Sunday, October 24, 2010

Super Robot Wars: Masokishin - The Lord of Elemental

スーパーロボット大戦外伝 魔装機神

Super Robot Wars: Masokishin - The Lord of Elemental

Platform: Super Famicom

Genre: Strategy RPG

Released: 03-22-1996

Developed by: Winkysoft

 Published by: Banpresto

  ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Basic Overview

(some details to see if you'd have any interest in playing this game)

 

Who should play: -big time strategy RPG fans looking for a hidden gem or something new

-players able to at least read basic Japanese, or players that don't mind language barriers

-players with an interest in unique 16-bit era games

-fans of anime or mech related things

 

Strong points: -hours of great SRPG gameplay

-some of the best quality audio and visuals to exist on the Super Famicom 

-a huge cast of diverse characters and units

-close to 50 stages per playthrough, 3 endings, and multiple routes with unique stages and content

-unheard of amount of customization and upgrades for SRPGs of this era

-fantastic selection of music 

 

Weak points: -very niche, only diehard SRPG fans will enjoy this

-abusable save/load tricks cheapen the gameplay

-people new to SRW or unable to understand Japanese will have problems getting into it at first

-due to the nature of SRPGs, gameplay gets repetitive

 

Neutral points: -can be very difficult

-story heavy, there are long segments of dialogue through out the entire game

-time consuming 

 

How text heavy?: The game is very text heavy. Being a SRPG, the game is played exclusively through menus. If you are unable to read Japanese, you may run into some problems. If you've played previous Super Robot Wars games, you should recognize many things. Trial and error will help you figure everything out. There are some very detailed and useful FAQs on GameFAQs.

Other versions: Remake for Nintendo DS was released on 05-27-2010. There is currently no North American release.

Similar games: Fire Emblem, Langrisser, Shining Force, other early SRPGs.

 

Suggested videos:

some attack animations, showing off music and visuals


what to expect from gameplay most of the time

 

 What is it? 

(for those of you that don't know what SRW is)

 

The Super Robot Wars series has seen very minimal light of day outside of Japan. Only three games have been released in North America to date; two for the GBA and one for the DS.  In Japan, there are literally dozens of these games across nearly every major platform, from the Nintendo Famicom to the Xbox 360, and everything in between. The series actually debuted on the original Nintendo Gameboy in 1991, with it's first console release on the Nintendo Famicom later that year.

 

It's no secret that the Japanese are obsessed with giant robots, a phenomenon that never quite caught on in the states. Most of the games in this series are cross over games with various mecha animes. This game consists of only original characters, however. Each game follows the same basic formula. Story section > gameplay > intermission/upgrade menu > repeat. The series is known for it's long over the top animations, large amount of content per game, and it's sheer number of games. This particular game does a number of things differently than every other game in the series, and stands out because of it.

 

it begins
the maps look very nice

This game requires actual strategy. You will have to approach enemies that all pose a valid threat on a 3D (kind of) map with multiple tiers. You can block paths off to defend weaker ranged units and set up back attacks. You can use your mech's elemental stats to your advantage, and you have access to an array of passive skills and abilities. This game entertains gameplay mechanics that were unique to it, which is a bit puzzling. You'll find yourself stumped often, and you'll see your units get destroyed more than you'd like. Unlike Fire Emblem, units aren't lost after they are destroyed. Instead, you have to pay a steep repair fee.

 

the cybuster, your main unit

 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Review

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

GAMEPLAY

 

The game has a large amount of stages, all connected through story scenes. The story scenes are told through dialogue boxes with character portraits. You'll frequently be asked to make choices, and most of the time the choice you make will decide the next level you are to play. When you get deeper into the game, your story decisions will fix you on routes that each have unique events, stages, endings, and units. The game has great replayability because of this, as the unique units and stages the different routes offer are worth playing the game multiple times for.


the game's opening scene

Stages are purely combat, there are no towns or exploration of any kind. In the beginning of the game, a fixed amount of unselectable units will deploy each stage, pertaining to the current story happenings. You'll be able to pick which units you want to use later in the game. I could go on and on detailing the game's multitude of mechanics, but I'll just touch on key parts that make this one worth playing instead of being boring about it.

 

Your units are placed on a grid with differing levels of terrain, obstacles, and spots that grant special bonuses when a unit is placed there. During the player phase, you are free to select which units to move and when. Three things are taken into account damage is decided: what level of terrain the units are on, the units elemental types, and what direction the units are facing. You'll have to manage each unit's energy and ammo as you attack. Most units have strengths and weaknesses, so you'll have to get a feel for them as you acquire them. Your main units are powerhouses however, and you'll be doing the majority of the fighting with them.


the amount of spaces you can move depends on the unit's mobility

The standout feature of the game is the leveling/upgrade system. With each unit, you are building up two different aspects. Pilot and mech. Pilots evolve through XP, mechs evolve through a directly controlled points system. Both XP and upgrade points are earned by destroying enemies. As pilots gain levels, they learn useable skills and passive abilities. The skills are used manually in battle, and range from healing skills to damage and accuracy buffs. The passive abilities give various perks, some greatly alter the game, such as the ability to move twice in one turn. Mechs require the points you earn in each battle to upgrade. You have to allot the points between every unit, attacks and mech statistics (hp, energy, evasion, defense) can be upgraded. When you fully upgrade an attack, you earn a new attack in it's place. The attack will then have the potential to become even stronger, and will have a new animation. This was a neat thing to include, as many of the new animations are cool to watch, and never seeing alternate attacks for the entire game could grow boring. All this customization makes the game a great deal of fun, and SRPG enthusiasts will really be able to get a lot out of this game's deep system.

 

in-game stats page, detailing your parameters and abilities across three tabs

 

In the beginning, things will be quite difficult. So much so, that you may have to restart the game a few times if you don't upgrade your units properly and become too weak to progress. There is a quick save manipulation trick that can be exploited, but it cheapens the game. It's much more rewarding to play without it, but sometimes the urge to restart after a boss attacks twice in a row and kills your strongest unit is irresistible. You can't help but wish the developers had taken actions against it, so the opportunity wasn't there. Bosses are especially tough, and can often kill your weaker units with one attack. Killing a boss is almost necessary in the beginning, because the XP and credits earned are substantial and can alone be used for multiple upgrades. The problem is that many bosses retreat at 50% hp, particularly in the beginning of the game. This forces you to fight bosses with your strongest units and try to take them out with all you've got. Towards the middle of the game things ease up a bit, but the ending sees a noticeable increase in difficulty. Your units start acquiring some very powerful abilities and skills, so the enemies do as well to make things fair.

 

critical hits can make or break

 

OVERALL PRESENTATION

 

The story sections look nice, but can become boring due to the background always being the same. They can't be skipped outright, but you can speed through them pretty quickly by mashing the forward button. They don't usually drag on for very long, but occasionally they do when dealing with major plot points. For those of you that will be reading the story, it's not half bad. The protagonist is Masaki, a green haired dude. The game opens up with Masaki confused by his surroundings, as he's in a strange place with no idea how he got there. He's in La Gias, a world inside the world, so it's kind of like a cylinder (not sure how gravity works). He encounters a blond haired woman quickly, and shortly after that a raid alarm of some kind sounds. Masaki's dormant ability to pilot giant mechs suddenly awakens, and he joins the fray. Not ground breaking stuff, but the characters and plot development become interesting enough to make you at least want to know what's going on.

 

your list of attacks, there is a lot to consider

Attack sequences are enjoyable, but cannot be skipped. If you're playing on an emulator, you can always speed up though. Having to watch the attack sequences every time grew on me, in part due to my love for the game's music. The animations grow on you the way watching your Langrisser troops duke it out hundreds of times grows on you. There are some really cool mech designs, and the 2D art is highly impressive.

the fire elemental granveil using a powerful attack

The menus and interface look nice, but navigating some of the stats pages could have been a little easier. Nothing feels clustered, but be prepared to have to familiarize yourself with a lot of menus when upgrading your units during stage intermissions. The menus quickly become a second nature. Three save files are allowed, which is welcomed by players that will want to play all the game's routes and keep old game saves. 

 

upon selecting a unit, you may move, attack, use an ability, or check stats

MUSIC

 

Prepare for surprise, because the music featured in this title is superb. Every track is as enjoyable as it is fitting. Common song elements include strong brass sections, fast slap bass and multiple harmonized leads. The battle themes are fast moving and have great melodies. The songs on this score are just really damn listenable. The composers really knew how to make a song (or a loop in many cases) never get old, because you'll be hearing the same songs very often. This doesn't mean there is a shortage of songs though, because there isn't. The OST boasts over 40 songs, and if you get a hold of the real OST you can hear some great guitar arrangements of some of the tunes. This is a great soundtrack for sure, and players that love video game music are going to have a lot to like.

an in-game music player, for those who can't get enough

IN CLOSING 

 

I like the SRW series, but this is my favorite hands down. Hours of gameplay, great replayability, superb music, and highly entertaining gameplay, this game shines in all aspects. The amount of depth SRW: Masokishin can't be found in many other SFC games. It's a wonder they got it all to fit on the cart. It's a shame this was never released in North America and part of the SNES's incredible RPG line-up, but it's never too late to play it. The SNES is easily modded to play SFC games, and roms are readily available. SRPG fans should at least take note.


The language barrier could pose a big problem, but if you really want to play the game you can get past it. Once you're familiar with everything, you should be able to play just fine. The FAQs on GameFAQs will be able to answer just about ANY question you have.

 

Additional screen caps:

 

somehow, this never gets old

after you've selected an attack, you'll be presented with an outcome screen
you'll be asked to make a lot of decisions
some of the mechs are quite strange
each unit has 6 skills that will become unlocked as you level them up
the granzon, piloted by shu shirakawa
some characters have multiple mechs
your less powerful units will have to be healed often and used wisely
the volkruss, an extremely powerful enemy
enemy reinforcements aren't a rare occurence

No comments:

Post a Comment