Chou Soujuu Mecha MG
You’ve always wanted one, haven’t you? Come on, admit it. At some point or another, you wished you had your own personal giant robot. You had it planned out, didn’t you? Right down to the colors, the laser eye beams, and who knows what other weapons. Maybe you were influenced by the Gundam series – those flashy mechs and their awe-inspiring destructive powers have always been alluring – and dreamed of dishing out destruction and justice across the planet. Or perhaps you watched too many Power Ranger episodes and imagined yourself smashing some Godzilla-sized monster through some buildings. It doesn’t really matter where you drew your inspiration from, though; regardless of their designs, giant robots kick ass. And thanks to Chou Soujuu Mecha MG, they just went portable.
But before you can start your righteous crusade, you’ll have to contend with the game’s lengthy story. There are plenty of NPCs, a decent variety of cutscenes, and far too many text-based conversations. There’s just one problem: it’s all in Japanese. If you don’t speak the language, you might find yourself lost within the first few minutes. The plot itself is easy to understand, however; a bunch of generic anime characters own some kind of business involving giant mechas, and then get swept up in a war against an invading army. The Eiffel Tower in one of the nearby areas suggests that the in-game world is a futuristic Western Europe, but the location hardly matters. Though understanding the finer details of the plot may prove difficult, all you’ll need to know is that there’s an entire army of enemy mechas begging to be wiped out.
Your campaign won’t be completely linear, however. Progression in Chou Soujuu Mecha MG is based on traveling to different villages in the countryside and completing whatever missions show up. Completing the objectives develops the country’s highway system, which grants you access to an ever-increasing number of places to visit. By the time you’ve gotten through everything, the roads will have branched off and intertwined enough times to make traveling a breeze. Most of the early missions are fairly straightforward; you’ll have to pick up buildings and move them in and out of certain zones, destroy obstacles, and plenty of other timed challenges. Once you get further away from your headquarters, however, the missions start getting a little more difficult. Much of the latter half of the game is spent fighting the enemy armies in every location, and many of the missions require you to use certain mechas, defend cities, and several other specific tasks. The language barrier is your biggest enemy, though; unless you can translate the mission objectives, you’re going to be in for a lot of trial and error.
Besides, you might be having too much fun battling to be worried about the job at hand. Controlling your mecha revolves around the Touch Screen. While directional movement and pivoting are delegated to the regular buttons, you’ll use your stylus to wield your arsenal. The control schemes vary with each machine; some require you to spin wheels and manipulate levers to use swords, hammers, and other weapons. Some of the designs are surprisingly creative; you can use a cement mixer as a mace, fire giant arrows with the onscreen bow, and crush your foes with fists the size of dump trucks. There are plenty of smart bombs, charged sword slices, and other supermoves to unleash as well. Old school Transformers fans will certainly appreciate how the robots can switch into vehicle modes with the press of a button. You can’t go completely all out, though; every movement puts stress on your mecha’s engine. If it overheats (the temperature is conveniently shown on a gauge onscreen), you’ll be paralyzed mid-battle and left wide open for attack. While this feature may seem annoying at first, it serves to balance out the gameplay and ensure the challenge remains present throughout.
Even if such a built-in limitation may hinder you from wreaking utter destruction, the sheer amount of unlockable mechas will keep things entertaining. You may start off with a dinky little wooden knight, but you’ll eventually acquire dragster samurai, ninja frogs, Wind-Up Cars of Death, and plenty of other cool designs. Despite the graphical limitations of the DS, the three-dimensional figures move and attack smoothly. The cities themselves aren’t as impressive, but still decent; you’ll get to rampage through grainy office buildings, train stations, fast food joints, and the rest of what makes up the large stages. They’re not just for scenery, either; you can smash enemy mechas through an entire city block, leaving nothing but rubble and dust in your wake. If you’re piloting the right kind of robot, you can actually pick up a building and swing it around like a hundred-foot baseball bat. There’s nothing quite as awesome as smacking your target around, changing the camera angle for the most dramatic effect, and crushing its face in with a skyscraper for the final blow.
It’s both amazing and sad that this game hasn’t been brought stateside yet. Wii owners may have gotten a brief peek at it via certain collectibles and songs in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but DS owners are going to have to do some importing to get in on the real action. Chou Soujuu Mecha MG takes everything likeable about giant robots and crafts them into one of the most fun games on the handheld. With tons of missions and mechas to unlock, it’ll take a while before you’ve gotten a taste of everything being offered. The game makes a wonderful use of the Touch Screen; tapping buttons and pulling levers may not sound like the best way to pilot a walking death machine, but it works surprisingly well. The overheating system, while slightly annoying, is necessary to maintain the balance of the gameplay. Besides, you get to decimate countless enemies, wreak havoc on an incredibly large scale, and smash entire cities to ruin. What’s not to love?