Pain, thy name is SRPG

It sure is tough to love a strategy RPG sometimes. At the moment, I’m playing Super Robot Wars A Portable, a remake of SRWA for the Game Boy Advance, making it one of the “old school” SRW games. I was doing alright until I hit Mission 8, where I came face to face with old Master Asia.

He pilots the Master Gundam, which I’m hoping to unlock at a later date. In the meantime, I’m supposed to kill him. Quite a task when only one of my units can even survive his attacks, let alone hit and kill him. And when I finally manage it? The jerk regenerates. Sheesh, if this is only Mission 8, can the remaining thirty-one missions actually be harder? Well, no, because SRW shares a quirk that seems inherent to all SRPGs: it’s actually much difficult in the early going than at the end.

I’ve found that SRPGs almost always seem to have a certain threshold that you have to cross before they become the least bit enjoyable, and it usually seems to lie somewhere around Mission 10 or 11. Until then, you’ll be forced to use weak characters who can barely deal adequate damage to mooks, seem to die at the slightest touch, and can’t easily be healed and revived. Later on, you’ll have a well-organized death squad composed of characters who can practically beat a map all by themselves, but it takes a lot to get that far.

Net result? Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and Fire Emblem DS are both at that “awkward” stage, and both lie unfinished in the bottom of my drawer. SRWA Portable has been temporarily set aside for the more visceral thrills of Gundam Battle Universe. I could never get into Final Fantasy Tactics for the PlayStation because I just didn’t have the patience to level up my handful of entry-level squires. Rondo of Swords met a similar fate.

Some of it comes from the fact that I just don’t have a lot of time to invest in my games, and I don’t want to spend those previous moments grinding my teeth hard enough to generate sparks. The rest of it comes when I’m gamely working my way toward that magical point of no return, only to bump into something like Mega Man 9 or Battle Universe, both of which are fun from the get-go. Don’t worry; I know I’ll be back sooner or later. But I wonder how many others just don’t have the patience to deal with the mandatory pain of an SRPG, and whether they’re ultimately missing out on something great.

12 thoughts on “Pain, thy name is SRPG

  1. Man, why would you even play A Portable when you have Z?

    I guess the portable part is a plus, but I’d rather replay W or J in that case.

    I hope you’re using Dragonar-3. Otherwise the game will be pure pain the entire way through.

  2. I’ve actually tried to get into Super Robot Wars a number of times, but just as you say, right around mission ten or so I always get stuck in some seemingly impossible scenario. Since you seem to be our resident SRW enthusiast, a while back I was actually thinking about PMing you to see if you had any general SRW strategies that would help out in these situations. I suppose, “Tough it out,” counts as a strategy.

  3. If you mean to get into SRW, probably the best place is the GBA Original Generation, since that’s in English. It does have the problem that the best route for starting off (Ryusei’s route) is kind of lame given it involves large amount of water and no Getter-3 to make it bearable, but there are plenty of good strategies for getting through it. (hint: upgraded machine gun and Water Jet on Rai, Steel Knife on Ryusei) And remember, there’s nothing wrong with grinding by repeatedly losing a stage!

    Then again, I’m having this exact problem on Touma’s route in Alpha 3 right now. Good thing I’m not going to be touching Alpha 3 for several weeks due to shoolwork and wanting to finish Alpha 2 again first!

  4. I’ve had a stack of Nippon Ichi RPGs’ lying around, barely finished for three-four years, for precisely these reasons.

  5. Yep, I discovered that Dragonar-3 is the key to not wanting to kill myself in this game. Also, I’m playing it because I can’t play SRW Z on the train. =( Of course, Gundam Battle Universe is currently distracting the hell out of me

  6. That’s probably what makes Advance Wars so much fun–there’s an actual difficulty curve to the games. Of course, there’s no unique characters or penalty for death or leveling up, so that makes them easier to give them a balanced difficulty.

  7. In the 90s, I thought SRPGs were awesome, playing games like Vandal Hearts and Shining Force III. But lately, with games like Nippon Ichi’s numbergrinds, the Fire Emblem tediumfests, and the agonizing, unplayable molasses-like speed of Final Fantasy Tactics A2, I’ve found it really hard to like any of the genre’s modern offerings. Can it really be that hard to fit the Advance Wars model onto an SRPG? And no, Fire Emblem ain’t it. I do miss some good fantasy strategizing now and then, but the games that are available just don’t feel worth playing.

  8. SRWA Portable just isn’t doing it for me. I don’t mind the recycled sprites since I am new to the series (although I don’t remember the EZ-8 having a vaseline coating) but the loading time is a killer, especially for a game that is so time intensive to begin with.

  9. Awww FFT for the PS1 was the best game ever… You probably won’t like Jeane D’Arc for PSP if you don’t like FFT :( both of those games are at the top of my favorite of all time list right next to God Hand & C:SotN ;)

  10. FFT is probably the biggest offender in terms of the backwards difficulty curve you mention, with punishing early missions that then get easy as your characters develop.

    Aside from it, however, my experience has generally been the opposite, and I haven’t had too much of an issue with extreme difficulty early on in most SRPGs. If anything, I’d agree that they take a while to get fun, but that’s mainly because you don’t have many choices and options for your characters yet, so the actual tactics aren’t as complex as they eventually get later in the game. In my experience, most games give you pretty weak enemies at first so the missions aren’t that hard, but aren’t necessarily very interesting either. Later on, when the enemies are throwing everything they have at you, is when it gets both hard and fun.

    Of course, it may just be that both sorts of difficulty curves are common in the genre, and the difference in our experiences come from which subset of the games available we’ve each played. For recent-ish SRPGs that don’t have unreasonable difficulty spikes early on, I’d mention the Fire Emblem games on GBA and Gamecube, FFTA 1 (Not recommended, since it’s mind-numbingly easy from beginning to end, but it fits the criteria), and Gladius (secret best SRPG ever).

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