You know you're in for a tough time when the game's main character is named Kanji - that's the indecipherable (to your average importer) Japanese character set based on Chinese. That about sums up Tales of the Sunrise Heroes, an otaku game taken to the next level.
Sunrise Heroes chronicles the adventures of popular Sunrise (the anime studio responsible for the megapopular and seemingly endless Gundam series, among others) characters as they are thrust into an improbable universe for immense amounts of crossover goodness. Not only will you see the characters from the original Gundam (circa 1979-1982) and Gundam W (circa 1995-1996) in the same game - you'll see characters from other popular Sunrise series all tenuously scrabbling to fit into the overlaying plot of this bizarre RPG.
Sunrise Heroes takes place in the world of Cloudia, a floating island in the endless skies. The characters arise from a variety of anime series, so the game is split into islands - the characters from one specific show inhabit each island. The game starts with characters from G-Breaker, which you probably haven't heard of. Thankfully, about half an hour to 40 minutes into the game you'll smack square into Gundam island, as Gundam is the real star of Sunrise's lineup. Unfortunately, it only contains characters from the immensely popular original series and Gundam W - and none of the other ten or so franchises.
Most of your time will be spent smacking the button and watching text scroll by. The game has an immense amount of dialogue, and you must pound away to get anywhere - not importer friendly. Then, you must navigate the menus and lists, which are also in Japanese. Finally, you're released from the deck, and you can fly for about three seconds before you get to a set battle. Lather, rinse, repeat. The game gives you the illusion of freedom by rewarding your diligence in button pressing by putting you at the wheel of a battle cruiser, but invisible boundaries, set battles, and linear-as-it-gets gameplay keep you from enjoying anything meaningful.The battle system is peculiar - billed as an RPG instead of the typical strategy game we've come to expect from licensed mecha games, it basically consists of launching robots, having them attack, having them retreat into the ship to recharge, and relaunching them, turn after turn. If you break through the enemy's line, you can smack its ship around until it runs out of HP. It's about as much fun as it sounds. The battles are an odd mix of small, sprite-based mecha on the screen and short clips of FMV for attacks. It's not sure what it really wants to be - a kind of pseudo-RPG workaround to the expected strategy methodology, while still trying to retain that lovely lone-soldier, mano-a-mano image engendered by the series it draws from. There's a two-player option - but good luck finding a friend who has this game and who wants to sit through yet more of these battles.
The graphics are great - if you're a hard-core fan. In the town/deck sequences, we have lovingly hand-drawn backgrounds with huge, beautiful sprites of the series characters overlaid on top, and the ubiquitous dialogue box full of kanji at the bottom of the screen. There is nary a polygon in sight. In the ship- navigation mode, there's a textured island and a Gouraud-shaded ship or two onscreen at any given time - but nothing a PlayStation couldn't do. The breathtakingly clean high-resolution anime shots look gorgeous, but they're not going to wow anyone on a technical level. The music is generic, and it competently, but utterly uninterestingly, does its job. The surprisingly frequent bits of CG FMV are extremely well modeled and attractive, however, and they showcase the various mecha involved in this saga excellently.
Whether or not you're going to enjoy Sunrise Heroes really hinges on how willing you are to put up with an incredibly mediocre battle system and tons and tons of unreadable dialogue to see your favorite (and not-so-favorite) anime characters brought together in an improbable world. Although the game is illogically appealing to Sunrise fans, it won't interest anyone on its own merits as a game. If AnimeVillage.com wanted to promote Gundam and its other Sunrise titles (although the most popular one in the US - The Vision of Escaflowne - is not included in this game), it might be able to work out something with a publisher to release this game in the US. That's a slim chance at best. As it stands, you're not missing much besides some high-quality artwork. Do yourself a favor and buy an art book instead.