TGS 2003 Transformers Impressions

They're robots… in disguise! And they're coming to Japanese PS2s next month.

Takara has been showing off brief bits and pieces of its WinkySoft-developed Transformers game for over a year now. But now the game is finally nearing completion. While it certainly is the most accurate polygonal representation of classic G1 Transformers toys, the game simply doesn't come across particularly well.

At the outset of the game, you can choose to play as either the Autobots or the Decepticons. While each has a slightly different setup, the level on display at the Tokyo Game Show is the same for both sides. The game places you and two assistant robots at one end of a long canyon, and you have to make it to the other end while fighting enemy robots the entire way.

The game's combat consists of melee attacks, combined with the ability to block, execute slide attacks, and transform at will. You can also fire your weapon, but this eats up your energy meter. Cars or jets can drive around and ram into the other robots, while the more esoteric Transformers have unique abilities. Soundwave, of course, turns into a tape deck, and in that mode he can emit sound blasts that knock enemies over. Megatron turns into a gigantic floating pistol, and he'll unleash powerful energy blasts from his barrel, but he can barely move at all in that form, making him a vulnerable target.

To say that the combat in the game doesn't really accurately represent the way combat worked in the old Transformers cartoons is really an understatement. The game plays like a sluggish beat-'em-up with a couple not-so-special moves. Though you can transform into jet mode as Starscream, you fly at ground level, making, say, dive-bombing an Autobot convoy impossible.

Graphically, the game represents the different Transformers very well. Even the transformation animations are at least mostly accurate. But the rest of the animation and the game's textures look a little closer to PlayStation quality rather than looking like a PlayStation 2 game.

It seems puzzling that Takara and WinkySoft would spend so much time to get the robots and the roster just right, but fail to make a compelling game around such compelling characters. Perhaps there are still some features left to be added, but considering the game's rapidly approaching October 30 release date here in Japan, there doesn't seem to be much time left. No details regarding a US release for this game have been announced at this time. But considering the game actually uses the US names for the various Transformers (Optimus Prime instead of Convoy, to name one) and features English voice acting that tries to mimic the English voice cast, this one would be easy to prepare for the North American market.

See more of GameSpot's coverage of the 2003 Tokyo Game Show.

Written By

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

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