It’s so hard for game publishers to keep a secret these days. Even without their retail partners spilling the beans with pre-order listings or ESRB ratings slips, a simple trademark search can turn up clues. Such was the case with the upcoming release of Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier (be sure to say the whole title when pre-ordering, it will impress the clerk). It showed up in a trademark search just months after its Japanese release, which is a shame, since Atlus puts so much effort into their press releases. This news probably would have knocked me off my chair otherwise.
Well, I’m still kind of giddy. It’s great to see some traction on the Super Robot Taisen franchise in North America. The 2006 release of the Original Generation games came at the ass-end of the Gameboy Advance’s lifespan when even first party gems like Rhythm Heaven were denied an international release.
Developed by Monolith Soft, Endless Frontier is a departure from the series’ strategy RPG roots, a pseudo rhythm-action/brawler with an icky harem-anime filling. It bears a striking similarity to their 2005 crossover game Namco X Capcom, except the crossover is between the much more obscure Original Generation characters and, uh, Xenosaga, I guess. Unlike the carefully credited and closely guarded hordes of licensed robots that are the bread and butter of the main SRT series, the characters and mechs of Original Generation are fully owned by Namco Bandai. Which means they can do all the horrible things that Japan does to characters that hover near the edge of the cultural abyss.
As much as I want to see this series continue stateside, there is a small part of me that was hoping it wouldn’t be released here. The core gameplay is great; you cross a variety of fantasy worlds and explore dungeons like most any other RPG but the battles play out like a brawler. Press the A button to unleash a flurry of attacks, press again at specific points to cancel into combos which fills up a power gauge. The gauge is shared by the party and and when it fills you can activate a flashy super combo accompanied by large cut-in animations and, if it’s a female, some variety of boob jiggling. You don’t have to use them, but there is an incentive; finishing a battle with a super combo earns you an extra 30% to your experience points. I was unable to use most items and equips due to my complete lack of Japanese language skills, but I still managed to carefully tap-tap-tap my way through about a third of the import version through sheer will. The battle system has a fun, catchy flow, and Endless Frontier was one of my most-played imports from 2008. Of course, I had the luxury of being unable to read the dialogue.
So my heart is torn between my love of outrageously colored robots and my growing embarrassment where Namco Bandai is concerned. The SRT franchise is a well-oiled machine, and a proper sequel of the Original Generation series is inevitable, and I want to see that game released here. So I’ll buy Endless Frontier… but as I play, I will be rolling my eyes mightily at the heavens. And to anyone taking that walk of shame with me, bring your copies of the SRT:OG games along with you; they can be used to unlock bonus items when you boot up the DS game with one of the GBA releases in slot 2.