The original Macross animated series (known as Robotech: The Macross Saga in the States), with its memorable and complex cast, not to mention its incredible spacecraft designs, remains a classic to animation and science fiction fans. And despite all its failed offshoots and cross-licenses, many Macross fans remain hopeful that the original will eventually see a successor in one form or another. Some of us, for instance, keep waiting for that perfect Macross video game. From the look of the recently released Japanese title Macross Digital Mission VF-X, the wait must continue. Macross VF-X looks elegant at times, but ultimately fails to capture the emotion, the excitement, and the sheer visual splendor of its source material.
Digital Mission VF-X is a watered-down flight simulator consisting of a dozen lengthy, boring, and repetitive missions. The PlayStation has a less-than-respectable track record for flight sims and VF-X does nothing to improve it. If you can survive the horrifically poppy opening song and correspondingly awful intro, you'll find yourself strapped into a Veritech fighter wondering how you're supposed to fly it. Macross VF-X's controls are hideous; forget physics, forget precision - just fly around like a madman or don't bother moving at all, because it's not going to make much of a difference in the end. If you can figure out how to get them in your sights, the enemy opponents (huge in number and boundless in their stupidity) merely go "poof" when destroyed. VF-X may support Sony's analog joystick, but it's not going to save you from the resounding mediocrity.
There are over a half-dozen crafts in Macross VF-X, but they look the same from the inside and all fly like sugar-high ostriches. Each Veritech fighter carries a mind-blowing sum of weaponry and limitless gun munitions, as well as an array of nice-looking but completely noninteractive special maneuvers (just push a button and the VF does the rest). You can also transform your jet to any of three different stages at any time (something fans of the series would expect). These transformations are Macross VF-X's sole appeal: The player's polygonal craft is rendered with painstakingly precise detail, and witnessing it transform as smoothly as it did in the series is pure delight - for a few moments, anyhow.
Once you quit gawking at the pretty transformation sequences, you'll quickly notice Macross VF-X's awful sound effects and music. It's no easy task destroying the original Macross' invigorating battle theme, but this game succeeds in turning that wonderful soundtrack into an earache. On top of that, VF-X's sound effects are either boring, irritating, or flat-out wrong: One would think the Veritech fighter's gunfire would at least be coupled with the series' notable buzzing sound, but instead we get an obnoxiously improper clacking.
Oh yes, and let's not forget the "plot." You're trying to rescue the Milky Dolls, a quintet of teen starlets who'd be much better off as some Zentraedi's after-dinner mint, at least in this reviewer's opinion. And for some insidious reason, you seem to be the only pilot left in the entire navy. So don't expect any help, which means you're on your own through the whole game. No two-player mode, no wingmen; just you, those five big-eyed ditzes, and a massive herd of dumb, blocky bad guys. Luckily, you've got your commanding officer to cheer you up (too bad you have to listen to his drivel while staring at a completely static screen). You'd think this game, based on an animated series, would have animated cutscenes.
Maybe you'll like Macross VF-X. Despite its remarkable 50-foot-visibility pop-up problem, terrible control, and stomach-churning audio, there are fans out there so single-mindedly loyal to Macross that they'll automatically like this game regardless of its bastardized plot and myriad gameplay flaws. If you live and breathe Macross, then you'll want to at least see this game for yourself. But if you're a Macross purist like this particular reviewer, and you agree that few things can match the glory of the original, then you'll want to stay as far away from this title as you would a missile salvo.