Good morning/afternoon/evening, folks! (Evening for me.) Yes, I'm aware there's some kind of video game convention going on, but it's Tuesday, so it's time for another GOTW.
Last week, I wrote about a classic among classics. And thank you all for the huge view count. Means a lot :)
This week, I want to take a trip into the somewhat obscure, to a PS2 game that celebrates that greatest of anime genres-the mecha.
R.A.D., or Robot Alchemic Drive, appeared on the PS2 in (wow) 2002. Developed by Sandlot, who haven't had a lot of U.S. releases besides those Earth Defense Force games, in RAD you control a giant robot.
That should be enough to send you running for your PS2. But I'll keep talking anyway. In a future wherein all manned space travel is cancelled due to the discovery of "Space Nectar," the Earth suddenly comes under attack by a mysterious force called the Volgara, in the form of giant robots (of course). Humanity's last, best hope for defeating this new enemy is a giant robot of their own, the Meganite. Awww yeah.
Yep, look over there indeed...
Right off the bat, the first thing that should strike you is the control scheme. RAD controls unlike anything before or since. Each button and joystick on the DualShock 2 corresponds to a limb. The shoulder buttons are used to walk Vavel (or Laguiole, or Gllang) in the direction it's facing. L1 moves the left leg forward, and R1 does the same for the right leg. L2 and R2 are used to move backwards.
This presents an odd feeling, as we've all been trained to use the left joystick for movement. Alas, the joysticks are used to throw punches, corresponding to the left and right arms. Also, the face buttons are used to shoot missiles, lasers, and transform.
This is all when you're controlling the robot itself, though. You also have to play as your human character as well. Since he or she doesn't actually sit in the mecha, you have to control it from the outside with a controller that looks an awful lot like a PS2 controller (surprise, surprise).
That's the Colosseum. As in Rome. Moments like this happen.
So before you hit select (to control the mecha) you first have to move Tsukioka (that's you) to a good vantage point. Think of it as controlling one of those RoboSapien toys on a larger scale. You can't very wel control the thing if you couldn't see it, right?
Thankfully, Tsukioka (be it one of the two male ones or the female) has an anti-gravity device allowing you to levitate to the top of buildings in order to see better. That's one thing that makes RAD interesting. In most games, you'd have to control the mecha from it's point of view. Here, you control it from outside, relying on your POV to judge distances and what not.
Your mecha has a variety of ranged options at it's disposal, but unfortunately, the Volgara can teleport when shot. This forces you into close-combat situations. And this is where RAD truly shines.
It's the scale. These mecha don't feel like ninja. This isn't Evangelion, where everything is sleek and light and pointy. This is a throwback to the mecha of old. Like Voltron, or Mazinger Z or even somewhat newer stuff like Big O. The mecha here feel like the big, burly, clunky robots they're supposed to be. Just wind up a punch and nail a Volgara, and you'll see what I mean. (Pull back on a joystick, then forward) Landing a solid punch sends your enemy flying, crashing to the ground and causing an earthquake. Or through a skyscraper, sending the building to the ground and reducing it to rubble. Or even wiping out a small suburb, unfortunately harming people who get in the way.
You can just feel the power.
Adding to the insanity is a two-player mode that my brother and I played the hell out of, back in the day. Last week, we fired it up, and it still holds up today, as you and a buddy first hurry to find a viewpoint, then jockey for position with your mecha, trade blows, power up to unleash a super move and, for the truly skilled, pick up the other human and hold him in your hand so he can't see anymore. Cheap as hell, yes, but hilarious.
The story, though, is a "love it or hate it" affair. It's a throwback to 80's and 90's giant robot anime. There's a boatload of melodrama, with a more than noticeable amount of cheese. And the voice acting. Just...God. Also a "love it or hate it" deal, the voice acting is bad. Just bad. Let's not pretend it isn't. But it's kind of supposed to be. Again, as a throwback to classic anime, it's classic anime as seen in the U.S. Back when they hired maybe one good voice actor, but the rest of them just sucked. It's really so bad, it's good. But it depends on individual taste, so your mileage may vary.
The music is solid, but none of it really stood out to me. It's the kind of fast-paced, epic music you'd expect to hear in a game about giant robots. Graphically, the mecha models hold up very well today, but the human models leave a bit to be desired. Many of the buildings are rather generic, but man, is there a lot of them. Some of them stand out, like the Colosseum, which is surprisingly well designed, and a massive skyscraper in the center of Tokyo (I think. It's a black and gold building? If anyone remembers, note it in the comments, please!). Dialogue scenes mainly consist of static anime characters talking in that god-awful-yet-awesome voice acting.
If you like mecha anime at all, you have to check out RAD. I didn't expect much from it when I gave it a spin last week, but damn it, it's just so much fun. Sadly, if you don't have it already, it seems to be commanding high prices on eBay and Amazon. But if you played it, hopefully you know what I mean when I say it's awesome.
Because, you see, as a giant robot anime video game, it's kind of a dream game for me.
Thanks for reading! Questions, comments, and future GOTW suggestions are welcome as always! And tweet me! @WingZero351
Next week, I'm gonna write about another PS2 game that I can't believe I haven't covered yet. Thankfully, my pact price was not my voice ;)