Remember back then when anime was actually cool on television and we weren’t limited to just a few select shows? Sure, you can get some good ones on Comcast On Demand, but that’s beside the point. The point here is that there is one thing that can rise above Dragon Ball Z when it comes to nostalgia for me. And that is: Robots. Not just any robots though: SUPER ROBOTS! Gundams really come to mind when this happens, but recently, my love for giant robots has moved on from that fandom and onto different titles. While I have not sampled everything just yet thanks to a subpar internet service and attending a subpar university (though I have now left that one and am happy with my current one), the Super Robot Wars franchise has certainly gotten my attention.
Already, I have pretty much every one of the games released into the United States, but really, Japan is where every last SRW game lays in wait. And sadly, due to certain issues like licensing, we may never see these games released in English. But all is not lost thanks to teams of translators, and one team in particular, who I cannot remember thanks to the peanut that is my brain, have released the English translation of Super Robot Wars Judgment. Is it as good as one would expect? Let’s find out!
Since SRW J was released on the Gameboy Advance, the graphics aren’t quite what you may expect nowadays. But despite its age, it runs very smoothly with some really good animation. Character portraits and the mechs/ships they pilot are nicely done, and it is quite something to see your machines go head to head against the enemy (more on that on the story). And as far as the music goes, while some are downright repeatable and a tad annoying, to me anyway, the rest are just pure gold! Every series that is in here has some of their best theme songs brought to life in the form of GBA, and even without voices, it’s still pretty cool. Majin Kenzan, Burning Finger Theme, Tekkaman Blade openings, and many more will bring much needed delight to your ears!
And now onto one of the main things everything is dying to know about: what series are in this game. Well, aside from the usual Original Characters that tend to be present in this current trend of SRW series, the following is contained within the game: Gundam SEED, G Gundam, Dancougar – Super Beast Machine God, Brain Powerd, Full Metal Panic (with a hint of FUMOFFU), Blue Comet SPT: Layzner, Hades Project Zeromyer, Martian Successor Nadesico, Mazinger and Mazinkaiser, Combattler and Voltes V, and Tekkaman Blade. I do admit that out of all these series’ listed, I only know about two out of the list, perhaps three. But to those that are not familiar with each storyline within these animanga titles, do not feel threatened.
Which brings us to our next topic: story. Thankfully the translators didn’t wreck anything by adding in some fourth wall breaking, unlike a certain hacked game I know. Nonetheless, as you might expect, the storylines for all the series are all crammed into one, with the Original Characters taking the focal point.
Essentially, the Earth has plenty of threats surrounding it with Gradosians, Jovian Lizards, Coordinators, and plenty more from each series, and right off the bat, you can choose one of two Original Characters, along with their very own unique machine, each on specializing in different forms in combat, with an extra unlockable unit should you beat the game with the three standard machines. Your choices are limited to the thrust into war against his will pilot, Touya Shuin, or the sole survivor of a horrible incident and retired pilot, aka, Calvina Coulange.
Both stories are nicely done in portraying the characters, and it almost felt like a different game, story-wise anyway, for both characters are similar in nearly every way except for the endings in the story, with Touya able to earn up to 4 different endings, with Calvina only able to earn one, but for the most part, they are nearly all the same, each one usually leading to a romance, save for one of Touya’s ending should you not focus one using one girl for too long. According to information I have found on gamefaqs, you would need to use one girl for about more than 20 stages in order to gain the romance ending when using Touya.
Gameplay consists of what you would find in an SRW game. But considering that some of you may not have played one, allow me to explain. SRW games are all tactical games, with the player assigning his units from various series and such into a single team to combat enemy units, which range from other robots to various other things, and in this case here thanks to Tekkaman Blade, alien monsters as well. Each unit contains a few attacks, each one with different benefits and such, such as higher chance of critical, higher accuracy, or in some cases, lower enemy defenses and attack power.
And then there’s just basic chaos and destruction with the ultimate attacks, and in some cases, even the theme music changes for certain units. Some units even have MAP attacks, in which they can attack a certain number of enemies depending on where they are positioned. But be warned, since these attacks will also hit any allies as well. You can switch the attack animations on and off for a much quicker experience if you don’t feel like watching attack animations over and over again. Team attacks are also within the game, though they tend to stick to each series. Nonetheless, they can still be pretty devastating and fun to watch.
After each mission, you can assign skill points each time your character levels up, or do it during battle if you switch it on to do that in the options menu. But during battles and destroying enemy units, you can also gain cash in order to upgrade and fine tune your machines, between upgrading the overall attack power, to defense, HP, energy, or maneuverability to dodge incoming attacks. You can gain even more money when you use your favorite units, depending on which three series’ you picked as your favorites, and other benefits include more upgrades to make them stronger beyond their limitations, and more EXP for pilots.
And all of this can carry over to the new game + as well. Keeping units maintained is key to victory, because even a single unit that is not quite upgraded and ignored can cost you the round. But the game is forgiving and will allow you to restart the stage with cash you have already made during the middle of the fight you lost. There’s also a puzzle game that awards you with bonus parts to add onto your machines for bonus stats, and cash, and each time you complete a stage in the game, you unlock a new puzzle to complete as well. And each puzzle will grow gradually more and more difficult as they get into the later stages.
But does everything in this game work alright? Surprisingly, yes. This translation is very incredible, not leaving out a single detail in terms of translation. The copy I found managed to run very smoothly with the patch, and having beaten the game twice, I loved every minute of it. There’s really no problems I can pick apart from this game. However, those new to SRW might have a bit of a hard time at first, but this game does encourage trial and error. It can get hard at times, but that is the nature of some SRW games. The earlier ones for instance were quite brutal in terms of difficult, but that’s for another time.
If there is one complaint from all of this, it’s that this is an SRW game that lacks a skill point system. Back in Original Generations and Alpha Gaiden, you can gain skill points, and depending on how much you had, the game gets either easier or harder, sometimes with better rewards lying in wait as well. But the main draw was to get the game’s true ending/bonus scenario with another boss fight which would turn out to be the hardest one of all.
So aside from that, this is definitely an SRW game that needs to be picked up and played immediately by fans if you had missed it. It may take some time to find the rom for this game and set everything up, but then again I’m an idiot that sucks with technology, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Super Robot Wars J earns a 5 out of 5.