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Super Robot Wars 30

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: B.B. Studio
Release Date: Oct. 28, 2021


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PC Review - 'Super Robot Wars 30'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 24, 2021 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Super Robot Wars 30 is a tactical RPG that brings an assortment of robot anime series together to battle for the future of a unique cross-over universe.

Buy Super Robot Wars 30

There's something inherently fun about meshing different groups into a crossover game, including RPGs like Project X Zone. One of the granddaddies of the genre has been the largely Japan-exclusive Super Robot Wars franchise. Billed as a melting pot of giant robot anime characters, it seemed like the sort of thing that would never see an English release. The license-free Original Generations games saw a GBA release, but that was around the beginning and end of the SRW franchise. There were some English-translated overseas releases, including Super Robot Wars T, X and V, but they were only available via import. That's part of what makes Super Robot Wars 30 stand out. It's the first time a "real" Super Robot Wars game has seen a full worldwide release, and it's just in time for the franchise's 30th anniversary. It was well worth the wait.

Super Robot Wars 30 is set in an amalgamation of anime worlds. Heroes piloting Gundam, Mazinger and Getter robots have changed the course of the world, and history exists in a realm where most problems are resolved via super robot wars. Players take control of either Az or Edge, an unlikely wanderer who ends up on a military campus during a sudden dangerous attack. Before you can say "Amuro Ray," they end up in the cockpit of an experimental robot called the Huckebein 30 and set out to defend innocent people from the attack. Not long afterward, they are drafted into an experimental autonomous unit, which is based out of the super-powerful carrier Dreisstrager and does what no military unit can: stand against the seemingly endless horde of invading aliens, malicious military forces, and otherworldly threats.

What makes Super Robot Wars stand out, especially among licensed games, is the amount of care and effort put into creating a cohesive and coherent experience out of what amounts to smashing a toybox together. Rather than having a mishmash of random series, the writing tries to figure out how such a world could exist. You get interesting character beats such as the Brave series J-Decker being explicitly inspired by and tied to similar series "GaoGaiGar," despite the latter being released later. Sometimes the crossovers are unexpected, but that makes them shine brighter. You might never have expected Lelouch from "Code Geass" to inspire Van from "Gun x Sword," but once you see the two interact, it feels as natural as can be.

Of course, a lot of this only makes sense if you're a relatively big mecha nerd. You need to know who Amuro or Koji Kabuto is to get the full feeling of the game. It can stand relatively well on its own as a lengthy SRPG, but the game shines in how it plays with the audience's knowledge and expectations. It's OK if you don't know every series, since the game introduces and melds series together. In many cases, it even improves upon the original, taking advantage of hindsight to close plot holes or remove unliked bits of the story. It's fanfiction in one of the most enjoyable ways.

If I have one complaint, it is that Super Robot Wars 30 has what is probably the most bland and uninteresting "original" unit in ages. The Huckebein 30 is basically a slightly sillier-looking Gundam. The Huckebein has always been the franchise's variation on the iconic Real Robot, but in SRW30, it doesn't have interesting abilities, backstory, or moves, and it mostly serves as a strong Gundam-style unit. Even as a celebration of the franchise's 30th anniversary, it falls flat. If there were a matching Grungust 30 to add a "Super Robot" side to the original plot, it would feel way better.

A big part of this is the focus on the original carrier, the Dreisstrager, which is the "real" original protagonist. On the surface, it looks like a standard carrier with a ton of power. Most distinctive is the AoS system, so you can spend points that are earned in combat to gain powerful passive bonuses that range from team-wide EXP to powerful items. Mitsuba gets most of the plot focus, with her decisions and actions carrying way more weight than Az or Edge's. I like this structure, but I can't help but compare it to Super Robot Wars W's Valstork and Valhawk, who functioned much better as an original carrier and original robot combination.

Super Robot Wars is a strategy-RPG franchise, and that hasn't changed for SRW30. The easiest game to compare it to is something like Fire Emblem, where you and opponents take turns moving units and slay one another. There's no permadeath, but the core gameplay loop feels very familiar.

SRW30 is focused on the uniqueness of each machine. Aside from a few "mass production" robots, each mecha has distinctive traits and abilities. Some are more tank-like, and some are dodgier. Some rely heavily on ammo-based weapons, while others run on energy. Some can fly, and some function better underwater. Some machines can repair other units, weaken enemies, or inflict bad status effects. Each unit is unique, and much of the fun is in figuring out how to make the best use of your favorite unit. There is a gap in power between units, so a V-Dash Gundam isn't going to be as powerful as Mazinkaiser. Just about anything is viable if you give it enough attention. You can even equip special items that grant a unit new abilities or improved stats.

The bulk of these abilities is governed by three different resources: ammo, energy and morale. Ammo-based weapons have a set number of uses before they need to reload, while energy-based weapons draw from a singular pool of energy but are easier to refill. Morale refers to a character's fighting spirit, which begins at 100 but can drop down to 50 or up to 150, with the characters gaining or losing stats based on morale. Some skills can even raise the cap. Most characters have weapons or skills that are governed by morale, and stronger attacks need more morale to unlock. Enemies function by the same rules, so leaving an enemy alive longer can cause them to gain more power as they are enraged by the defeat of their fellow robots.

Spells are a playable character's biggest advantage. Each character has a distinct lineup of spells that are fueled by an SP bar. Each character starts with about 25% of the SP bar filled, and it increases as combat goes on. Spend SP to use abilities to bend the game in your favor. Some spells assure that you hit an enemy or dodge an attack, while others increase defensive power for an entire round or increase the damage of your next attack. Properly managing SP is key to successfully navigating the game.

Two other gameplay mechanics are similar to spells. Supporters are customizable groups of non-combat characters, such as mechanics or allies. Each supporter imparts a passive bonus to the entire army, and there is a shared Support SP pool that lets them cast unique spells. Each supporter shares the same pool, so they can't be used as readily. There are also ExC points, which you gain by killing enemies or leveling up, and you can spend them on special skills. Most units can boost their own power by making their attacks critically hit for a turn, cost no resources, or gain an extra move if they kill an enemy on their next attack. Carriers have bonuses that can include boosting stats, morale, or even giving a unit an extra turn.

There is one significant flaw about SRW30, and it's a flaw that the series has had for a while: It's extremely easy if you play on the Normal difficulty and bother to use upgrades. You can often take out the toughest enemies in a few attacks, and if you have a couple of powerful units, it's almost effortless to curb-stomp stages. The game offers ways around this, including optional harder difficulty modes or the option to avoid upgrading units (the Normal mode feels balanced around this). However, the game isn't difficult, and it's more about figuring out how to make Gridman or Mazinger Z the most powerful demigods they can be.

SRW30 varies from much of the franchise by forgoing a linear story for a freeform world map. At any given time, you can choose to explore different areas. Some of the areas contain missions (both optional and plot-mandated), while others can include special "relic" missions where you need to complete a short mission under certain conditions to unlock special items. Depending on the order in which you tackle the missions, you might unlock special secrets that can vary from new units to alternate plot paths.

I'm torn on the map system. I love the flexibility that it provides for how to handle missions, especially because the game is nicely reactive to such things. Characters have different dialog, and plot events happen somewhat differently depending on who you've recruited. On the other hand, the relic missions are kind of tedious because rather than having them on a clear menu, you need to poke around random areas of the world map until you find the one you want. Most tedious of all are "fairy" missions, which boil down to finding a hidden fairy who can be in any unlocked zone. I think it's a good change, but there is some tedium for tedium's sake.

SRW30 is also a long game. Even if you're just doing the standard missions, you're going to have a game with close to 100 missions. Throw in optional grinding or relic missions, a dose of optional superbosses, and the occasional secret, and you'll probably add another 50 missions. Even if you only play through the game a single time, you'll get more than your money's worth, and that's not even counting the upcoming DLC characters.

SRW30 largely looks awesome. The UI and character dialog are mostly done through static portraits, but it makes up for that with lengthy and often beautifully animated sprites for combat animations. Not every animation is a hit, but most of them look awfully cool and do a wonderful job of capturing the feel of the anime they are inspired by. There are also some excellent renditions of classic anime songs and original music made for the game. The voice acting is entirely in Japanese, but pretty much every voice actor returned to voice their characters, and you get some excellent and unexpected interactions.

If you like mecha anime or even mecha-themed SRPGs, Super Robot Wars 30 provides a strong introduction to one of the longest-running SRPG franchises. It's a great encapsulation of what makes the franchise shine, and it's filled to the brim with fanservice in a way that will warm even the coldest mecha fan's heart. On its own merits, it is a lengthy and enjoyable (if easy) SRPG, but it really shines if you know the source material. It's not for everyone, but if SRW30 is for you, it'll give you everything you could possibly want.

Score: 8.0/10

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