If you’re a GameSpite Person, you’re probably at least cognizant of the Super Robot Taisen series. (Taisen means “war,” but you get more indie cred if you leave it unstranslated — even if it’s your job to translate it.) Put simply, it’s a gathering of several decades’ worth of giant Japanese robots with the express purpose of exhibiting all their show-stopping super-moves. Put even more simply, it’s fan service incarnate. But most importantly, it’s darn attractive.
Fundamentally, the presentation hasn’t changed much since it debuted on the humble Game Boy, first with overhead grid-based maps, then a side view for hot-blooded duels between robots. But with the move to predominantly 3D consoles, the series has become a sort of champion for the lasting appeal of 2D, sprite-based graphics. While they could have easily cast everything in polygons, Banpresto has instead used hardware like the PS2 to turn out a vast array of detailed and well-animated characters, flashy effects, and simple backgrounds that parallax all over the place.
Now, the latest installment has arrived in the form of Super Robot Taisen Z. It’s a milestone in a number of ways, not the least of which is setting a new standard for aesthetics in a franchise already known for them. It functions the same as ever, with robot combatants occupying a flat, side-scrolling battlefield; but now they show depth when transitioning between background and foreground, spin and juke relative to a swerving camera, and seamlessly zoom into screen-filling close-ups. It surely adds a visceral edge to the gameplay, but it’s also just a joy to behold — especially since it’s all done with sprites. This is why, even though I lack the time and money to play the games myself, I can say I’ve become a fan just by seeing them in action.