Robotech: Battlecry Review
Robotech: Battlecry is a mediocre shooter that's notable only on the strength of its license.
The release of Robotech: Battlecry should have marked a momentous occasion for fans of the popular 1980s animated series of the same name. Not only is this 3D shooter the first licensed Robotech game (notwithstanding numerous Japanese games based on Macross, the source material for Robotech), but it seemed that developer Vicious Cycle was doing everything possible to ensure that Battlecry was as authentic a re-creation of the classic sci-fi cartoon as possible. This includes the use of colorful cel-shaded graphics, the use of many of the same voice actors from the animated show, and the inclusion of nearly all of the memorable mech designs from the Robotech canon. However, the game suffers from a number of problems that even the most ardent fans of the series will have a hard time overlooking, not the least of which are repetitive missions, sluggish controls, and empty levels.
The Robotech cartoons were actually three completely unrelated Japanese animated miniseries that were brought over to the US by Harmony Gold and slapped together to form one long-running show. Battlecry concerns itself exclusively with the first and most famous of these three miniseries, The Macross Saga. You play the role of Jack Archer, an original character who is a pilot for a global military organization called the Robotech Defense Federation (UN Spacy in the show), which was founded to defend an abandoned spaceship that crash-landed on Earth 10 years prior. Christened the SDF-1, this ship once belonged to an alien race of giants known as the Zentraedi, and now they've finally managed to track down their lost craft to Earth. Battlecry starts with the Zentraedi attack on the planet, and as Archer, you're tasked with repelling this initial assault using your powerful transformable Veritech fighter. As anyone who's watched the show knows, Veritechs are essentially three machines in one: a jet (fighter), a nimble robot (battloid), and a birdlike hybrid of both (guardian). Transforming between these three iterations of the Veritech is a snap in Battlecry, requiring little more than a flick of your controller's D-pad.
As in the show, each Veritech mode has unique handling characteristics that lend themselves to different combat situations. In the reaches of space and in the open sky, for example, the fighter mode's speed makes it the most suitable, whereas close-quarters combat calls for the agility of the guardian or battloid. Unfortunately, while you have the ability to switch between any of these three modes at any time during the game, the levels in Battlecry are designed in such a way as to punish you for playing as any Veritech mode other than the "right" one. The missions in the game are primarily split between wide-open aerial combat and low-flying environments. The relatively slow-moving guardian and battloid become easy targets in the former, while you'll find that the fighter jet is utterly useless in the cramped quarters of the city levels. In fact, every time you run into a solid object as a fighter, you'll automatically be transformed into a battloid. What's more, an invisible bubble prevents you from gaining enough altitude to fly over buildings and canyon walls in those types of levels, nor can you fly down to sea level in the aerial missions.
What aggravates this frustrating situation is a complete lack of a sense of speed in the aerial missions. The background environments, sparsely populated with detail as they already are, barely move at all. In fact, the only indication you'll get that your Veritech is actually moving are the relative locations of the enemies all around you, and even those are often just small specks on the screen. Conversely, levels that take place within the confines of a city require you to switch to either battloid or guardian mode, both of which are sluggish in their lateral movements. Neither has any sort of quick turn maneuver; side-to-side strafing for both is painfully slow; and instead of being assigned to separate analog sticks, the aiming and movement controls are handled strictly by the left analog stick. This is also true of the fighter mode, which effectively removes its ability to roll over along its Y-axis or perform a loop along its Z-axis. This handicap in mobility across all three modes hardly represents the incredible agility of the Veritech as portrayed in the show.
Thankfully, the control problem of Battlecry's Veritechs is somewhat offset by its combat, which, for the most part, does a good job of mirroring the show's frenetic pace. In the game, all three Veritech modes have one primary weapon and one secondary weapon. In the fighter mode, your Veritech's primary attack is a machine gun that has a limited ability to track enemies, and the secondary weapon is the signature "drunken missile" salvo, where a bunch of missiles lock on and wildly streak toward their targets. The guardian mode shares these exact weapons, though its machine gun can track enemies in a wider arc, and its missiles are more agile, albeit somewhat weaker. The battloid mode lacks any kind of missile weapon, though its primary and secondary machine gun attacks can track practically any enemy onscreen.