by Ed

(SNES), 1993

There is a reason immersive, first-person, 3D mecha combat was dominated by the PC Market for the longest time. Mostly because 3D graphics were hard to do on the hardware of the 16-bit generation. That did not stop people from trying though. As such, we get this offering from Beam Software.

Mechwarrior for the SNES retells the story of the first Mechwarrior PC game, with a few noticeable differences. While you are seeking to avenge your family's death, you're not doing it by trying to hire up a team of mercenaries to fight alongside you, No this is strictly a solo gig. Anyway the game starts you out with a crappy light mech and a few low-risk jobs you can take using said mech. The idea of course is that you use the money from your contracts to get better weapons and better mechs, which get a chance for you to get more dangerous missions, eventually getting more info through rumors at the bar and working your way up to a confrontation agains the "Dark Wing Lance" (yes, they are seriously called that).

The graphics are all right for the time, but you're basically shooting at sprites made to look like 3D models on a 2D plain. A very 2D plain. Seriously, not even the buildings you have to protect have any depth to them. It's almost like the tabletop game Mechwarrior derives from (Battletch), except I'm pretty sure most serious players of that had model buildings for their battlescapes. Fortunately it still does feel a lot like you're fighting in giant robots, and eneimes explode in a shower of debris when they go down, which looks pretty awesome. Also the system of being able to take out different parts of a mech one at a time still exists, although it's a bit simplified in this game.

Gameplay is all right, if not a bit screwy at times. Weapon swapping is a big problem because the firing mechanism is that if you hold down the button, weapons swap after every shot, but if you just tap it to fire, it won't automatically switch like that. I have no idea why they tried to do it this way, but it just doesn't work, especially when there's a manual switch for the weapons anyway.

The difficulty curve scales oddly at times. At first you're just fighting 2 mechs, one at a time, but then it ramps up quickly, especially on base defense missions, and the game soon becomes more of a chore than actually fun.

All in all I'm not really sure what to make of this game. It certainly excels in a lot of areas, but at the same time doesn't really do anything that seems amazing. Granted in 1993 we were still 2 years away from the groundbreaking Mechwarrior 2 on the PC, but there's little reason that this game would've tided anybody over for that long. Compared to that game, there just isn't enough variation in weapons and mechs to satisfy stat hounds, and there's no canon from the main Battletech/Mechwarrior continuity to go along with this game, like there is with every game from Mechwarrior 2 onward. It's certainly as good if not better than any of the pre-Mechwarrior 2 games...

but it in no way is capable of running with the sequels, or even the isometric Battletech game made for the Genesis, which was also ported to the SNES as "Mechwarrior 3050".

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