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Tech Romancer (Dreamcast) artwork

Tech Romancer (Dreamcast) review


"Wrecking buildings, shooting eye-beam lasers, and kicking a giant alien in the crotch: Priceless"



Collateral damage caused to the city by a single giant robot battle: $250,000,000

Price of maintenance to giant robot, not including battle damage: $10,000,000

Price of getting a new robot when the enemy inevitably figures out a way to destroy your old one (usually around the season finale): $100,000,000

Wrecking buildings, shooting eye-beam lasers, and kicking a giant alien in the crotch: Priceless

There are those who say that giant robots have no place in science fiction. That they’re impractical, that creating them makes no sense, that they’re an irritating and irrational invention that only serves to satisfy the hormone-induced urge to obliterate things, our Freudian need to project a super-self out onto the world and have that super-self engage in acts of reckless rampaging and demonic destruction.

I say one thing to people such as these: You are taking life way too seriously.

I know giants robots are impractical. I know they’re pure fantasy, no matter how realistic games like Armored Core and Chrome Hounds make them out to be. I know George Bush won’t take a sudden interest in anime and decide that America’s protection lies in the hand of 100-feet tall humanoid machines with 60-feet long gatling guns and 5-feet tall Japanese schoolgirls (with blue hair, of course. You gotta have blue hair) for their pilots.

I…do notcare.

Apparently, neither did the guys at Capcom. They made Tech Romancer.

If Soul Calibur invited the likes of Gundam, Robotech, Mechwarrior and Evangelion over to its house and then had a nonstop orgy, Tech Romancer would be the results. What we have here is a mech game that thinks it’s a fighter; a brawl of Godzilla-sized proportions that lets you play as some of the greatest robots ever to grace a TV screen.

Sort of. Tech Romancer avoids all the legal battles and copyrights and other crap that a real massive mech crossover would entail, instead giving you reasonable facsimiles of the real deals…parodies. Allow me to demonstrate.

You choose Strategic Variable Fighter Rafaga, a fighter made in the vein of Robotech’s Veritech models, only much…MUCH…bigger. You start off in the humanoid Soldier Mode, going hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot and missile-to-missile with your enemy, trading blows and destroying any building that was unfortunate enough to be built in your path. Your opponent’s tough, so you switch to Spinner Mode, legs and arms attached to a jet body, allowing you to zip back and forth along the ground, pummeling him at close range and retreating before he can bring it back to you. He’s weakened now, taken as much damage as he can take, so it’s time to finish things…in style. You take the jet form of Fighter Mode, soar above the enemy, and unleash a furious onslaught on missiles and lasers with merciless vigor and ruthless precision.

Or what about Super Defense Armor Dixen, a mech that’s only a few tweaks away from earning a Gundam lawsuit? Beam rifles, beam swords, propulsion, shields and even grenades are all at your disposal, letting you eliminate the enemy at any distance; a well-rounded mech. He’s jacking from every trade and mastering none, so winning becomes a matter of finding what your enemy doesn’t do well…finding how Dixen does it better…and dropping the hammer with all due speed.

But if you want to take things to the old school, if you want to revisit the days of Mazinger Z and Gredizer, then you’re going to need Armor Knight Grand Kaiser, the king of robots. Rocket punches! Chest lasers! And, of course, the obligatory finishing move.

You see, when you come to the last round and you knock the enemy’s health down by half, you have the option of finishing him in one shot by bringing out your Final Attack, a special animation that gets you the victory in grand style. In G. Kaiser’s case, the Final Attack includes what can best be described as the biggest sword you have ever seen and slicing the enemy in half with said sword, preferably while screaming out the words:

KILL DYNASTY THUNDERCLAP!!

Because screaming out the name of your overly elaborate final attack is what angst-ridden mech pilots do.

Speaking of the pilots, they play a huge role in Tech Romancer’s replay value; most of the mechs let you choose different pilots when you hit the story mode. This alone means different storylines and arcs, but you can vary it up even more by making certain decisions in the middle of your fights; defeating certain enemies in certain ways causes the story to spin off in certain tangents, drastically changing the ending you end up with. Maybe for better, maybe for worse…but it’ll change. And since every storyline nods towards its anime forefathers, you’ll wind up with the same nostalgia the characters gave off, like playing through a Saturday morning cartoon.

That appeal does wear thin after a while; the branching story paths may stretch things out, but the stories weren’t that long to begin with. While you’re on that short trip, don’t expect much from the scenery; the environments may be destructible, but you’re not destroying anything more detailed than a really colorful cardboard box. Most of the stages look better in rubble form. And even though the game’s strong suit is letting you engage in mech-based dream matches, that more fights you go through, the less interesting it becomes. Tech Romancer is a rental game that you can’t rent.

But for a hardcore mech fan, things just don’t get much better than Tech Romancer, even if the luster one day wears off. It’s just different enough, just quirky enough, just fresh enough to etch its own identity and style. But it doesn’t forget where it came from, either; nods, winks, and references abound, enough to give even the casual mech fan some welcome déjà vu.

Spikey-hair? Check.

Japanse theme song accompanying a stylish anime intro? Check.

A little girl that magically becomes seventeen years old in order to make the main hero fall in love with her and look like an incredible perv? Check.

We are good to go.

Rating: 8/10

lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (November 17, 2005)

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