Robotrek
by 9th Automation



This RPG sets you as an inventor's son striving to be as great as his father, Dr. Akihabara. (I took 10 years to get this joke.) The young, silent protaganist, whom you name, apparently decides to achieve his goal by building and maintaining armed robots. Maybe he's being proactive against the megalomaniacal pirate/terrorist group called the Hackers, but soon enough he is forced to fight them.

Battle has an interesting setup in which you control one of your possible 3 robots to fight 1-3 enemies on the field. When one crumbles, the next in the queue automatically takes its place, and when all three are down, you'll see GAME OVER. The field is 3 long rows which your robot and enemies can traverse to attack each other. Everyone's movement is limited, and how far (and fast) you can move is determined by the robot's footwear. Enemies are restricted to one per row, but can instantly switch places if their respective turns arrive. If you don't feel like walking up to them to punch them, you can just shoot them, but that comes at a cost of cooldown time. Keep in mind, if you finish battle before the counter in the upper right ends you get bonus experience, so there is an incentive to being efficient.

Awkwardly enough, at the beginning of battle there are capsules strewn on the field. Attacking these with a melee weapon can yield bonus exp, items, weapon upgrades, healing or an explosion. However, all bonus experience expires and capsules explode when the counter ends, so if you actually want to take the risk, you have finish your foes fast. Capsules shouldn't decide a battle, and healing yourself through a dungeon can easily be done with Cures, so I don't make a big deal about these things.

Your robots have 4 equipment slots: 2 arms, 1 back, 1 for the feet; and 5 stats: energy, power, guard, speed, charge (i.e. HP, attack, defense, acc/evade, speed). Yes, charge has more to do with speed as your robots have a gauge under them that gets depleted by performing a move and then fills up at a rate proportional to the robot's charge stat. It's a little like Final Fantasy's ATB. Robots will only differ by these five stats and their equipment. That's a little disappointing considering all stats except energy maxing at 99. Though you'll probably be near the game's end when this happens.

Weapons are varied amongst swords, axes, shots, lasers, etc., but I categorize them by the amount of charge used: 20% for melee, 40% for guns, or 70% for bombs. (I just eyeballed these values.) Melee attacks are usually preferable because you'll be able to attack more often and usually more damage. Most of these are straightforward, damage dealing items, but there are quite a few oddball weapons to mix up the selection. Hammer2 does a long-range vampiric attack and the very useful Sword4 attacks all enemies on screen with lightning strikes. There are fire, water, etc. elemental animations, but strengths and weaknesses are against weapon-types. You'll have to remember which to use as there is no in-game bestiary.

If you ever go level-grinding (and you will if you want to finish reading the library), you will often use the attack shortcuts: L (left arm), R (right arm), X (back). Pressing L to fire a gun was amusing to me (though maybe not something you want a kid to do). You can also pre-program combos, appropriately named RUN commands, like RRR which makes the robot use its right weapon 3 times. Some combinations are special, like LX (default Shot and Bomb) which makes an onscreen flash that attacks everything else on screen, including capsules. Irritatingly, this gets complicated when you try to remember which enemies take less damage from combos.

Experience is measured in Megs of Data, and logically, it all goes to our young protagonist. So as long as one robot stands, you'll get all the EXP. For every level gained, each robot gets 10 points to be alloted however you want among its stats. You can also withhold the points if you want a challenge, I guess. Also, gaining levels provides access to creating more advanced items. Often on shelves, there are books that explain how to make specific items, and our hero can only follow those instructions if he understands them. These books go up to level 80 (the aforementioned library) and you'll only want to level-up that high if you're a completionist.

Of course since the protagonist is an inventor-in-training, there is an item combination system. There are SNES controller-shaped workstations called R&D's where you maintain your robots but also mix stuff together to try to make useful items. The game is easy going in this respect since there is no failing (at least I never did), by which I mean that every combination produces a viable item. You won't get back junk or burnt food. (I wasted a lot of time in Paper Mario 2 and 3). If you want something simple and safe, you can combine two of the same weapon to make a stronger version. The very special stuff is built from particular Scraps though, and some are limited in supply, so you'll want to consult a faq on what you want to make from them. I like Boots6, because I've always wanted a hoverbot.

I really appreciated several features in the game like open-field enemies instead of random encounters. These guys will chase you around the room if they see you and sometimes raise an alarm. They are easily evaded by just ducking into another room though, and the alarm just fades away. Near the beginning, you get the Transceiver which allows you to save almost everywhere. Instead of save points, you get warned of upcoming boss battles by skull markers on door thresholds. Inventories are separated between inventor and robots, and both have ample room even if you decide to fill a row each with cleans, cures, and repairs. Key items take up less than 1/6th of the former's space, and most still have use at the end of the game.

Now there are some really stupid things in the game as well, like how you have to stand in the same row to slash or shoot someone. You can manipulate this to prevent enemy attacks, especially as the AI gets stupid on occasion. This video has some spoilers, but this guy does the trick well on a boss around 3:00. If you watch the whole battle, you'll see the boss attacking aimlessly, which sometimes happens in battle. However, the bosses in this game have decent enough power to be a bit of a challenge. Also there are only three status effects in this game: poison, immobilization, and confusion. The first can be fixed with a Clean, but the last two have to be waited out. What kind of doctor doesn't teach his kid to build fail-safe shut-offs on their gun-toting robots?

The story is kind of silly in the respect that everyone lets a kid confront a standing army to save the world, but it is fitting as the game is a fantasy of being a robot maker. I am willing to suspend my disbelief concerning the games logistics though. *SPOILERS* After all, the instrument for universal conquest is an alien crystal capable of warping time. Still, I would like to know how the Transceiver works while you're in the past. The Doctor certainly didn't mod it. *END SPOILERS* This story is hard to take seriously, and that is further complicated by some translation errors, which while sometimes confusing, are more humorous than annoying. I don't take the plot seriously because the Hackers are led by a guy with a Jack-o-Lantern head.

The cast is colorful but not deeply developed. Nagisa acts as a surrogate mother and saves your game. Dr. Akihabara encourages you and provides a few key items. Kurogane is the loyal pet cat who saves you on a few occasions. The mayor is the bumbling, egotistical, undeserving man-in-power. Dr. Einst is the glory-hogging, self-proclaimed smartest man on the planet. (Akihabara: good; Einst: bad, hmmm.) Mint is the hard-hitting, enthusiastic, reckless reporter who likes to argue with Kotetsu, who seems to channel Han Solo. These characters do precisely enough to get the plot going without going into their backgrounds, which along with their penchants for worrying and non sequitur comedy makes the story feel like a children's cartoon.

Appeal to kids is evidenced by the bright color palettes and simplistic design. Enemies are at most caricatures of modern types of people, animals, or machines. The graphics aren't all bad though as you leave footprints in snow and mud. I'll give credit to the detail in the animations and how well they are applied, especially in combat. This video is a quick look at the second area. I really like the Rushbird's eyes at 2:44, but these are definite cartoony expressions. The music selection is typically fitting, but can be odd on occasion. The town theme is peaceful and the haunted mansion has eerily mysterious music. R&D sounds quirky, almost experimental. However, the battle theme sounds more like a celebration and I'm not sure what to say about the fortress or the credits.

This game has a design I haven't seen elsewhere, and is probably worth trying for that. However, the lack of spells and other RPG staples leave only two strategies. One where you remember enemy weaknesses and switch out to the prepared robot, and one where you just power through with your strongest weapons, usually axes, and hope for criticals. I mostly went with the latter and the game felt a bit boring with the necessary level grinding, after which normal enemies often go down in one shot. Still I liked the design of the game, even though I employed more strategy outside of battle avoiding enemies by retreating into the bathroom. I give this 3 out of 5 socks.


Overall:







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