Two and a half long months. That’s how long it took me to complete Super Robot Wars V’s 52 story scenarios and 3 secret scenarios I unlocked along the way. To be clear, this was not me playing the game, every hour, of every day, for two and a half months. I played in my spare time after work and on my days off, while also juggling it with other games like Yakuza Zero, The Fruit of Grisaia, and Kingdom Come: Deliverance. But for me to invest as much time as I did into this turn-based strategy game, there’s gotta be something special to it.
So lets start with a question from the uninitiated: What is Super Robot Wars? Well, to put it simply, it’s your wildest mecha fanservice and space opera dreams come to life. Each Super Robot Wars game tells a different story, and that story involves multiple different mecha series coming together. In the case of Super Robot Wars V(The V stands for “Voyage.”), the framework of the story is based on Space Battleship Yamato 2199, and as you go along, the plots of various Gundam series, Evangelion, Full Metal Panic, Martian Successor Nadesico, Mazinger, Getter Robo, Cross Ange, and many others tie into it. And I have to say, they actually did a damn good job of managing to merge all these different universes to make this story work. The scene that sticks out to me the most is when the Yamato is leaving the Sol System behind and the crew are sending their final messages to Earth. It sticks out to me because it really drives home the emotional core of the story and that this will be a long journey. And indeed it was as the game’s story lasted 52 scenarios.
The main gameplay of Super Robot Wars revolves around you commanding a small army of mecha and battleships, moving them around a grid-based map turn by turn. When you initiate a battle with an enemy, you can opt to view a cinematic of the battle where SD(super deformed) versions of the mecha duke it out using the abilities in their arsenals. These are the true highlights of any Super Robot Wars game and are worth watching over and over again even if the animations never change. Of course, eventually I did start skipping them to save time. As the game progresses, scenarios gradually become longer affairs, and if you sit and watch every battle cinematic, you’re gonna be playing even longer. So I ended up saving the animations for truly badass moments, like when I focused all my fire on a single boss to rip its health bar to pieces in a single turn.
A lot of your strategy will come down to what units you opt to use. Once you get halfway through the game or so, you’ll have acquired a large amount of units to choose from. However, I often found that some were undeniably better than others. Namely, I ended up using the titular mecha rather than the canon fodder suits. Who wants to use a GN-X when you could just use the 00Qan[T]? Or use the Jesta when you could have the Unicorn Gundam? It isn’t much of a contest. In the end, my lineup was pretty consistent from one scenario to another. Up front I would have the Mazinger Z, Evangelion Unit-01, ARX-8, Nu Gundam Unicorn Gundam & Unicorn Banshee, Shin Getter, Mazinger Emperor G, and the Villkiss. In the rear sniping I would have the M9 Kurz, Super Aestivalis, and EVA Unit-08. By the end of the game I had upgraded the M9 Kurz so much that it’s range covered practically half the map or more depending on the map size, dealing upwards of 10,000 damage a shot. I had other units on my team such as the 00Qan[T], Strike Freedom Gundam, Aestivalis Custom, and the M9D Falke to name a few, but they were usually backup units to bolster my forces. Undeniably powerful in their own right, but lets face it, they don’t hold a candle to the Mazinger Z when it transforms into the godlike Mazinger ZERO or when EVA Unit-01 goes into its berserk mode.
This is the part where I mention what I’ve dubbed “awakenings.” Awakenings occur when a unit has reached a certain level of focus in the middle of a scenario. This grants them stronger abilities, higher mobility/evasion, etc. Basically, cannon fodder beware, you just got demoted to something lower than cannon fodder. Some units can even go further beyond this standard awakening, transforming into something else. For example, The Unicorn and Banshee Gundams can activate their NT-D systems that increase their speed and power even further. The Mazinger Z can transform into the Mazinger ZERO, and EVA Unit-01 can go into its beast mode. The kicker is that I never actually got to use Unit-01's beast mode because its activation requirements were beyond what the base unit can actually manage. What I mean is that in order to unlock the transformation, the sync rate has to be above 90%(This goes up with each battle, but slowly. Upgrading the unit to a certain level will double the rates increase.) and the pilots focus has to be 170 or above. Unit-01, by default, cannot have a focus higher than 150, effectively making the beast form unattainable without mod parts that allow it to go higher. The game never explains this to you, I had to figure it out by looking it up online.
At the same time, I never felt like I needed any actual grand strategy for any of these scenarios. Once I had enough units, I could set up a defensive line in front of my battleships(If any of your battleships die, it’s immediate game over.) and the enemy units would just hurl themselves at this line and get destroyed. The AI never gets smarter than this, only ever increasing the difficulty by either adding even more units to the battlefield or just making the existing ones stronger. The only time I ever had to actually run from the enemy and change up my strategy was towards the end of the game where I could only defeat the boss, if I destroyed all five of his units in the same turn. The problem was that I couldn’t always get them in the same turn due to the dice roll mechanics and their AOE attacks that ended up killing each other and reviving them at full health the next turn. I lost enough units to this that I had to retreat, regroup, and rethink how I approached them to minimize casualties and take them all out simultaneously. That was the single hardest battle I fought because I actually had to think. Unlike the final boss who I just pounded on with all my units until its 200,000 health pool was drained, completely ignoring the cannon fodder around it.
The maps themselves are nothing fancy either. Rather than having to work around the terrain, you can just move in a straight line, disregarding the terrain. There’s an ocean? No problem, you’ll either fly over it or sink below and walk on the sea floor. Space? No problem, a suit that normally can’t operate in space will work just fine as if it were on solid ground. Doesn’t matter. The terrain conveys advantages and disadvantages via stats and that’s it. It never once affected me significantly enough to make me change how I played. Basically, it’s a backdrop, nothing more.
In spite of my disappointment with the difficulty and the useless terrain, I still absolutely love this game. It is fanservice at its purest(And no, I’m not referring to the sexy fanservice that is also present in the game. Seriously though, the female MC option, Chitose, looks like a stripper. Classic Super Robot Wars design.), allowing you to pull together your dream mecha team and curb stomp your enemies with their amazing abilities. And that goes alongside the absolutely captivating story that manages to be told across the length of the game. It used Space Battleship Yamato and other series as a base to give it form, but there’s also a lot of it that is trademark Super Robot Wars V and the way it weaves all of this together to create a larger overarching story. Makes me wish the game got an anime adaptation, but I imagine that’d be a legal hell I’d want nothing to do with.
Moving on, we have the absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Sure, pretty much all of it is pulled from the myriad of series under the Super Robot Wars V banner, save for the games main theme itself and a few other cues, but that doesn’t mean the licensed tracks and remixes aren’t good. They’re absolutely amazing. While I may not care for Gundam ZZ’s opening theme as it normally is, the rendition of Silent Voice in this game is addicting to listen to during battles. The same can be said for the Getter Robo, Cross Ange, Nadesico, and Full Metal Panic tracks. But of course, there’s nothing quite like taking out bad guys to the sound of the Mightgaine theme’s saxophone. And lets not forget the main theme of the game:
At the end of the day, Super Robot Wars V is a game for fans of turn-based strategy games and the mecha genre. Luckily, a SEA version of the game exists that has fairly decent English subtitles with a few typos and grammatical errors here and there. You can find it on Play Asia and Amazon for somewhere between $60 - $80, not including the cost to import it. But it is well worth the cost in my opinion because the adventure itself is something special.
Now I just have to wait for the next game, Super Robot Wars X, to release next month so I can spend another significant chunk of time trying to beat it. That one will feature Aura Battler Dunbine, Nadia of Blue Water, Gurren Lagann, and Code Geass, among others and the ever present Gundam series.