By Turambar 14 Comments
Note: Can't seem to upload images at the moment, so you'll have to make due with this giant wall of text for now.
In the quick look for Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3, the staff made many criticisms of the game. While people can battle over the validity of some of the things said, there was one particularly poignant remark made by Jeff that is spot on. It was that the lines of dialogue were poorly done. They felt disjointed and did not form coherent mid battle banter. Viewers familiar with Gundam shows can tell you why. Those lines were simply quotes lifted directly from their respective shows, and placed within the game with a complete lack of context.
Cross-over games are not easy to do. Many fail simply because of poor game mechanics. However, the far more difficult thing to achieve has been proper usage of their source materials. Story justifications for any such melding of the worlds are thrown out the window almost immediately. There is however a series that seems to get things right, and I would argue is the best cross-over game I have experienced to date in taking advantage of their source materials. Here, I would like to examine just what Super Robot Wars does right that many do not.
There is a inside joke amongst Super Robot Wars fans that Banpresto has a three year rule. No mecha will make it into the game until 3 years has past since its original debut. (The image to the left is actually a mock fanart of the series Eureka Seven in a SRW game, made years before the release of SRW Z which included the show a full three years after its original airing.) When asked about this directly, the Banpresto developers denied this, but offered the reason why this seems to be a prevailing trend: story. A lot of time is spent trying to weave the plots of various, vastly different shows into a single coherent storyline. The latest game in the franchise, SRW Z2 debuted 8 new series, and incorporated the major plot points from each of them, and meshed it together with the usage of their own in-game characters aptly dubbed Banpresto Originals. While not exactly Shakespearean in quality, these games' carefully crafted story lines give the game itself a degree of forward momentum more than simply "I want to see what this guy's attacks look like." Further, it is this plot which intermingles the cast of the shows together for prolonged period of time in continuity that allows for this next point.
It is worth pointing to the first game in this long reigning franchise. The original SRW was a gameboy game released in 1991. It did not feature any pilots, and instead made the robots sentient, and had them team up to fight a planet of enslaved robots. This was the last time a SRW game was like this. What made the shows so popular were not just the robots themselves, but also the personalities and traits of the pilots.
A proper plot allows for such personalities to interact with each other in very satisfying ways. The infamously wimpy characters like Shinji of Evangelion fame grows and develops as they are forced into the company of men like Bright Noah. It takes purely unlikable characters and make them far more badass than the source material ever could while giving iconic ones the ability to shine even better. Characters who have lost loved ones have the ability to consul each other. Pilot teams with lacking team work receives pointers from ones that learned to work as one. Things like that makes the mash up of various series that were never imagined to coexist feel far more cohesive and natural. It also makes long time fans like me feel warm and fuzzy inside as I listen to Kamina and Ryouma argue over who is the more hot blooded man.
Speaking of warm and fuzzy feelings for long time fans, the final point that the series excels at is fan service. Things like the interaction mentioned about is one form of it. However, there are far more specific ways the game appeals to those familiar with the source materials. The ability to keep alive characters that died tragic deaths as well as the ability to recruit antagonists that were ultimately good but misguided are some of them. The creation of new partner attacks by taking advantage of series with common creators is another.
My personal favorite however is the existence of voice actor jokes. Perhaps it is because of the voice actor culture that exists in anime and not in western cartoons, voice actors that become prolific within the genre reaches high levels of fame amongst fans. The games help reflect that with inside references when those series interact. The most notable for me is when the Turn X's Shining Finger attack is used against any character voiced acted by Tomokazu Seki, the VA for Domon Kashuu, the originator of that attack in an earlier show.
So what does Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 need to improve upon itself? The customization of dialogue so that they form a coherent conversation and plot. Equal emphasis placed on both exhibition of the robots they pilot and the pilots themselves. And a degree of respect for the intersecting cultural legacies of many of its shows. While these things factors cannot be transplanted as directly to other cross over games like MVC, it is something that all developers need to get a grap on. Making a competant game is important. But taking full advantage of the history of your cast of characters is just as so.