Robot Alchemic Drive is a PS2 game developed by Sandlot and published by Enix, released in Japan as Gigantic Drive in August 2002 and North America in November 2002. The game places the player in the shoes of the Civilization Preservation Foundation's chairman, tasked with defending the world from colossal aliens called Volgara using giant robots called Meganites. The game used a unique control scheme that mimicked a remote control, allowing the player to move each of their Meganite's body parts individually, enhancing the feeling of immersion and the scale of operating a giant robot. The game's story parodies the giant robot anime series of the 1970s and '80s including familiar stereotypes, plotlines, gameplay elements and visual styles.
Setting and Story
The player can choose from three protagonists, two male - Naoto and Ryo - and one female, Yui. The choice is largely cosmetic, changing the voice acting and general tenor of the hero/heroine's dialog lines, though Yui, being female, has a different romantic interest.
A seventeen-year old junior in the public Senjo High School and the sole heir of the distinguished Tsukioka clan. However, his cheerful demeanor and strong sense of justice belie his prestigious background. He harbors emotions close to hatred toward the Trillennium Committee and the Meganites that heblames for his father’s death and the fall of the Tsukioka clan. He finds himself torn between the desire to protect his loved ones and the need to control the Meganites.
A seventeen-year old junior in the public Senjo High School. He is a cool and reserved young man with the best marks in his grade. He tends to be aloof and emotionally distant. Despite his appearance, he is shockingly agile. He is known in other schools as Senjo High’s toughest fighter. He recognizes that the Tsukioka clan’s collapse resulted from out-of-control business spending, but still feels conflicting emotions over the Meganites. He also feels stifled in his position as the supposedly interim Chairman of the Civilization Preservation Foundation.
A junior in the public Senjo High School. Attractive and compassionate, she is adored by the male students. Her outlandish pink attire stems from her infatuation with super robot anime and live action shows that were at the height of popularity in the mid 1970’s. Unwilling to accept the that the Meganites’ development costs drove the Tsukioka family into bankruptcy, she dismisses them as antiquated junk metal.
It is the near future, and space travel has been rendered impossible due to the Nectar Radiance, a mysterious radiation permeating space, that vaporizes organic material on contact and penetrates all known spacecraft shielding. An organization dedicated to finding a long-term solution to humanity's survival, the Civilization Preservation Foundation, is formed with the funding of Tsukioka Industries. Unfortunately, Tsukioka Industries eventually goes bankrupt, having poured all of its resources into the covert development of the Meganites, gigantic machines with seemingly no use or application. Its founder dies penniless, leaving his child, a junior at Senjo city high school, to take the interim position of chairman.
Without warning, colossal monsters teleport onto Earth's surface, wreaking havoc and devastating many cities, with Senjo as their next target. As a monster approaches the city, the young chairman is contacted by the Trillenium Committee, the secret face of the Civilization Preservation Foundation. Given a strange remote control, the chairman is told the true purpose of the Meganites - to defend Earth against these alien beasts - the Volgara.
Robot Alchemic Drive used a unique control system evolved from Sandlot's first title, Remote Control Dandy for the PS1. RAD's control scheme used every function on the Dual
Shock 2 controller to allow the player to operate his Meganite as if a giant mechanical puppet. The shoulder buttons were assigned to control the legs, with R1/L1 buttons moving their corresponding legs forward, the R2/L2 moving them backward. The analog sticks moved the arms, and different movements activated various attacks and maneuvers. Pulling a stick back, then pushing it forward resulted in a bone-jarring straight punch from the appropriate arm, while an inside half-rotation triggered a vicious uppercut from same. Special attacks and functions such as chest beams, rocket fists, missile attacks and transformations could be executed using the face buttons, and the Meganite's waist could be rotated and angled with the directional pad.
That wasn't all. The player had to control the Meganite from the outside. Switching between controlling the character and the Meganite, the player would use a gravity pack to jet himself up to usable vantage points from which to see the action and properly control their giant robot. Large attacks and flying rocket punches can demolish the buildings the player stands on, so the game becomes an interesting balance between jockeying for position and viewing angles.
There were three different Meganites available over the course of the game: the Vertical Fortress Vavel, Air Dominator Laguiole, and Gllang the Castlekeep.
Vertical Fortress Vavel
Seraphim-class close combat war mech "Vertical Fortress Vavel"
A combat Meganite possessing the highest abilities of the powerful Seraphim-class bipedal war mechs. Standing over 130 feet tall, this menacing robot is rumored to have been named after the Tower of Babel. Its power can be temporarily boosted using Volcanic Mode overdrive system. However, while the Volcanic Mode generates several times the normal power level, the generators are driven close to the point of uncontrollable critical mass. As such, unleashing the Volcanic Mode is fraught with danger. Vavel's main means of attack are pummeling blows delivered by its massive fists.
Air Dominator Laguiole
Cherubim-class air superiority defense mech "Airborne Dominator Laguiole"
A silver Meganite of the Cherubim-class air defense robots. It is outfitted with powerful beam weapons. It can be transformed into a high-speed flying fortress for protecting cities from above. While its lightweight construction means its punches have relatively little impact, it is compensated by outsanding mobility. Laguiole's main assets are its long reach and strong beam attacks.
Gllang the Castlekeep
Thrones-class ground domination mech "Gllang the Castlekeep"
A heavy Meganite of the high-powered Thrones class that is equipped with an impressive array of projectile weapons. It can be transformed into a self-propelled fortress to travel at high speeds. Its thickly armored body makes it the heaviest of the three Meganites. Its sheer weight makes it sluggish and difficult to handle, but also gives devastating impact to its punches. Gllang's basic armaments are ordnance weapons.
The Business of Defense
Over the course of the game, faced with the need to maintain Meganites and stem the growing tide of Volgara invaders, the members of the committee strike a deal with the world governments to offer cash rewards to the player for keeping certain landmarks and critical structures safe during a given mission. The rewards could then be used to buy and upgrade Meganite weapons, as well as the protagonist's equipment, such as his gravity belt and self-defense grenades.
Production and Parody
Robot Alchemic Drive openly parodied the archetypes and stereotypes of the old-school giant robot anime, and the English-language localization team added the historical flavor of the way those same shows were aired back in the day, that is, terribly underproduced. Voice actors were told to deliberately speak their lines with the contextual abandon and wild cheesiness of the original TV shows. Characters like Ryo were given heavy California-surfer speech patter, used Americanized pronunciation, and even a news reporter character, Mika Banhara, spoke with an almost offensively thick Japanese accent.
Endings and plot progression could also be influenced based on which buildings the character "accidentally" destroyed during missions. Destroying a rival corporation's headquarters too many times could cause that company to go bankrupt in the epilogue. Similarly, working to defend another character's home (or destroy her workplace) could cause that character's affection for the protagonist grow stronger (or send her to the poorhouse).