Monday, August 16, 2010

Retro Monday - Robotrek

I played a lot of 16-bit RPGs back in the mid-90's. Of course this meant a lot of Final Fantasy IV and VI, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and every other Square title that came out during the time period, but it also meant games like Lufia, Illusion of Gaia, Lunar, Phantasy Star, Vay, and a few others. Of course, these are also well known titles that most anyone who enjoyed RPGs either knew about or played the heck out of back then. One title, Enix's Robotrek, flew under the radar amid the release of Illusion of Gaia and Final Fantasy VI but ended up being one of my favorite RPGs on the SNES and a game I not only fondly remember but also one of the few I'm willing to fire up these days. And considering most RPGs put me to sleep anymore, that's saying something.

Robotrek is a bit of a departure from most normal RPGs. For starters, you aren't some badass swordsman with spiky hair or a random chick with a mysterious past. You're a little kid. Yeah, I know, blah blah Earthbound blah, except you don't even get to be THAT cool. No powers, no psychic abilities, hell you don't even get any friends or are even allowed to fight. Instead, you're an inventor that makes robots (up to three) and sends them out one at a time to let THEM do the fighting. Novel idea, I know, but before you start saying "Pokemon lol wut" you should probably know that this came out a couple years before the Game Boy saw Squirtle and the gang. As I was saying, each battle turns into a very light turn-based strategy game where your robot can only move so far and your attacks all have different amounts of recharge. It takes longer for your robot to recharge, for example, after firing a missile than it does after firing a simple handgun or just punching an enemy, and during this recharge time your enemies are doing things to you that you probably won't like.

In addition to the basic combat, you'll find spare parts along the way to create and improve robots and their weapons, and your robots allowed for some pretty deep customizations. Ones heavy for melee, ones that just liked range, ones that recharged fast, etc. It was a nerdy little kid's dream come true back when I was younger, and something that still captures my attention these days. The storyline wasn't anything to write home about (admittedly, the game was made to be very light-hearted) and most little kids are only mildly interesting at best (YES I KNOW EARTHBOUND IS DIFFERENT), but with such a fun and surprisingly deep combat and leveling system it's difficult to knock the game because of a silly story. At least it didn't have you trying to empathize with terrorists (cough FF7 cough).

One other thing, which was something I didn't know until today, is that the game was co-created by Ancient Corp., the same company behind XBLIG favorite Protect Me Knight. This really does make me want to go back and check out some of the other games from them I've missed over the years, as creating one of my favorite RPGs from my childhood AND my favorite multiplayer game on the XBLIG Marketplace gives them some serious respect from me. You know, in addition to that whole Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack thing.

Sadly, if you're looking to play Robotrek these days, you're either hunting on eBay for a copy of the game (usually paying 20-30 bucks) or doing things I don't like to mention on here. Which is sad, as it's another game I'd gladly shell out money for if it were on the Wii's unloved Virtual Console. If you're listening, Squeenix, you know where to find my money.

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