Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Mecha Madness Round 4: Sunrise Eiyuutan R

I'm quite thankful to this blog.

Rather than aimlessly shuffle through games on my shelf and never truly completing them, it has given me focus and direction in clearing out games from the ever growing (but thankfully now, also ever diminishing) stack.  In addition to that, it also gives me the opportunity to write about one of the things I enjoy most:  Gaming.  However, in my zeal to finish games and have posts up, I occasionally lose sight our purpose here at the backlog.

See, for better or worse, I like to see things through to completion:  If you kept up with Disappointment 2011, that much should be apparent.  Indeed (as I may have mentioned before), any game that I buy, with the rare exception (I'm looking at you, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days) has to be finished.  Similarly, any game I start with the intent of writing about for the backlog has to be one that I'll eventually finish:  Thus most of the games you see me write about are well on their way to completion (though I will admit, I'm still lagging with SRW MX, and even my first post, Spectral Force 3), and not to be returned to the backlog permanently.

As I bring March Mecha Madness to a close, however, I'm finding that isn't the case, which brings us to the subject of this post:  Sunrise Eiyuutan R.

It's not that Sunrise Eiyuutan is a bad game.  It certainly has an innovative battle system (for its time), beautiful graphics (for the PS2 era), and is a crossover in the vein of my much-loved SRW series.  However, my declining skills in Japanese, the lack of solid FAQs to supplement that gap in knowledge, and the game as a whole just lacking a certain depth makes it a game that will earn it a permanent spot on my backlog.


Since the era of the SNES, I've always had a modified console:  Believe it or not, it was for the purpose of playing those import games that were never released here, rather than playing backup copies (after all, why add MORE to my backlog)?  Having a PS2 was no exception to this rule, though admittedly, the early days of PS2 modification were anything but simple.  Eventually, though, I did acquire a modded PS2 (my first of two -- a story I won't bore you all with for now), primarily for the purpose of playing SRW: Impact, which was the first of the PS2 entries into the series.

Of course, in my head, I thought that it would be silly to go through the trouble of modifying my PS2 just to play one game.  With this in mind, I went to my good friend EBay and purchased a few import titles for cheap:  Sunrise Eiyuutan R, as well as Sunrise Eiyuutan 2 were among the games I purchased (both came as a packaged deal for under $40).  At last, the money I had spent modifying my console was justified.

But was it money well spent?


Sunrise Eiyuutan, like SRW, is a crossover strategy RPG.  However, many of the similarities end there.  Whereas Super Robot Wars incorporates every type of mecha series imaginable, Sunrise Eiyuutan incorporates various series from the Japanese studio, Sunrise, imaginable.  While indeed, Sunrise is responsible for producing many of the giant robot shows we know and love, they're also responsible for these guys:

How they fare against a Gundam is a different story, however.

The game puts you in the role of Kanji Akatsuki, the main character and pilot of the mech, Cloudia.  The other "originals" joining Kanji are his sister Rie, his childhood friend, Lun, and some guy named Rondo.  As far as I've been able to discern from his personality, Kanji seems like a fairly likable guy, and at least thus far, is absent of the idiocy that seems to plague most teenage mecha pilots.  Even if it did, he's under the command of captain Bright Noa of Gundam fame at the beginning of the game.

Bright Noa:  Slapping you for a better tomorrow.
I'm not able to tell much else from the story yet, aside from the fact that all of the characters seem to coexist in the same world without having been pulled there by some alternate means (think Chaos Wars), so it is a lot like SRW in that vein.  It also seems that a mineral or alloy called "Cloudium" is a big deal.  Admittedly, I haven't gotten far enough yet to uncover much else of the plot.

The combat system basically boils down to a "sink the enemy battleship" deal:  Your battleship is positioned opposite of the enemy battleship, and you're allowed to deploy 3 mechs at a time.  Each mech has a rating for attack, defense, HP, and EN.  Some mechs have the ability to exceed their EN capacity and deliver special, devastating attacks.  Really, on the surface, the system seems rather simplistic, but I'm sure that as you go on in the game, the complexities begin to unveil themselves. 

Not SRW-level, but an example of attack animations.
Here's the kicker, though:  I mentioned that the game is about sinking the enemy battleship, right?  Really, that's the main thing that matters:  Your units can be employed indefinitely.  The battleship has an EN rating too, with different units requiring different EN amounts to be deployed (obviously, more powerful units require more EN).  If your unit has their HP depleted?  They're sent back to the ship, but they can be immediately redeployed the next turn.  If they don't, you can leave them out, but all units seem to completely drain their EN with a single attack.  

Even if you do laughable damage, it still drains all your EN, sadly.
Due to this, I lost interest in the game pretty fast, which is a shame.  I'm sure the combat system gets more intricate as the game goes on and you obtain more units.  Heck, I was pretty curious to see how the Ronin Warrior / Samurai Trooper units played out.  But there was something about the simplicity of the battle system, the seeming lack of variety in player units, and various other factors that just failed to sustain my interest. 

This is truly unfortunate, too, since there were things about the game I did like:  It has a heavy amount of voice acting, so even if your Japanese reading skills aren't up to par, if your listening skills are, you can deduce quite a bit of story.  The game makes use of gorgeous animated stills to convey the story, as well.  Furthermore, the game is divided into an episodic format:  When you complete each stage, you're offered a preview of the next stage that's identical to watching the preview of an anime series, which I thought was pretty cool.

Closing Thoughts

I've held conversations with David, the Enabler, Nick, and various other friends about not being the sort of gamers we were years ago.  To some extent, this is true:  The Enabler once told me that the tendency she had to go through games completely and get every single item is pretty much gone.  I admit that for me, that tendency does wane, though it still surfaces its head from time to time, which I'm sure David can sympathize with and understand totally.  Of course, we both know who to blame for that one:

However, I think that it's more accurate to say that with a plethora of excellent games out there and access to more gaming systems now than I had when I was younger, I'm much more selective about the games that I spend my time playing.  Perhaps back in my early college days, Sunrise Eiyuutan would have received much more attention.  As I look at my library, however, where games like FF13, Eternal Sonata, Valkyria Chronicles, Ys Seven, Resonance of Fate, and countless other games await to be played, I find it harder and harder to justify spending what limited gaming time I have playing something like Eiyuutan R.  Even if I was as fluent in Japanese as my good friend Koch, I still doubt I'd be able to play it for long (something my aforementioned grumpy old friend can attest to, I'm sure).

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I sometimes lose sight of our purpose here at the blog.  If nothing else, I'm grateful to Sunrise Eiyuutan for helping me realize that I don't have to finish every game that I finish, and that sometimes, it's alright to put it on the backburner indefinitely. 

I'm also not saying you shouldn't try it either.  After all, if you have the level of Japanese language profiency to understand it, and the knowledge of the various series contained within to know what's going on in the story, you might very well enjoy this title.  Like many of the other things I play, it's certainly niche, but judging by the number of Eiyuutan titles out there, it certainly has a following somewhere.

But in the meantime, I have other, more worthy, games to occupy my time.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March Mecha Madness Round 3: The Endless Frontier

"Endless Frontier" is a little used term we use here to describe our respective backlogs.  Instead of decreasing in size, it is constantly threatened by the advent of a stream of new releases to ensure that our journey here will be an ongoing one.

Poetic introductions aside, "Endless Frontier" is also short for "Super Robot Wars Original Generations:  Endless Frontier", which is one of the few SRW titles we have seen released stateside.  As a joint collaboration between Banpresto and Monolith Soft (famous for Xenosaga), this game deviates from the standard strategy genre and instead attempts to take the series in a new direction as a full fledged RPG.  Furthermore, in spite of the title, your characters (for the most part) consist of human(oids).  Although the mechs do play a significant part in the plot, they are not what you control front and center, and your characters do not pilot them at all, thus truly making this a unique entry into the series.  It was also because of this that I delayed my purchase of this game (thus sadly missing out on a great soundtrack CD) and almost avoided it altogether.

Doing so would have been a tremendous mistake.

Initially, the screenshots of the game did not impress me.  I didn't care much at all for the character designs.  Despite being called "Original Generations", this game contained none of the Banpresto Originals I have come to enjoy in past SRW installents:  Only vague homages to them.  On the surface, there was little to motivate me to play this game, which I saw as some strange attempt by Banpresto and Monolith Soft to cash in on the popularity of the series by putting together a lackluster RPG.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

While Endless Frontier seemingly holds no connections to the SRW series that many have come to know and enjoy, this is not a bad thing at all.  Though graphically unimpressive in some areas, and extraordinarily linear, the engaging battle system, the amusing character, hilarious dialogue all produce an experience that tries something new with the series, and surprisingly manages to do a good job at it.

As a point of clarification, this game actually disappeared from my backlog back in 2010, and shortly before I began writing for this blog.  However, given the month's theme (and another reason to be discussed later), I thought it was only fitting to write about such a great game. If your interest is piqued, read on:  Even if you're not (heck, especially if you're not) a robot fan.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Mecha Madness Round 2: Another Century's Episode

As I looked through my collection of mecha related games across the systems, I realized that I had an abundance of games from the SRPG genre.  I mean don't get me wrong:  I love my strategy games, and I love how next gen consoles push the graphics of said genre to the limit.  It's pretty hard to get tired of watching something like this in action:

Or even this:

But there are just some times where I want to actually be (figuratively) in the driver's seat of the massive mech of destruction, rather than moving my army of them like chess pieces.  Unfortunately, I have very few games in the action genre when it comes to mechs:  This isn't due to my dislike of them, mind you:  It's the fact that when I own them, they rarely make it to my backlog in the first place, primarily because I play them to death and finish them to completion within a short time of owning them.  Shortly after, they're either sold or given to a friend that wants them.

However, I did manage to find one game that made it to my backlog:  A.C.E.:  Another Century's Episode.  This game is a joint effort between Banpresto, maker of the popular (in Japan, at least) Super Robot Wars series and From Software, best known for the Armored Core series here in the U.S.  The result is a game with a diversity of units you would expect from an SRW game, but a combat engine similar to Armored Core.  The series has garnered some popularity in Japan, having produced four other entries across the PS2, PS3, and PSP, but the the subject of this post is the game where it all began.

So how did this meeting of the minds go in regards to the entry that started it off?

Normally, the writer in me tries to develop a clear, concise framing statement that will give the reader insight and sounds proper.  But I want to deviate from that for a moment to go into incoherent ranting.  Please indulge me for once:


That's shorthand for noting that A.C.E.'s control scheme can go burn in hell.  What could be a fast-paced clash of the titans of giant robot fame is frequently interrupted by awful controls complete with sluggish turns, frustrating targeting, and enemies that can dodge just a bit too easily.  Some mechs are able to overcome this with a pure cheese factor.  Others remedy this with attacks like homing missiles.

Yet in spite of this glaring flaw, I enjoyed Another Century's Episode.  While some aspects are downright infuriating, I have to give the game credit where it's due:  The level of attention and detail given to the variety of mechs in the game produces a gameplay experience that, while frustrating at times, is one that (particularly if you're a fan of the robots in the series) is quite enjoyable in the long run.  As a first entry into what eventually has become a long standing series, it's a step in the right direction.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March Mecha Madness Round 1: Super Robot Wars MX

I have to admit it:  When I first heard the concept of Super Robot Wars (or Super Robot Taisen, if you prefer), it really did not sound all that appealing to me.  All I knew initially about it was that it was some sort of strategy game that involved a bunch of mechs from series that I had never heard of.  Most of the aforementioned series either never made it out of Japan, or made it over here underneath some strange name to appeal to the American masses, while having the core elements of the story butchered (Plus, the graphics presented in combat were of super deformed mecha, which just made it look a bit silly, honestly.

The only reason I had even heard of such an obscure series was that during college, my best friend Nick, was (and still is) quite enamored with the series.  I really can't say enough nice things about Nick here to do him justice, but there's one thing (among many others) that I have to give him credit for:  When he is sharing his current fixation or hobby of attention with you, he's one of the most unobtrusive guys in the world about it.  As he told me about it, I'm sure he knew me well enough to sense my skepticism about it as we talked.  So instead of insisting that I get into the series as much as he did, Nick simply directed me to where I could find a version of the Super Famicon game, Super Robot Wars 4, gave me enough of an explanation of the mechanics of the game to get started, and decided to let me make of it what I would.

I can quit any time I want to.  Really.
There's a good reason (well plenty) that Nick is my best friend:  He knows me very well.  I was hooked to the series quite quickly, for a host of reasons that I will explain later, and over the years, have amassed quite the collection of SRW games (which you will here about in later posts).  Many of them were courtesy of Nick, who, after seeing how much I enjoyed SRW4, told me one day "Hey, keep an eye out on the mail.  I sent you a box with a few games in it".  Let's just say that when Nick says "I sent you some stuff", he's downplaying it a little:

He later apologized for forgetting to pack in that elixir of immortality.
Needless to say, through the courtesy of Nick, other friends, and my own cash, I've accumulated quite the number of SRW games over the years.  Among those games is the subject of the post:  Super Robot Wars MX for the PS2.

So how does it stack up?

MX is an easy game to pass up.  It's independent of the normal, more established SRW storylines.  The original characters are forgettable, many series favorites are either diminished greatly in present, or absent altogether.  Yet inspite of these flaws, Super Robot Wars MX distinguishes itself as being one of the entries into the series with superior dialogue, creative story choices, and manages to integrate the best elements from its predecessors to create an experience that any fan of the series can find something to like about.

This post serves not only as a chronicle of my experience with SRW MX, but it will also give people without any knowledge of the series some framing on how the series works.  Read on to learn more, but be warned:  Dangerous levels of geekery are ahead.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tales of the Abyss: Evidence of our Journalistic Integrity



Fuck you.


Tales of the Abyss is as strong a case for video games being considered a work of art as you can make.  If a great novel is artwork, or a great painting, or a great poem or song or play, then all of those things rolled together should qualify without question.  It also presents me with an opportunity to talk about how excellent a blog The Backlog is.  Let's take a look at this review of Final Fantasy XII given by IGN upon the time of its release. 

"Final Fantasy XII is a fantastic RPG. It blows all of its PS2 competition this year right out of the water and is among the all time elite role-players ever made for the system. Kingdom Hearts, Devil Summoner, Xenosaga III, Tales of the Abyss... none of them are on the same level as Square Enix's bold and riveting move in a new direction. Whether you're a fan of the genre or not, FF12 most certainly deserves a special spot on your PS2 game shelf... put it in the front."

IGN went on to give FFXII a 9.5 rating, compared to an 8.3 for Abyss

This comes up if you search "skeptical."

Before I go further, I want to be clear.  I loved Final Fantasy XII.  I played it a whole hell of a lot, as evidenced by my previous posts on the subject, and really enjoyed it by the end.  However, to say that this game is not only superior to Tales of the Abyss but not even "on the same level" shows that you can count on The Backlog for quality gaming journalism far more than IGN.  Although, most people know you can count on your neighbor's talking dog for better advice than what is offered on IGN, but I'm not here to disparage anybody.

"Kill the unclean!  Also, Donkey Konga was fantastic."

So let's talk about Tales of the Abyss, and exactly why it comes out ahead of what many others called "the best RPG on the PS2."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Guest Post: Valkyria Chronicles - If Only Real Chronicles Were This Interesting

This post comes to us courtesy of Pete over at Checkpoint Loaded.  You can view this post and many other reviews of his over there.  If you would like to contribute to The Backlog as well, feel free to ask for details by e-mailing me at  Thanks to Pete, and enjoy!

Hello there!  This is my first review hopefully of many for The Backlog.  Without boring you to tears, I’ll keep this intro short.  Most people come to read about games, not my personal back story.  I’ve been playing video games since I was about 5 years old.  Since then they’ve become a huge part of my life.  I love them.  Each one has something new to offer, and in many cases, they have better stories than Hollywood movies.  Not like that is hard to do.  Like any hardcore gamer has likely experienced, I have a backlog I have never touched or never given a fair chance.  Having the unfortunate “luck” of being laid off at the end of last year, I am taking the time to go through my fairly large backlog.  When I saw the opportunity to write for this website I jumped on it.  Anyhow, enough about me.  Let’s get to the important stuff.  The game!

Right off the bat I’ll say I like role playing games.. Hell, I LOVE a good RPG.  They offer some of the deepest stories, gameplay and characters you’ll find in video games.  That said, I am not a fan of most next gen RPG’s.  Sure there are plenty of them around, but gone are the SNES/PSX days when we had tons of good ones to choose from.  Nowadays you’re lucky if you can find 1 good RPG out of every 20.  A short time ago, I picked up Valkyria Chronicles for Playstation 3.  Because of other things in life, it sank to my backlog like many other forgotten games.  I don’t know what it is about gamers sometimes.  We buy tons and tons of them, and we just never play them.  Some of us hoard them, other sell them without even having played them.  Most times, taking a loss.  I’m guilty of the latter most of the time.  I am trying to change that though and get into my backlog. I still have a ton of games to be played. What got me playing my backlog and this game you ask? What’s known as the 2011 Great Videogame Famine. Usually during this time of year there is not much to play.  So I hit the old backlog.

2011 in Gaming so far.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

We, dig, Giant Robots

In my first post of the year, I stated that one of my goals for 2011 was to finish all of my non-import titles on PS2.  Suffering through Disappointment 2011, amazingly enough, has brought the number of titles into the single digits.  Since many of the remaining games in varying stages of completion, my aforementioned goal may yet become a reality.  With that in mind, I'm taking a small break.

Relax:  I'm not taking a break from gaming, or even the PS2 (admittedly, the busy nature of my work around this time of year is making getting a solid session in tougher..).  No, I'm instead choosing to divert my attention to a few forgotten import titles in my queue.  While the beginning of this year's gaming for me unintentionally spurred the theme of disappointment 2011, the shift to import titles ushers in another theme:

Giant Robots.

For those unaware, the title of this post and the initial picture are a dedication to the show Megas XLR (which no game exists of, but really should).  March, coincidentally, is the birth month of my good friend G-Mike (I'll let you figure out what the G stands for), my partner in all things robot related.  I promised him that I'd dedicate a theme on the blog to him, and what better month to do it than in March?

Thus March 2011 for me at The Backlog will be March Mecha Madness (until I come up with a catchier title, anyway).  My posts this month will cover any mecha-related game that I own.  Expect these posts to contain many robots, more nerdiness than your typical posts, and even more obscure references that I am certain many readers will not get at all.

Like this.

Of course, this month's theme is not just a homage to G-Mike, but to my other friends that participate in (or at least tolerate) my mech-related nerdiness:  Of particular note, my best friend Nick, who exposed me to the Super Robot Taisen series in the first place, and a mutual friend of David and mine's who I'll only refer to as "that damn Dragoon".  For their sake, at least, I hope the rest of the readers here will indulge me by continuing to read my posts this month, even if mecha aren't normally your thing.

To the aforementioned trio:  Guys, this one's for you.