lock your gun on the nearest target, which automatically spins you around to face them, then, if they're out of gun pod range, switch back into a jet and bingo, you're on their tail with a good excuse for expending a few of those 700-odd missles of yours.
But there's a balance to consider here: in that momentary flip-around you're a sitting duck, and it seems like at any one time there are at least three missles locked on your butt (wingmen? hah, not here). In fact the game often goes like this:
[Annoying radio girl]: Incoming missle! [or something, it's in Japanese of course]
Incoming missle alarm: WOO WOO WOO! WOO! WOO!
Incoming missle alarm: WOO WOO!
Me: Grr... [trying to execute the quick left-right stick move that makes you do an evasive barrel roll]
Incoming missle alarm: WOO! WOO WOO!
[Annoying radio girl]: Something something gerwalk something!
Incoming missle alarm: WOO!
Me: Argh!
[Annoying radio girl]: Missle hit! [or something]
...which is all kind of irritating, but you learn to screen it out for the most part.
The funny thing so far is that even getting whalloped right and left by missles hasn't hurt much. I dunno if they get deadlier later on but after the first four missions or so it's still kind of cake-walky. (Hah right after I wrote that I wandered into the next mission and got slaughtered, so nevermind! :p) From what I've read there are 20 missions, in two campaigns (one following the Macross TV series plot, the other the Macross movie plot--or so I've read), and considering that if you know what's going on you can finish one in five minutes or so the game is probably pretty short, but then again so are most shooters.
So where the heck am I going here. Well I like it. I don't know if I $60-import-price like it all to pieces, but hell why count beans. Robotech/Macross geeks will love it all to pieces (even if they can't understand the exact dialogue since it's Japanese, and even if there aren't any anime cinematics) and for the rest of us it makes for a sharp spot of giant shooting action fun. You may wonder to yourself 'now was this really worth it' but then again I've already spent good chunks of the past three nights playing it, so something keeps pulling me back--the compulsive 60-fps vapor-trail trigger-pulling aspect of it, I guess. And if it ends soon, well at least it was a fun ride.
Supposedly if you get top rank on a mission you unlock extra Valkyrie types to play, and you can play completed missions to your heart's content in a "free battle" mode thing, but those sound a bit gimmicky to me.
  paleface 04:31:48 11/05/03
Oh man, how many times can I misspell "missile"? 14, I guess. Must be some kind of record.
  paleface 04:54:45 11/05/03
By the way, if you're wondering how I could only have completed four missions or so after three nights of playing when I just said that a mission can take as little as five minutes, it's because:
- The first night I spent trying to learn the controls without any instruction, and not saving.
- The second night I went through the tutorials, and then ended up failing the same mission a dozen times or so because I didn't bother trying to follow the mission objective marker (oh, that) and instead just kept blowing things up.
- The third night I failed that same mission a few more times even though I knew what to do now because I got distracted blowing things up (blowing things up is so habit-forming in this game).
  paleface 04:34:46 05/07/05
Download added: dogfight.mpg (4687876 bytes)
  "Dogfighting it around the floating SDF-1. Missiles galore!"
Well, I finished it, and it is indeed pretty short, and you do indeed unlock optional tranformable fighters to use in Free Play mode, some of which are pretty nifty--although not nifty enough to tempt me to try unlocking all of them or to play back through multiple missions with them.
I like the game, though: it really does come pretty close to capturing the feeling of combat in a lightning-quick super-robot. It isn't quite anime-like: a little too solid and technical--I'd have liked to have seen the ability to do some outrageous power trip moves, for instance, like raking your gunpod in an arc, killing a bunch of aliens in a single motion.
Also, the default difficulty is a tad on the easy side, particularly considering how short the game is. As I said earlier, the ever-present enemy missiles, though annoying, don't actually hurt you that much and, seeing as how the stick-waggling dodge move is sometimes irritating to do, you might as well just not bother. The only thing you really have to worry about is getting hit by giant battleship beam weapons, or getting caught in a nuclear-level explosion. Those two things are pretty neat, by the way, and come into play near the end of both storylines.
Speaking of which, the second, movie plotline, is pretty weird to someone like me who's used to the TV-show plotline that made it over here as Robotech: The Macross Saga. But, happily, you still get to blow a lot of stuff up, so yay.
I mentioned that it's a shooter (in connection with the short length), and while that's true, you can't quite play it for score. Well, you're scored on mission performance, and unlock ship variants if you get a good score, but the way the scores are calculated is a bit nebulous: you almost always have to blow up the same number of ships per mission, so I guess it must be based on time and how little damage you take in doing it. Which is okay, I suppose, but it would have felt more like a classic shooter if they could have worked the sequences to score based on the enemies shot down. And yes, I realize that I'm off on a tangent here that pretty much nobody else will care about.
· Macross VF-X2 (PS1)
· Robotech: Battlecry (PS2)
· The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love. (PS1)

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