I love Robotech. There’s simply no better cartoon. And I love the third and final part of the originally unrelated parts the most; the one that was dubbed “The New Generation” after Carl Macek and Harmony Gold decided to mash the trio of robot yarns together to create Robotech in the first place. Most gamers probably aren’t familiar with TNG, because it’s not called Macross. And as such, it’s not a soap opera aboard a flying city with guns.
Instead, TNG chronicles Lieutenant Scott Bernard and his ragtag band of freedom fighters on their journey to Reflex Point. Once there, they are to meet up with the rest of earth’s resistance to wage a final attack meant to repel the occupying Invid, who now have the run of the land. As in Macross, the good guys fly transforming planes, but that’s not what this game is about. Planes aside, Scott and his guerilla team wear armour that allows them to pull off an integration with the armoured motorcycles they ride — the bike’s wheels and boosters end up on their backs. It’s remarkably badass, and an exciting premise for a 3D shooter. And yet Invasion manages to bollicks it up.
The game’s failure vexes me. I am terribly vexed.
We now know that TNG tells a great tale. Oddly enough, this game ignores it, opting instead to tell a horribly disjointed, yet somehow incredibly predictable tale of shitty, shitty characters. There is no noble Scott Bernard, no stylish Lancer, no resourceful and scheming Rand, no fiery Rook Bartley, no mischievous Annie, and no cowardly Lunk. In their place: some stone face named Locke, and a gaggle of fast-talking Latinas more irritating than Rosie Perez. How I wished they had stuck to the actual TNG story — I dreamed of playing out each episode: the stripped down Survival, the show-stopping Separate Ways, and the saga-culminating Symphony of Light, to name a few.
And the blasphemous liberties taken with the license only continue: The guy who played Rand is here! Cheers! Only he’s playing some fool named Arturo! Jeers! Why? Why the hell isn’t he just playing Rand? Oh, we hear of Lieutenant Scott Bernard’s party — from none other than Scott himself, over our externals. But it’s just another heartless tease; we never so much as bump into him.
Here is a game — to my knowledge the first game ever — based on TNG and sadly, like most Robotech games, it’s as forgettable as games come. Probably the only positive I can find is Invasion’s targeting system.
Because admittedly, targeting the Invid is dead cool. They’re a race of gelatinous shape-changers, or as I like to call them, blobs. Getting around earth is a tall order as a blob, so the Invid queen, or Regis, decided to put her blob children inside special Invid armour (imagine giant, purple, bipedal crabs with big guns that shoot red frisbees). The walking crabs tower over our human freedom fighters, but fortunately for us, each crab has a single red eye — our window to the organism inside.
And so, you can hit the red eye and get fast kills; I always loved that about the series, and playing it out is a joy. Invasion allows you to lock on to an enemy, and then move the analog stick around to achieve even greater precision within that targeted enemy’s body. It’s a great feeling to cheer on a single Robotech soldier bouncing amongst an audience of the big brutes, evading claw swipes and pulverizing annihilation discs alike — sweating it out in order to squeeze in that critical shot.
Unfortunately, it sounds better than it is. Training your guns on the Invid troops and trying to bring them down one after the other does manage to keep you awake, but where the Invid seem like hulking, terrifying, giants on the television show, they seem flimsy and unimposing here (in fact, on the show, regular guns couldn’t scratch their armour, necessitating an eye hit, but in Invasion, firing on them blindly will bring them down soon enough).
And while using the analog controls to stick your crosshairs is sweet and beautifully easy to manage — the Cyclone armour’s famous Scorpion rockets are missing! You won’t be unloading a full salvo of rockets from the armour’s chest-mounted missile racks. You won’t be loosing volleys from the forearm launch tubes either. They’ve been replaced (of course) by generic, white-bread, laser beams (which have almost unlimited capacity). Does that sound better to you?
At least there’s the shotgun weapon, which allowed me to pretend each blast was a missile by virtue of the weapon’s power, slow firing and limited ammunition. I should point out that there are missiles available for the Cyclone, but they can only be fired while you’re in bike mode. And that makes them all but useless.
Because bike mode sucks. This is a motorcycle — and a futuristic one at that? The bike is big-wheel slow, handles like a bicycle on ice, and provides no protection from enemy attacks. Worse yet, you can’t ride it in any of the places you’d want to. You know, the places where riding a motorcycle (even a shitty one) might be exciting. So when you feel like careening down that darkened corridor and you hit the triangle button to transform, you’re met with an insulting EEEH! like you’ve made a wrong guess on an old game show.
And from EHH! we turn to music. This topic probably gets me angrier than any other. Videogame music composer Jesper Kyd was behind the soundtrack, and apparently he’s a big, big deal. He’s gives us ambient, military-sounding noise and well, it’s decent if somewhat uninspired. I would go so far as to say that it might make a pretty good score for some other shooter which requires his highly touted services (he’s talked about on the back of the box). But as good as you may be, Mr. Kyd, Robotech already has one of the best soundtracks ever made. Thanks so much for not using it!
From sad sounds to sad sights we go. You may remember Battle Cry, the Macross-based game that preceded this one, from the same developers? As similarly unexciting as that game may have been, the cel-shaded graphics were its best feature. So, naturally, the developers got rid of the cel-shading, and gave us flat, ugly polygons instead. Thanks again, guys.
Invasion disappoints on every conceivable level, its only success being that it exists. All the pieces are so upsettingly wanting that it’s easy to get riled up (or even, vexed!). But then I consider how utterly unexciting the whole, the sum of those parts is — and it’s easy to forget the whole thing.