We don’t get many Super Robots Wars ‘round these parts. It’s one of the biggest series in Japan, with around 50 games to its name, but only a handful of Super Robot Wars games have been released in North America during its 30-year run. The latest, Super Robot Wars 30, was one of Steam’s top sellers in October, and for good reason: it’s everything good about mech anime and manga in one shiny metal package.
Super Robot Wars 30 is a strategy RPG in which you command an army of mechs in turn-based battles against the collective forces of anime evil. You move your mecha minions across a grid-based map, engaging enemies in gorgeously-animated back and forth attacks. Then the computer-controlled enemies take their turn. As turn-based strategy games go it’s pretty basic stuff, trading blows until one unit runs out of hit points and explodes. It’s the units you’re playing with that are the real draw.
You want Gundam? Super Robot Wars 30 has got Mobile Suit, Mobile Suit Zeta, Mobile Suit Victory, and more. Crave more obscure mech fare like The King of Braves GaoGaiGar? It’s in there. How about some steam-powered mechs from the Sakura Wars series? Or magical mechs from Magic Knight Rayearth? They’re all right here.
The “30” in Super Robot Wars 30 is for the three decades that have passed since the series’ 1991 debut on the Game Boy. Out of all the Super Robot Wars games and spin-offs released during that 30-year period, North America has only seen three of them. Why? Because this game is an absolute licensing nightmare outside of Japan. Hell, it’s a licensing nightmare in Japan, where having your mechs appear in a Super Robot Wars game is a badge of honor. Here in the States, where characters like Mazinkaiser—inspired by the robot I knew as a kid as Tranzor-Z—are far from household names, it’s a marvel that we’ve gotten any of these games at all. Look how much legal text Bandai Namco has to put on the bottom of its official screenshots.
A whole new look
Super Robot Wars 30 is a strategy RPG in which players must travel from mission to mission, gushing over each new addition to their ever-growing arsenal of beloved mechs and mech pilots. Sometimes your goal is to defend a strategic asset. Sometimes it’s just blowing up every enemy robot until there are no more left. It takes place in a combined universe where Gundams, mechs, robots, steam machines (not those Steam Machines), and anything vaguely big and mechanical band together to fight for the future against similarly recognizable enemies. It’s every mech you love versus the Wulgaru from Majestic Prince, the Republic of Zeon, Neo Zeon, Magic Knight Rayearth golems, and Sakura Wars demons.
You begin the game by picking one of two original characters, male or female, who play a pivotal role in the game’s story but are quickly overshadowed by all the classic characters who rapidly fill your roster. Who cares about blue-haired lonesome girl Az when I’ve got the entire Team Rabbits from Majestic Prince on my side?
But then, story of Super Robot Wars 30 isn’t important. Don’t believe me? Check out the Steam description for the game, which says absolutely nothing about the narrative. Here’s what Bandai Namco had to say about the story in the launch press release: “Featuring a unique crossover universe, Super Robot Wars 30 brings an assortment of robot anime series together to battle for their combined future.” There is story here, but it mainly serves to keep the missions rolling in, so we can watch more gorgeous animated battle sequences while outstanding anime themes play in the background.
Your duty is to travel around the universe participating in missions, which are massive turn-based strategy battles against hordes of enemies. In a first for the series, Super Robot Wars 30 presents players with a variety of missions to complete in any order they see fit, rather than a linear series.
Missions take place on rather simplistic grid-based maps populated by adorable chibi versions of your enemies and allies, who take turns moving, using skills, and attacking. When two units clash, that’s when the magic happens.
Every single unit in your team has a series of amazing animated attacks. Some are pretty basic, like GaoGaiGar’s Phantom Ring Plus. Yes, that’s basic in Super Robot Wars 30. For a more elaborate attack, see Tamaki Irie from Majestic Prince, who manages to squeeze both a butt wiggle and a breast squish into her animations, just in case you forgot this was anime.
Between battles there’s plenty of management to do, for strategy RPG enthusiasts who enjoy watching the numbers go up. Each mech can be upgraded, each pilot can learn new skills, and there’s a battleship upgrade system that provides special bonuses like extra experience points and money to your entire squad. Conversely, players who just want to watch the pretty mechs fight can turn on auto-battle and enjoy a sandwich while the giant robots do their thing.
When not fighting for the fate of a unique combined universe that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, you can browse records, read character bios and mech profiles, and make a list of shows you have to catch up on so you can get all the references and Easter eggs.
Super Robot Wars 30 is a celebration of all things mecha, the closest you can get to giant robot porn without actually watching giant robot porn. One Steam review calls it “Fire Emblem with robots but better.” I can’t argue with that.