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   Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier - Staff Review  

The Incredibly Strange Title That Stopped Growing And Became a Mixed-up Zombie
by Mike Moehnke

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
DS
BATTLE SYSTEM
5
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
4
VISUALS
4
CHALLENGE
Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
20-40 Hours
OVERALL
4.5/5
+ Witty and amusing translation
+ Engaging and entertaining combat system
+ Numerous nods to Super Robot Taisen series
+ Combat aesthetics are top-notch for the DS
- Not as much replay incentive as others in the series
- Limited save points and no quick save option
Click here for scoring definitions 

   The problem with bringing the Super Robot Taisen series across the Pacific has always been one of licensing. The many intellectual properties it purées into a bizarre but intoxicating blend would spawn endless lawsuits from the varied rights-holders outside Japan. Super Robot Taisen Original Generation Saga: Endless Frontier sidesteps that problem in the way Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 1 and 2 did, by leaving out all characters and properties not the property of Banpresto. Monolith Soft did the development of this title, and took the opportunity to mix Super Robot Taisen properties with its own Xenosaga and Namco X Capcom characters. The result is unlike anything else in the massive Super Robot Taisen series, but succeeds in being a wildly entertaining adventure.

   The immediate difference between Endless Frontier and every other title in the Super Robot Taisen series lies in the combat system. Instead of being a tactical game, random turn-based battles take place while exploring various locations with experience and money being awarded once victory is achieved. Upon beginning a battle, the turn order will be displayed for the player's reference. Each character can choose between using items, using Spirit commands (what would be termed magic in most other series), defending, running away, or beginning a normal attack chain. Using a Spirit command to attack will use up the character's turn instantly, but normal attack chains and the usage of items are governed by different rules than in other turn-based titles.

   A regular attack chain in action will remind players of a combo-based fighting game. The resemblance stems from the ability of many enemies to block attacks for awhile, but once they have had their guard beaten down and soar into the air, it is the player's job to keep them there and susceptible to further damage. Each character has up to five separate attack chains that can be used per turn, and if the next turn belongs to another player-controlled character he or she can be instantly summoned to join the attacking chain without any menu use. The five actions each character can use per turn take the form of individual move sets that can be rearranged outside of battle. The ability to arrange the move order and timing of the attack chains while switching between available characters is not the end of the intricacy in battle, for while only four of the seven characters can participate in the front line the others are not sidelined. For five Spirit Points from the currently active front line character, a character in the back line can be summoned to perform one attack combo before retreating. It is possible in this way to chain enormously lengthy attack combos together to deal with the huge hit point totals of many enemies, and chaining together ever-longer strings is very entertaining.

There are a LOT of bouncing, gravity-defying things in this game. There are a LOT of bouncing, gravity-defying things in this game.

   While it might be desirable to simply repeat the most damaging techniques over and over, the Com meter makes this difficult to do. Using items and individual attack combos requires a certain percentage of the Com meter, which normally has a maximum of 100% (this can be exceeded at times in battle). Once the Com meter no longer has enough of a percentage remaining, the character stops attacking. Items and Spirit techniques can replenish the Com meter, which naturally recovers 50% each turn. While a total of five basic attack combos can be performed by a character per turn, fewer will result if the needed Com isn't present. The only attack that does not require Com is achieved when the Frontier Gauge, which charges when dealing and receiving damage throughout the battle, reaches 100% and an unblockable Overdrive can be activated.

   Inside of combat, menus work splendidly. The function of every item and every Spirit command is clearly visible, along with the attendant Com cost of doing things. Outside of combat it is a little annoying, as no more than fifteen of an item can be acquired, but otherwise shop menus are streamlined and efficient with one exception: equipment's effects are measured by the shop menus only with regard to their increasing attack or defense prior to purchase, and their effects upon other statistics are impossible to observe without a purchase. Money is plentiful in Endless Frontier, so that this is not a particularly glaring problem.

   The eponymous Endless Frontier is a number of worlds connected by Cross Gates that can be traveled between. Haken Browning is a bounty hunter specializing in cross-world traffic, ably assisted by the sarcastic android Aschen Brodel (who bears quite a resemblance to Lamia Loveless from Original Generation 2). Princesses Kaguya Nanbu and Suzuka get sucked into their attempt to deal with some stones called Mild Keil that have the bad habit of ruining architecture and using hypnosis on locals. Popping out of worlds further removed from the norm (Namco X Capcom and Xenosaga) are Reiji Arisu, Xiaomu, and KOS-MOS. The list of antagonists, some of whom are sucked in from other Monolith Soft games and some of whom come from the other Super Robot Taisen titles, is a lengthy and complicated one. The plot is freewheeling and nutty but held together by a very strong localization from Atlus and a constantly amusing tendency of the seven main characters to insult and be insulted by everyone in sight.

That That's only natural, because past age 700 the cold probably affects one a lot more.

   Compared to other Super Robot Taisen games, Endless Frontier is not very hard, though it is not a cakewalk by any means. Bosses tend to be powerful enough to kill characters with one move, and most enemies possess to ability of Forced Evasion which shuts down the current attack combo and causes it to do zero damage. Provided one plays thoughtfully and does not attempt nonstop attacking, the combat will be survivable without seeing a Game Over screen.

   Thirty-five to forty hours is a reasonable estimate of the completion time Endless Frontier requires. There are a few extra items to be obtained by exploring old dungeons midway through, and one optional boss, but these will not add much to the overall game time. In series tradition, replaying the game on a higher difficulty level is possible after completion.

   Outside of battle, the visuals are thoroughly unimpressive and would not have taxed even the Game Boy Advance. True to Super Robot Taisen tradition, however, battle is where the majority of visual effort is shown off. Character and enemy sprites are large and well-animated, and not a hint of slowdown ever appears. Each different move has an intricate animation that requires detailed inspection to fully appreciate, with both Spirit attacks and Overdrives showing off quick clips of cel animation that push the DS's abilities.

   The music for Endless Frontier has several sources. Some of it is remixed from the Original Generation games, and the remix of 'Dark Knight' in particular is very good here. Xenosaga and Namco X Capcom yield background tracks for their characters, and the remainder is newly composed. The remixes are enjoyable, the new music is entertaining, and the enormous variety of battle themes ensures that excessive repetition never becomes a problem. Due to a technical issue, Atlus did not alter the Japanese voice acting during battle and while shopping to an English track. None of the voice acting conveys anything story-related, and thus its remaining in Japanese is not a problem, simply being an entertaining if repetitive addition to the game.

   Monolith Soft has crafted a game that successfully does something quite different in the Super Robot Taisen line. The relegation of its robots to plot points and permanent back row attackers may infuriate some, but the combat system succeeds in engrossing the player even so. Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier succeeds in trying something new and making it work. Those drawn in by the suggestive character art and wacky dialogue will find that the rest of the game is even more rewarding.

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