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   Endless Frontier EXCEED - Super Robot Wars OG Saga - Staff Review  

The Robots Aren't the Only Things that Are Artificial Around Here
by Michael Baker

PLATFORM
DS
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
2
MUSIC & SOUND
4
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Moderate
LANGUAGE BARRIER
Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
40 - 60 Hours
OVERALL
#/5
+ Includes more options in combat.
+ Makes good use of its varied soundtrack.
+ More over-the-top action.
- Field graphics still look worse for wear.
- Story isn't the main attraction.
- Too much time spent going over past events.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   When last we saw our heroes they had just fended off an alien incursion, with said victory having bizarre and unforeseen repercussions on the geography of the Endless Frontier. Anyone who's played the first EF game through to the end knows what I'm talking about. With a finale like that, a sequel was inevitable. And so we have Endless Frontier EXCEED (Super Robot Wars OG Saga blahblahblah).

   Beginning a few months after the end of the first game, EFX brings some new things to the table. Old enemies are now neighbors, new enemies are popping up all over, and most importantly two new realms have somehow found their way into the Frontier. First is the warrior society of the Hakoku, founded on a philosophy of self-discovery through combat. The second is the mysterious realm of Agladheim, whose citizens practice dire rituals and summoning magics.

   The story focuses mostly on two of the game's newcomers. Aredi Nash is a young warrior of the Hakoku who is charged with tracking down a rampaging war machine called Ark-on, taming it, and returning it to its proper place. Accompanying him is Princess Neige of the lost lineage of Hausen. She and the other residents of Espina Castle in Elfateil had fled to the Hakoku years before (short-circuiting a Cross-Gate in the process) in order to escape the war that helped set the stage for the first EF. As such, while Neige has a basic idea of how things are on the Frontier, all her information is at least three years out of date. Much explanation is needed in the beginning, as more and more characters from the first game sign on as allies.

Caption Well excuuuuse me, Princess!

   In fact, at times it seems like there are too many allies involved. With eleven playable characters (two of them fight as a set), eleven assisting characters (not counting six mute robots), and the occasional NPC or enemy, conversations in EFX can take a while. Anyone who has anything to say about the matter at hand will need to speak their piece, complete with helpful images to remind the player of all the references. It gets to be a bit much at times.

   Then again, this game is like its predecessor in that the plot itself is merely a vehicle to provide reasons for battles and bad boob jokes. It's a bit much to expect superlative character development or high drama here.

   No, the meat and potatoes of this series continue to lie in the battle system. For those who have not played the first EF, here's some explanation. In each round of combat, each character gets an action turn. Before he or she attacks, the player can choose to use spirit skills for healing or buffs (which cost SP), items (which may incur a slight penalty to the command gauge), or to switch out with another character (who then comes in at 50% on the command gauge). The command gauge determines how much a character can attack that round, as each attack burns off a certain percentage.

Caption The real reason some people play this series.

   When it's time to attack, the A button is used to trigger attack sequences. A good sense of timing is needed to keep the attacks continuous and the enemy up in the air. Fitting into the attacks are options for a variety of support, both from back-row party members (D-pad left), assisting characters assigned to a specific party member (D-pad up), or to chain attacks together with the next character in the attack sequence (D-pad right). All attacks go toward filling the Frontier Gauge, which powers special techniques, finishing moves, and the new option for forced evasions, which can be a real life-saver.

   Several of the options just mentioned are new to this installment. Also new are special finishing moves, mapped to the X button, that can target and kill multiple enemies at once. Finally, a gauge has been added to help the player tell how likely an enemy is going to force an evasion. While none of the changes to the system are major, they add to the overall experience and make things more interesting.

   Graphically, not much has changed. Field graphics are still unimpressive, battle graphics are still bright and flashy, and character portraits are still cheesecake. The new finishing moves play around with perspective and angles, but otherwise no attempts have been made to improve the game's appearance over its predecessor.

Caption By the Power of the Moon!

   On the music side of things, variety reigns. Most characters or character groups have their own associated tunes, most of which are used as battle music. Instead of having a set battle theme, EFX selects a different track for each standard battle, with no song playing twice in a row. Assuming that the game chooses from the current team roster, that would make for a lot of different battle tunes. The game also has limited voice-acting, usually at dramatic points or when a character is introduced, but also in brief conversations at the beginning and end of each battle.

   While much of this game just expands upon what the first EF did, there are a few completely new points to add. Assisting characters add a new avenue for customization, as each one adjusts the equipping party member's stats in a different way and there are far more assisting characters than party members. Also, scattered throughout the game are wanted posters which give hints as to the whereabouts of secret, optional bosses that are each worth a more than decent amount of cash when defeated. Finding all the wanted posters (or fragments of the wanted posters) takes a lot of exploration, and finding the bounty monsters without a FAQ can be a challenge, albeit not an impossible one.

   EFX can be completed in forty to fifty hours without too much trouble, and aside from the bounty missions there isn't much to do that deviates from the flow of the game. The general pacing remains even, however, without any long stretches where the player is left wondering where to go or what to do. There's a constant movement forward without feeling too rushed. Still, it is definitely the second game of the storyline, and as such plays more as an extension of the first game than as a title in its own right. This is definitely one for those who played and enjoyed Endless Frontier, as it includes more of the same, only better.

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