Macross game Review
Note: Even though Tatsunoko owns the rights to Super Dimensional Force Macross, Bandai produced all other sequels and variants in the Macross universe.
Story & Playability
Macross 30: Voices Across the Galaxy is a game for the PS3 developed by Studio Artdink and produced by Namco Bandai
Games for the 30th anniversary of the mecha action series. It's billed as a "flight action RPG", which
basically means you fly around in various mecha and fight enemies while the story unfolds around you. As the 30th
anniversary celebration, Macross 30 is a crossover of every mainline Macross series: SDF Macross, 7, Plus, Zero and
Frontier, into a new storyline.
Macross 30 starts in the year 2060 (a year after Frontier ends), with SMS test pilot Leon Sakaki arriving at the planet Uroboros while flying a prototype YF-25. He is shot down by an unknown pilot and rescued by the local SMS organization. Unfortunately for him, the planet is experiencing a strange behavior known as Uroboros Aurora, where the planet emanates strange energy and prevents Leon from leaving the planet. Stuck, he helps out Aisha, head of the local SMS branch, in investigating some ruins that Aisha thinks may be the key to the Aurora, when he encounters a strange girl, Mina Forte. Together, the three continue to look into the ruins (which Aisha hints may be Protoculture) and the mystery of the planet.
As can be expected in a Macross story, there is the very obvious love triangle between Leon, Aisha and Mina (which, like Frontier, is alluded to in the opening credits with a very obvious triangle shape). However, as the player you control Leon, so the story is careful to grow the relationships such that in the end, it's up to you to decide who Leon chooses (if in fact you choose at all). Aisha and Mina have very different roles in the game: Aisha is the local SMS commanding officer, but also a mecha otaku who builds all your fighters while Mina is the shy songstress who has a lot more knowledge about the ruins than you'd expect. The two are greatly supportive of each other, as well as Leon, and it's a nice change to have a triangle in which each character has an equal chance at happiness.
While the main storyline is generally fun, if repetitive (you alternate between investigating ruins and investigating the Havamal organization, a second paramilitary group on Uroboros), the crossover aspect is on much shakier ground. In order to get everyone together, the game uses some wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey explanations of the ruins and the strange properties of the Uroboros Aurora in order to bring everyone in at the same age as they are in their respective series -- otherwise a lot of characters would be senior citizens! This leads to some painfully awkward scenes, like when Sheryl Nome greets her grandmother, Mao Nome, who is younger than she is. Also, the time-jumped characters don't seem to mind the situation nearly as much as you think they should, considering most of them are seeing the future repercussions of their actions. The citizens of Uroboros also don't seem to find it weird that Nekki Basara or Lin Minmay has just shown up and don't look a day older than their idol pop days.
Truth be told, the story is just a way to dole out new mechas to fight in without overwhelming the player, and a way of spacing out epic battles. Typical of JRPGs the story is linear and everything you do ends up at the same goal (although a small choice you make during the final battle will supposedly change the ending cinematics a bit -- having only played through once, I haven't confirmed this yet). The game is broken up into 9 chapters, with most chapters having 5-6 subsections, so there is a fair amount of content to get through (it took me about 50 hours on normal mode, but I'm also a player who grinds through most of the sidequests.) It's not particularly deep and there are a lot of WTF moments, but it serves its purpose.
TL;DR: Crossover story is awkward, and there are a LOT of characters crammed in (you don't have to understand Japanese to enjoy the absurdity of this character chart: http://b.bngi-channel.jp/macross30/character/), but the story never drags (although it does repeat), and the relationships between game-original characters is pretty nice.
Macross 30, being a game for the PS3 system, is presented in HD (720p). The game environments are well detailed. The
story takes place at 3 separate locations on Uroboros: Yulia Islands, Sierra Desert and Mattis Glacier, with a distinct
flavor to each. Textures aren't too repetitive, you are given plenty of space to fly your mechas in.
Unfortunately all the budget seems to have been spent on the overworld areas, as the dungeons are either Caves, Ruins or Military Bases. There is very little difference in dungeons, which fall into the boring long narrow corridor with occasional branching paths design. There is very little visual distinction with the dungeons too; except for Ruins which sometimes have a mechanical structure that must be activated, there are no landmarks or unique aspects to any dungeon to set them apart from all the others.
Mechas are varied and the game gives you access to a lot of the fighters from all the included Macross series, from the lowly VF-0D to the advanced VF-29. The game includes an all-new mecha, the YF-30 Chronos, an experimental figher that Aisha puts together for Leon, and it's got a distinct zigzag wing pattern that sets it apart from its predecessors. Along with the Valkyries there are a number of Zentraedi walker mecha and even the colossal Koening Monster. They're all rendered cleanly with little pixelation, and for many fighters you can choose between a couple of paint schemes to suit your style. Valkyries shift between Battroid, Gerwalk and Fighter modes smoothly and zip around in attacking each other in dogfights. Sadly, if the fight gets too intense (too many mechas/missiles/projectiles on the screen) the game has noticeable lag, which can be problematic during epic boss battles.
While it feels like considerable attention was put into the game rendering engine, the animated cutscenes are a huge letdown. "Animated" is kind of an inaccurate description for a lot of them. There is a lot of reliance on pan-and-scan over static cels, with sound effects (like of footsteps) used to convey the action on the screen. It's a disappointing choice for an anime franchise. These scenes are the only time you see characters apart from headshots used in most of the game dialog, and half the time their lips don't even move when they're talking! To be fair, this may be to cover the difference in art direction/character design from the disparate Macross series (the differences are noticeable in headshots but can be ignored) since everyone is drawn true to their original series, but it still feels like a cop-out.
TL;DR: Rendered in HD, overworld maps are great - the best part is flying around the sky in your various mechas. Dungeons and cutscenes are forgettable and sometimes regrettable.
Ah, what is a Macross story without its music? Macross 30's songstress is Mina Forte, whose songs open and close the
game with upbeat pop goodness. Planet Cradle (op) is full of energy while Wandering (ed) is a little more soulful, and
bookend the story neatly.
Mina is joined by singers from all the other Macross series, and they bring their music with them. Minmay asks "Do you remember love?" while Basara lets loose with "Totsugeki Love Heart" and Sharon Apple tries to down you in "Information High". The game uses song energy literally -- singers form your support crew and when you activate their skill during battle their song plays in the background, which is a useful indicator for what skill is being used and how long you've got until it runs out. Oddly you can customize these songs -- I changed Ranka's song from Interstellar Flight to SMS Brigade/That Girl's an Alien and got Minmay to sing "My Boyfriend is a Pilot" instead. You can change the songs to any mp3 you have loaded on your PS3 but I limited myself to swapping out appropriate Macross music (why else would you play a Macross game?) and was rewarded when Sheryl and Ranka launched into Triangular (instead of Wings of Goodbye) during the final battle.
The game's instrumental music is original and works well in setting the mood of various scenes. It's intense during battles and quirky during introspective scenes. However, in the end background music is just background music, and none of the tracks are particularly memorable, except for the fact that you constantly hear some of them on the overworld maps or when upgrading your mechas.
Macross 30's main story is fully voiced, and pulls in all the voice actors to reprise their roles so everyone sounds just like they always have. They didn't skimp on the original characters either, pulling in well-known voices for a number of roles, including Joji Nakata as Havamal commander Todou (Folken/Escaflowne, Van/Tales of the Abyss), Marina Inoue as Aisha (Yoko/Gurren Lagann, Armin/Attack on Titan) and Mamoru Miyano as Havamal officer Rod Baltemar (Flynn/Tales of Vesperia, Takuto/Star Driver). They may be a bit typecast, but it fits the roles they are playing for, so it all works out well in the end.
TL;DR: Macross! Music! Can you go wrong? (Well, you probably can, but the game is careful not to.)
Macross 30 is a pretty fun flight action RPG for the PS3. Studio Artdink has produced a number of other Macross games
for the PSP, although this is their first for the larger screen. As I haven't played any of those other games, my
expectations for this one were to pilot Valkyries and blow things up while enjoying some great pop songs. This game
delivers that in spades.
Macross 30 is aimed directly at the franchise's biggest fans -- that's why they brought in characters, mechas and music from all the previous series. The setting, story, and main characters are game-original, so you don't technically need any prior Macross exposure, but you'll miss out on a lot of jokes and references. I've only seen the more recent shows (Plus movie, Zero, Frontier) and these do a decent job in alluding to previous series, enough that I felt comfortable with the world that Macross 30 presented (although I did check a few references in Wikipedia for more info.)
As a "flight action" RPG this was a far different type of game from the turn-based or action-based RPGs I was used to (Tales, Ninokuni and the like.) Battles are in a third-person shooter style, where you pilot a mecha to take down other mecha. Most of the YF/VF fighters have 3 modes: Battroid and Gerwalk modes are humanoid and sacrifice speed for fine-tuned motion (and nothing is quite as satisfying as using Battroid mode to punch another mecha in the face), while Fighter mode lets you get into aerial dogfights closer to the style of Ace Combat. Each mecha has its own set of armaments, including machine guns, sniper rifle, a wide variety of missiles, laser and beam weapons; a few have more esoteric choices, like Ghost drones or Pinpoint barrier. Most of your time not spent in fighting will be used to upgrade and customize your stable of mecha to take advantage of each one's capabilities. There's a fair amount of resource management to the game, and one of the annoyances of the game is that the moment you feel like you've gotten used to a mecha, you get plans for a new one and you have to start customization over again. Still, it's an RPG so a lot of this should be somewhat expected, and the variety of mecha you get in the end is worth the trouble. Thankfully, the game provides a lot of sidequests so you can grind for parts and experience and develop the mechas you like to their full potential.
All in all, the game is entertaining. It does fall flat in some areas, but I enjoyed it a lot as a whole. Although there is no post-game story, you can start a New Game+ with some significant addons (carry over all your pilot and mecha stats), so I will probably play through again at some later time. But not too soon. I have some Tales of Xillia 2 to revisit.
TL;DR: It's a Macross game. You pilot mechas and blow things up. If you like Macross, this works out fairly well. However, if you're not familiar with Macross, this is not the place to start.
Final note: Due to Macross's rather niche appeal and the various conflicts it has with the Robotech series, it is extremely unlikely that this game will ever be translated and released in the US. The game can probably be enjoyed by fans who don't know a lot of Japanese (since once you learn the controls, it can be distilled down into a mecha third-person shooter) but it is still a story-driven RPG, and you have to follow the path of the story to progress. There are some online guides that can help, and you don't have to understand Japanese to enjoy all the music.
6.83 (above average)
Reviewed by Tama-Neko, Oct 06, 2013
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