Full Review: Yo dudes! Like, I was scarfing this way gnarly wave back there. And then all the sudden this HUGE metal man came up behind me and like knocked me out. What a bummer!
As obvious as it may seem, Japan has always indulged in their Anime and Magna artistic ways, especially with the fact that towering robots originate from this. They love it when a story comes together as galactic monsters tear through the heart of the environments around them and through one another. And as much as Japan may seem curiously odd, Americans have also come to love some of the very same cultural mediums that our foreign friends do in recent times -- so it can't be all that strange. Enix is just one of those companies that push the "different" lever up a notch and let the player blast off into the unknown for a game that's unusually a great deal of fun.
Godzilla? No. The 50-Foot Woman...? Not even close. Nothing can compare to the extremity of a one on one fight between two robots of immense proportions. For the life of the every day seventeen-year-old student who also happens to be the sole chairman of the fading Civilization Preservation Foundation, it's a different story. Days have turned into months and then into years since the blockage of human contact with alien life has commenced...but now it's that misfortunate day for our hero to step forth and face the music. Volgara, an alien race of terrible power, has landed on Earth. Their one purpose is to destroy everything and everyone in their path. Buildings will fall, streets will rumble, and people under their heel will perish. With the power to take control of a giant Meganite robot, you must stop the Volgara in their tracks.
Being a different type of game and all, Robot Alchemic Drive (or R.A.D.) isn't like anything you've played before. Sure the concept may be familiar in having to battle enormous brutes all for the saving of the world, but once you slip into the game's design, it's a whole other story from there on. Where R.A.D. takes you is into the heart of a large city for your own playground. Instead of transforming into a 120-foot gargantuan scrap of metal or being inserted in the confines of one, you're put into a simultaneous operation of becoming the person who has control over both him or herself and the Meganite. Through a set of varied missions, you'll face and defeat big -- really big -- Volgara robots all with their own skills and techniques in which to crush and clobber everything you hope to protect.
With a power greater than any person can hope to achieve, you have a destiny to live up to by using your Meganite (or big ass robot) to defend the fair city of Senjo. Since a person's got to eat, along the way you'll start making cold hard cash from the city based on your battle performance. Depending on whether or not certain buildings have been demolished through each one of your fights, you'll receive bonus credits next to the amount of those taken from the demise of your fallen foe. Once you earn enough ? (or Yen, which is actually what people call "money" in Japan), you can then choose to upgrade your Meganite's many maneuvers, defense mechanisms, or refined attributes for your human character. Enhancing the robot's shield or giving it the ability to punch two rocket hands forward in the air at the same time isn't enough -- your human character is just that: a human. And being a human means you'll have to guard and enhance him or her from the possibilities of death (since the character functions anywhere outside the robot's own position). Properties like being able to run faster, fly easier, or throw a hand grenade are used in helping you help the person win the game.
You may be wondering if you read that wrong, or maybe I'm a crazy nut who's just seeing "things." I assure you though that humans actually do fly within the boundaries of R.A.D., or at least your character does. Given the ordeal of really large robots clashing in the streets of falling rubble, and the only way to guide your titanic pet is from the human's own perspective, the best way to put up those metal dukes is by resting atop of its shoulder blades. From here on you can see the struggle as close to it as you can get. Diminishing the game's entertainment value is the difficult camera angles the player needs to work with. Since everything is seen through the hero's eyeballs, so must the control of the robot. By pressing on the select button, you'll switch from your own human character's control over to the Meganite, but sometimes it's really hard to determine how to go about things when you'll usually want to keep the human at a safe distance from the heat of battle as when you're resting up on top of the robot, you along with it will get knocked over at times during the bout, losing health and will again have to fly up to the tiptop of the air and try to position yourself for the best seat in the house: front row center.
Once you're able to locate a good view of the robot, whether it's up on top of it or on the roof of a building, taking control of the Meganite can be fun but also annoying. Both the Meganite and the human itself have a set of gauges that read the rate in which they're able to perform their separate functions. The robot for example has two meters: one that shows how much life it has left to live, and another that says how full the Alchemic Drive is, allowing the Meganite to activate certain abilities at specific points. Once the meter has obtained its maximum level, then the Meganite can do anything you want it to do, from firing projected energy blasts to an added assortment of moves in the kicking sense.
While there are a lot of combinations to learn and master, the fights themselves seem to be a little dull after a while. Especially considering the fact that the game's control scheme is a little hard to get in tune with. The Meganite works just like a radio control car. Moving up, down, right, or left with the directional pad will turn it anywhere it needs to go -- even through buildings. Pressing on R1 activates special powers when the robot's gauge is filled, and R2 lets the robot set into crouch position for it to jump with a tap of the R1 button. Each of the face buttons allow a bevy of things; the circle button is used for missiles, the triangle is used for energy blasts, and in combination with the Alchemic Drive ready and waiting, you can press any of the face buttons to give the alien monsters your all as you continue to make your robot the disaster master. Most importantly are the two analog sticks, which work together like bread and grape jelly...mmm...grape jelly. Upper cuts, jabs, blocks, and even a drill and flaming arm derive from these two sparkling beauties. The tricky part however is that with an uneven balance of camera angles, it's hard sometimes to figure out if your robot is really facing the opponent, and if you'll be able to make an impact on your mark.
Eventually the Meganite's control layout should come to work, in an awkward sense. If it seems there's no way to get around them, there's also a few different modes to aid the player in need of some help, starting with the Tutorial option. Here is where you can battle against the Volgara in a combat lesson using the Meganite's variable weapon and defensive abilities. Other gameplay modes include a two player Versus Mode where you a friend can go at it, choosing from a collection of Meganite and even Volgara characters to manage, and also a Challenge mode, letting you replay any previously finished missions only to further hone your skills in for future reference.
Nothing says Japan quite like hundreds of tiny Japanese people squandering from the reaches of a tremendous Volgara robot on the loose. To talk about R.A.D.'s visuals plain and simple, there's no better way to say it than that: plain and simple. The shattering environments are nice to take a good look at, but the modeling itself isn't so much more than basic elements. Repetition occurs in all instances, from generic edifices without a great deal of attention spent on texturing, to the relatively short amount of drably colored carbon copy human clones of one another stampeding through the streets like crazed idiots.
About the only thing remarkable to note about R.A.D.'s visual sense is with its massive behemoths, which are showered in both nice texturing and animation. When they move their legs or their arms, they move them like real big ass beasts would. When they punch, jump, or block, the bodies go in motion like clockwork, and each aspect has a separate entity of animation to make things seem as though these mechanical brutes are the main attraction. And when they're shooting missiles, flames, or power beams at one another and eliminating buildings in their paths, the lighting effects and smoke trails that follow afterward are cool enough to almost forget about the mediocrity of the rest of the game's graphic technique.
But as uninspiring as the games visuals really are, you can't get any worse than in the mixture of goofy sounds. It's said that music soothes the savage beast -- but the only music I hear is a retread of itself again and again. After one time of hearing it all is enough, being that the music is either too joyful at times, and at others when a Volgara appears on the scene, it turns back to a synthesized sinister number that while not overly wretched, can get to be bothersome after the continuous loop it's been laid out in through and throughout your head. At least the audio effects make up for the music's lesser nature, with a great composition of rumbles, stomps, crushing noises, bangs, booms, and of course the whacks when the two hulking beasts shred into one another.
More horrific than your significant other's face in the morning...more shocking than finding yourself nude in public... It's the voice acting in Robot Alchemic Drive -- it absolutely needs to be done away with. And I'm not just saying that, I mean someone literally needs to track down those actors and put them out of their daily misery. Like every poorly dubbed Japanese to American movie, you've got a cast of characters that are miles apart from reaching the goal of even remotely fitting the precise quality for what their character would sound like if this game were in fact a reality. From a Germanic speaking scientist to an airhead of a newscaster, the game's speaking scenarios speak for him or herself in being some of the worst you're ever going to get in a game.
Sometimes it pays to be different. This time however, it looks as though Enix bit the big one, and took a chance of something that could've, should've, or would've worked, but didn't. Robot Alchemic Drive is by far not your ordinary game. It's one of those titles that's not something for everyone, but if you are that one out of a million person that could happen to like everything, by looking past the faulty gameplay, the simple graphics, and the "cut off my ears quick before I do something irrational" sounds, then you might consider yourself lucky.