Robotech: Battlecry Review

If the story behind Robotech Battlecry sounds familiar, it is because it is based on the popular cartoon series that hit the US in the 80s.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the cartoon, the story goes something like this: When a mysterious spaceship crash lands on the Earth, scientists quickly begin to investigate its origin and technology.  They discover that the ship belongs to a race known as the Zentraedi, a very aggressive race of alien giants.  Guessing that the Zentraedi might come around looking for their ship, the people of Earth form the Robotech Defense Federation (RDF) and equip it with 50 foot tall robotic weapons known as Veritech fighters.  Ten years after the landing, the Zentraedi arrive looking for their wayward vessel.  While they unleash catastrophic destruction on the Earth, humanity is able to fight back thanks to the RDF.  You take on the role of Jack Archer, a Veritech pilot and one of Earth's brave defenders.

ScreenshotsThe Veritech fighter is a transformable weapon that can take on three different forms.  The first is the Battloid mode, which makes the fighter a walking robot with double laser cannons.  The next is the Fighter mode which turns the Veritech into a space fighter capable of high speed flight and armed with a canon and missiles.  Finally, there is the Guardian mode, which is a hybrid of the two - a walking robot with a fighter for a head and the capability to fly.  The game gives you the ability to quickly and easily switch between the three modes while playing simply by pressing the directional pad.

Your weapons have unlimited ammunition in the game, even the missiles.  Instead of ammo they each require a charge which is depleted each time you fire.  Get too trigger happy and you can find yourself unable to fire and forced to wait for your weapons to recharge.  The missiles in the game fire in salvos, and it is a nice effect watching a slew of smoke-trailing missiles streak towards their target.  If you hold down the missile button, you can even launch salvos in rapid fire at multiple targets.  The number of salvos that you can launch this way depends on the charge level of your missile weapon.

The game has gone to great lengths to capture the spirit of the original cartoon series, including the use of some of the voice talent from the show.  Most noticeable, though, is the game's use of cel-shaded graphics to capture the look of a cartoon.  Your Veritech fighter, enemies, and the explosion and smoke effects look pretty good, and work well with the game's cartoon feel.  Unfortunately, Robotech Battlecry suffers from some of the same problems as a lot of cartoons do, most obviously in its flat and repetitive environments.  Most of the game's levels take place in space, a city, or barren canyons, and one city or canyon is indistinguishable from the next.  It is too easy to get lost or make a wrong turn when confined to canyons, either the natural or concrete kind, when there or no landmarks or distinguishable characteristics to help you navigate.  There is an on-screen compass that is supposed to guide you to your objectives, but it swings around a lot when you are moving, and can even be jammed by enemies at times, so its not as much of a help as it needs to be.

You may think that the solution would be to simply switch into Fighter mode and go up top for a look around, but that is not possible.  Sure, you can switch to the Fighter mode at any time, but the game has its own idea about which form should be used on a level.  You'll be placed under a glass ceiling that prevents your Fighter from clearing even the smallest building or gap in the canyon wall.  Also, if you are in Fighter mode and should slightly graze a wall on one of these levels, you will be instantly transformed back into Battloid mode.  When in space, your Fighter has full freedom of movement, but the other modes are practically useless in this environment.  The net result is that even though you can transform at any time, in most levels you will stick with one form from start to finish.