Rock 'em and sock 'em!
Way back in the early '80s, a company called Harmony Gold bought the rights to a Japanese animated series called Super Dimension Fortress: Macross. Little did they know just how large their Frankenstein's monster-tech would become.
The popularity of the Robotech world would grow to include not only animation, but toys, comics and other merchandise as well. The following of robot based animation continues even today as channels like the Cartoon Network show off old episodes to the younger generation. Now, the inventors of the Macross (Robotech) series, Mr. Shoji Kawamori and Studio Nue, have worked their magic once again to create Capcom's latest robot fighter, Tech Romancer.
The robots in Tech Romancer have a distinct cartoon feel and are definitely the product of Japanese anime. There is G. Kaiser, whose looks are based on the old school style of Japanese robots, with a huge chest emblem and "V" shaped wings on his back. Then there is Rafaga, a triple changer robot (robot/jet/combination) who is obviously taken straight from the Macross world. The rest of the robots of the game are also pretty cool and really add to the game's character.
Even though the design of the robots is great, their actual graphical representation is mediocre at best. Some of the characters are very blocky (especially Goldibus, the bad guy). Considering the strength of the Dreamcast, more detail and better textures could have been easily implemented.
One of the first things you'll notice is the enormous size of the robots. It's almost like being in an old Godzilla flick. Small buildings litter the fighting arena, just waiting to be stomped on. And stomp on them you shall, as obliterating the puny structures will reveal a host of useful items. A wide array of goodies ranging from stun weapons to the "Hero Booster" can be gained in this manner to help you crush your enemy.
Unlike so many other Capcom fighting games, Tech Romancer sports an extremely simple control system that stays fairly consistent across all of the robots. For starters, you've got four numbskull buttons: attack one and two, guard and jump. Great for button mashing madness. Those who prefer to destroy enemies with a little elegance and a bit more flair can use a few very simple button/controller combos. Unleash a strong attack by pressing the two attack buttons simultaneously. Throw a super attack by pressing back, forward and the two attack buttons. Completely annihilate your opponent with a final attack by pressing all four buttons. It's so simple that you don't even need to look at an instruction book.
This simplicity is a double-edged sword. While great for jumping right into the action, this also means that there isn't as much depth as other fighting games. Compared to a game like Soul Calibur, Tech Romancer's overly simplistic control scheme is a bit underwhelming.
It's always good for a laugh when fighting games try to include some sort of story. Just look at what happened in Dead or Alive 2 - great fighting got intertwined with a plot that made about as much sense as a waterproof sponge. The stories in Tech Romancer don't suffer as much as this, but they're definitely a mixed bag.
There is a unique story for each of the eleven pilots in the game, though some of these can branch in several directions depending on the outcome of a particular battle. While many of the stories are straightforward and easy to understand, some of them are just plain weird. In one story, your pilot rescues the pilot of a defeated enemy robot and takes her home only to fall in love with her since she looks like an angel from a picture book. Later on, he discovers that she is really a robot that is a piece of the super-bad-guy-robot, who has come looking for her. Ah yes. I hate it when that happens.
Thankfully, there are many other things to look forward to. Tech Romancer contains a giant mech-sized helping of unlockable goodies. In Hero Challenge mode (the game's other main mode), you earn points based on your performance which can be used to buy extras. You can unlock robot and pilot specs, a music box to hear the game's sound effects and music, and even some pretty cool illustrations. Other goodies include short take-off movies, several VMU mini games, five extra pilots, and a really cool animated "movie" that would probably intro the cartoon if there ever was one. These extras will really keep you going for quite awhile.
Tech Romancer is a solid game that is sure to please fans of robot based anime. Its easy-to-learn fighting scheme and tons of extras make playing simple and fun, though this same simplicity will turn off fighting game veterans looking for heavier metal.