Wartech: Senko No Ronde Review
Written : Thursday, February 21, 2008
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
To say that Japan loves giant robots is obviously an understatement, as the evidence is everywhere; in the form of toys, games, television shows, manga and comics to name but a few items of interest. Thus with the 360 flagging in terms of sales it was felt that a number of games should be developed with Japan firmly in mind, and what area better fits this demographic than games featuring robots beating seven shades of hell out of each other. Wartech brings the frightening reality of metal goliaths fighting in a realistic futuristic landscape stunningly to life………..or not, as the case sadly seems to be.
Originally developed for the arcades by G.rev it was soon revised for the 360 with enhancements to the graphics, story line and a dedicated online mode. It was launched as a Japan only game in July 2006, before eventually making its way to the U.S market and then the rest of the world throughout 2007. To be honest it’s a bit of a surprise that Ubisoft decided to take a leap and publish what was so obviously a niche game for the rest of the world, as it wasn’t a genre that was every going to take off outside of its native Japan, which is not to say that there isn’t some fun to be had just that the game will puzzle just as many gamers as it entertains.
To start with the story seems to have been lost in translation. A catastrophe on Earth has forced humanity to set up shop in outer space, forming the Aria Federation and crating an empire amongst the planets of our solar system. Obviously every empire has its share of malcontents and when terrorists seized an embassy on the moon the whole scenario ended in disaster when Special Forces went in and the terrorists set off suicide bombs, killing themselves and several civilians. Six years later several of the operatives and onlookers involved in the incident are drawn together again, as a sinister onlooker tries to take control or the Federations ultimate weapon for their own ends. So far, so cliché but the game soon falls down when it comes to selecting one of the eight available characters each of whom comes saddled with their own portion of back story and reason for fighting. The problem here is that the stories are often intertwined and can change depending on who you control, making the overall picture a confused mess. It doesn’t help that a lot of dialogue and story also takes place during combat which can lead to it being easily overlooked, if a fight ends too soon it can also lead to you missing important plot points as well. Overall it’s a bit of a mess and you get the feeling that you never quite know what is going on, and none of the supposed resolutions are entirely satisfying as a result.
The robot staring contest was well and truly under way.
The game itself is a strange mix of a fighting game with some shoot ‘em up elements thrown in. Each combatant has their own unique mech with a range of close combat attacks as well as some long range gun/missile options depending on the person in question, and it’s up to you to destroy your opponent in any way possible. Each battle takes place in a circular grid and the viewpoint switches from an isometric perspective if you are close to your opponent to a top-down view if you move further away. Your proximity also controls which attack will be used, as your main strikes are controlled by only two buttons. Get close and it feels more like a fighting game, while at a distance you’ll automatically revert to guns and missiles to pummel them with. The problem here is that you are never told what moves are available to each character so it comes down to a lot of guesswork in order to pull of the combo you require.
Your more powerful attacks can take a few moments to recharge and include homing missiles, mines and lasers among others, while your standard attack is generally a machine gun or similar. Varying attacks can do differing amounts of damage and your goal is to deplete your opponents life bar, at which point one more hit will finish them off for good. You also have a dash button that can be used to move you out of harms way or get you in close to do some serious damage, and a shield that can be used to block incoming fire and also to change your own attacks to an alternate form. Using your shield depletes energy though so it’s best conserved for tight situations. The thing that really makes the game stand out is when you enter BOSS mode, as by dealing out and receiving damage you will gradually fill your energy bar and once it maxes out you can really do some damage. BOSS mode basically transforms your fighter into an even bigger robot capable of spewing out hundreds of bullets and doing significant damage. It also heals some of your energy once the mode ends and stops the round timer, so using it at the right time can give a major tactical advantage. The danger here is that your opponent can use the power too and it gets extremely annoying to have almost killed a character off only for them to activate BOSS mode and get all of their health back.
Unfortunately the fighting soon gets repetitive and you’ll soon figure out a number of pretty cheap tactics that can be spammed over and over again to defeat most enemies. It doesn’t help that you only have two modes to choose between; story mode will take you on a journey through each characters back story as you face off against their rivals – culminating in a boss fight against a giant spaceship or robot that feels more like a shooter stage than anything else, while score mode will see you fighting all the other mechs and bosses in a big to get the largest total possible for the leaderboards. The fights against the games bosses are an entertaining diversion, made annoying by the fact that one of the bosses is ludicrously hard to defeat even on the easier settings. By and large though you can run through each of these modes with a solitary character in about half an hour, so completing them all with all eight is not going to push you too hard and once you’ve done their doesn’t seem to be much of a lure to drag you back.
You can always turn to the online mode for some kicks and it is strangely satisfying to go head to head with a friend in a bid to turn them into so much scrap metal. Try to play against a stranger though and you’ll have a struggle on your hands as there are very few regular players available. The fact I managed to get into the top 100 within a week suggest that there isn’t much in the way of competition out there. That being said there are a number of Japanese regulars who still play the game but facing them can prove less than enjoyable, especially as they will destroy you in double quick time. A fact made more annoying considering there is no ‘lesser’ opposition to practice against in order to improve your skills. Though you’ll soon get bored of the paltry options and mechs on offer anyway so it’s no great loss overall.
The graphics are well done and all of the robots on offer have their own unique spin, I’m always a sucker for manga characters as well so the cut-scenes and story segments on offer are a nice treat. The backdrops have plenty going on in them too and it’s nice to see that the developers haven’t just gone for plain static areas, though the number of arenas is sadly low so you’ll soon be seeing the same ones over and over. It’s especially impressive once someone kicks into BOSS mode and bullets start being spewed over the entire screen, though the game can suffer a bit of slow down once things start getting too hectic. The developers have wisely stuck with the original Japanese voice cast too rather than bring in some cheesy sub-standard American / English cast and it was a wise decision as they do a really good job, though you have to wonder how many young high pitched girls could actually pilot death dealing war machines. It can also be a distraction to try and read the subtitles for conversations that take place during battle, but that’s only a minor gripe as the plot is unfathomable anyway.
Achievement wise this is a bit of a let down while at the same time being exactly what you would expect. With only three modes to choose from (story, score and online) there hardly likely to be much variety but surely they could have tried a bit harder than ‘beat story with X character’ or ‘beat score with X character’. The fact that you get unlimited continues makes all of these tasks ridiculously easy as well. Online things don’t fare any better with 100 points available just for playing one ranked match while playing a massive 1,000 matches (good luck) will only net you 50 points; what gives? The bane of my existence also rears its head in the form of time achievements, up to a grand total of 100 hours played. Good lord. If you complete everything else the game has to offer, even 1,000 ranked games, you will only clock up 40 hours at best so asking for another 60 seems extremely cheeky. Thankfully you can accrue time in the menus and also save your time there too or it would be completely unmanageable.
Lovely Japanese voice acting but sadly used to tell an incomprehensible story, still it’s nice to see that someone hasn’t ruined the game with a bad US voiceover as is often the case.
Lovely looking mechs and pretty backdrops, plus some awesome on screen bullet waves. The only let down being the lack of choices on offer and some slow down when things are hectic.
Fun for a while but there is very little on offer in terms of longevity and you’ll soon be using the same techniques over again to beat foes pretty quickly.
An interesting cross between a shooter and fighter that is let down by a strange storyline that contradicts itself as often as not and is woefully short of options to hold your interest.
Easy and generic offline achievements married with extremely arduous and boring online achievements, which are made even more difficult due to a lack of players. Including a 100 hour time achievement is pretty much the final nail in the coffin.
Good fun but only for a couple of hours and then you’ll start to look elsewhere for your thrills, the nice graphics and audio are sadly wasted on a game that tries to cross two genres but fails to successfully nail either of them. The online modes and achievements are also not easy to get to grips with so I can’t really recommend this game for points either. A fun rental but no more than that.