Robotech: Invasion Review

The mid-1980’s was filled with action cartoons.  Transformers, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe, and M.A.S.K. were all staples of early mornings or after the school bus dropped you off.  One of those cartoons was Robotech.  Melded from three different anime series into one syndicated cartoon, Robotech featured huge transforming vehicles piloted by humans against giant alien invaders.  It became an instant classic.

Robotech takes part in the third part of the series, the New Generation portion based on the Genesis Climber Mospeada.  This portion of the series followed the Invid’s quest to find Protoculture.  Protoculture is an energy source that powers Robotechnology and is produced by the Invid Flower of Life.  Earth has become one of the largest sources of Protoculture, and the Invid plan to take it.

You play as a soldier that appears to have been captured by the Invid.  Later you wake up rescued by some soldiers with no memory of who you are.  However, you are a warm body that can fight against the Invid.  Spare Cyclone armor is given to you and you are on your way to kick more alien butt.  However, your missing memory haunts you.

Robotech: Invasion has you fighting against giant robots while in your Cyclone battle armor.  The armor does look old and battle scarred, which isn’t surprising after all of the battles the Invid have been responsible for.  Some nice lighting effects are used in the Invid attacks.  When you are haunted by your memories, your vision gets blurry and trails follow the graphics.  It’s a great effect when it is used.  However, that’s about the last good thing that can be said about the graphics.

The graphics are full of angles instead of smooth.  While this is noticeable in the environments, it’s particularly glaring on the Invid invaders.  While the Invid were very smooth and “bubbly” in the cartoon, angles abound in the character models.  The Cyclone armor is very boxy as well.  The texture mapping is blurry all around, and framerates can decrease during intense battles.  It obviously suffers from PS2-itis.

The sense of scale is off as well.  The Invid are supposed to feel menacing in size, but they honestly don’t look like they are more than two stories tall.  While they aren’t supposed to be huge behemoths, they are certainly supposed to be larger than that.  The humans on the planet you encounter all seem to be way too thin with narrow arms and legs.  Think of a lanky Kate Moss and you will be close to the human character models.

The intro sounds of Robotech: Invasion are taken straight from the original series.  The trumpets with the orchestral sounds were music to my ears when I loaded up the game.  It brought back so many childhood memories.  Then I got into the game.

Jesper Kyd handled the music of Robotech: Invasion.  This should be a good sign, since he was responsible for the music in the original series.  However, the music in the game doesn’t capture the spirit of the game.  It is heavily techno-influenced, and while it does have a sci-fi vibe to it, it still doesn’t feel right for a Robotech game.  It sounds like something I’d expect from the X-Files.

The voice acting is average in most cases, even thought I believe professional voice actors were used, but there are a few cases where the voice acting is really bad.  If you thought Minmei was annoying, then wait until you hear Guppy.  Hearing her voice made me want to cover my ears and scream.  Some of the voice positioning seemed off as well.  When I was expecting some voices to come from the left, they appeared to come from the right.

Robotech: Invasion has two modes, Armor and Rider.  The Armor mode moves like a first person shooter, while the Rider mode is similar to some racing games.  The Armor mode uses the analog sticks for aiming and movement, but holding down the Left Trigger activates a lock on an Invid enemy.  This allows you to adjust your attack to a precise target.  The Rider mode uses the left analog stick for steering and leaning forwards and backwards.  A accelerates and X brakes.  The Right Trigger fires missiles at a locked-on target.  Y transforms you from Armor mode to Rider mode and vice versa.

Unfortunately, both modes have serious control issues.  The Armor mode sensitivity is very high and never feels natural.  When you are fighting rebels, it’s difficult to hit them because there isn’t a lock-on feature.  The steering in the Rider mode is actually worse.  It also never feels very fast, even when boosted.

Your character is assigned the name of Locke.  Locke is assigned missions.  Most of the missions consist of finding all of the enemies in a certain area and killing them off.  Sometimes it will be human rebels, while other times it will be protecting allies from Invid swarms.  None of the missions are that exciting, and most of the enemies are pushovers, even with the aiming issues in the Armor mode.  Getting to the waypoints isn’t that difficult because a waypoint arrow always shows the direction to the next waypoint.

One of the reasons that the gameplay is so boring is that it’s slow.  While moving in the Armor mode, you walk very slowly, and while you do have the ability to dash, it doesn’t move very fast.  It felt like constantly walking through molasses.  The Rider mode does make travel a bit less painful, the movement isn’t much faster.  The lack of any sense of speed is very disappointing.

While having two modes of the Cyclone armor could have provided unique combat and strategic elements, there really isn’t much reason to use the Rider mode other than to travel a little faster between battles.  Some areas have to be traversed using the Armor mode though, and you will instantly transform into that mode if it is necessary.  Missiles are available in the Rider mode, but they are relatively weak.  Also, while you can lock onto enemies in the Rider mode, trying to fire and drive in the rider mode is difficult at best.  Most of the combat will be taken up in first person Armor Cyclone mode.

The interface is one of the best parts of the game.  It’s simple yet functional, but it does have a few issues.  The aiming reticule is surrounded by another circle.  The right side has your ammo counter with a bar for the amount of spare ammo available, a grenade counter, and a boost meter.  The left side shows your radar, the shield level, and the health level.  Unfortunately, the meters are rather small and it’s difficult to see your shield and health.

Finally, when I think of the New Generation, I think of the Veritech Alpha fighters, the huge planes that transform into robots and not the Cyclone Armor.  Even introducing the Alpha fighters later in the game would have been better than leaving them out completely.

While Robotech: Invasion has a lot of potential, it doesn’t bring any new ideas to the table and does nothing except disappoint fans of the Robotech saga.

The game does include four multiplayer modes.  They are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Protocapture.  They can be played over LAN or Xbox LIVE.  All of the modes are self-explanatory except for Protocapture, but if you have played Domination in Unreal Tournament, you have played Protocapture.  While it’s great that these modes are available, have a fun time trying to find a game.  Also, there is no split-screen in the game, so you can’t play the multi-player on the same TV with friends.

The single player game doesn’t include any extras or reason to play through it again.  Once you are finished with the single player game, you probably won’t return to it again.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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