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Macross Digital Mission

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Review by Michael Motoda

I must begin this review by stating that I was anticipating this game with very high expectations. Whether it was reading what I could about it in Japanese magazines (PlayStation Magazine, Famitsu, etc.), or talking about it with my friends, this was one of the games we were most looking forward to, along with others like Final Fantasy VII. Personally, I know very little about the VF-X variable form mech, but I am a pretty big fan of the Macross Movie (ai: oboete imasuka), Macross Plus (the YF-19 and YF-21 are among the most nicely designed mechs I've ever seen, along with Kawamori Shoji's other masterpieces, including the wonderful tank from Ghost In The Shell to the gorgeously elegant Guymelefs in Escaflowne), and the original Macross TV series. That being said, it actually PAINS me to write this review, but it must be said on behalf of all gamers and anime fans who were disappointed by this title and weren't blinded by the game's license. And perhaps it will make some of you think twice before you spend your $70+ for the import, and try it before you decide to buy it.

GRAPHICS -- this is perhaps one of the poorest 3D engines I have ever experienced. After playing the superior and classy Ace Combat on the PSX over a year ago, it's hard to believe that this is actually a step backwards in terms of 3D technology. Not only does the terrain on the ground levels pop up at a fairly close distance, there is absolutely NO perspective correction on the textures, nor is there even decent depth-cueing. The depth-cueing is made up of huge blocks in the distance that do little to create the feeling of DEPTH. Moreover, when flying in Gerwalk mode in the VF's cockpit, all textures near the bottom of your display turn WHITE (this is especially apparent in the first ground battle level). In effect, the textures DISAPPEAR, due to the camera being too low to the ground. But it gets worse. As you are flying high over mountains, as you pass their peaks, the far side of these mountains' textures are MISSING, an absolutely horrendous and embarrassing example of poor coding techniques. When looking at how sharp the 3D is on Gundam Sidestory I/II/III on the Saturn, you wonder how this made it by Bandai (or anyone's QA for that matter) at all. The opening FMV is a mixture of hand-drawn art and CG. While I thought that the hand-drawn animation was very well done, the CG, for the most part, just does NOT fit. There is one particular sequence where a VF is firing its guns, and you can see sparks and tracers flying through the air, but besides that, I found nothing redeeming in this intro whatsoever. The opening song, by the same band from Macross 7 (I can't remember their name right now for the life of me), is pretty good, and compliments it rather well. Another plus is that the interface is very clean and has a distinct Macross Plus/Sharon Apple feel. Very nice.

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MUSIC/SFX -- aside from the opening vocals and the songs by the Milky Dolls (I'm biased towards anything with Inoue Kikuko in it ^_^), the music in the game is insulting. In the former review, the reviewer said that it sounded too "PCM" for him. Well, sorry, but this is NOT by any means PCM. This is standard MIDI -- imagine a MIDI song playing through an SBPro or SB16 and you'll get the general idea of how poor the soundtrack is. Weak percussion, terrible 'guitars' (electric guitars and MIDI just DON'T go together), and quickly looping tracks do very little to carry the game. The first song you hear upon starting up the actual game is the battle music from the Macross Movie [ai: oboete imasuka], and when it FIRST started up, I was very excited, but then it got going, and the MIDI reared its ugly head. With all the money and titles under Bandai's belt, you'd think that they could at least use the real music from the movie. Not so... whoever made the decision to do the tracks in standard MIDI obviously didn't have a clue. Quite unforgivable, and does NOT grow on you. As for the sound effects, it's a mixed bag. I like the sounds when you unleash a flurry of missiles, and your guns have a good resonance to them, but overall, I was not very impressed with the audio portion of this game.

CONTROL/GAMEPLAY -- another area where this game is just not up to par with something like Ace Combat. I haven't tried this game with the analog joystick for the PSX, but with the control pad, I found the control to be way too twitchy and sensitive. I don't think VF's react like this, and if they do, the pilots would pass out in an instant. ^_^ It actually feels like you're flying a camera, and not a jet which is supposed to have such qualities as mass, momentum, and an overall feeling of weight and power. Additionally, if you fly into enemies, such as battle pods, etc., your VF will STOP -- it won't bounce off the enemy and take damage, it won't explode, it will literally stop in mid-air until you decide to do something (like hit the enemy with your gun or turn around and fly away). This type of poor colision handling is inexcusable, and I would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks that this game has been coded with any competency or heart.

The game does have some nice features, though, don't get me wrong. The creation of your player is nice, complete with retina scan, when you change modes between fighter/gerwalk/battloid, the camera quickly pans out and you get to see your VF transform -- it looks pretty slick. And like I said, some of the animation, songs, and interface are done well. Overall, though, compared to the best in this genre, this game just can't hang with the big boys. It may have one of the best licenses out there, but again, I have been left in utter disappointment from a good Bandai license (other games like the Dragonball series have left me with similar emptiness).

My advice is to use EXTREME discretion when thinking about buying this game. It has a very rushed feeling, and to put it into perspective, my friend and I had to play about an hour's worth of KOF`96 to take out our anger, frustration, and disappointment (he's an even bigger fan of Macross than I am, so you can see where this is going). It's really too bad, as this could have been so much more than it is. I only hope that the [ai: oboete imasuka] shooter for the Saturn is better than this, but there has been nothing to show me that it will be different than all the other 2D shooters currently flooding the market. Only time will tell.

 

FINAL SCORES:
-------------
 
GRAPHICS:	5.0
+ good animation in intro
+ interface is very clean
+ nice transformation transition camera pans
+/- 3D models are 'fairly' true to their original form
- 3D engine is among the worst I've ever seen
- polygon break-up and disappearing textures destroy game's atmosphere
- poor depth-cueing, very limited color palette
 
SOUND:		6.0
+ excellent opening/Milky Dolls vocals
+ sound effects, for the most part, are above average
- standard MIDI BGM is inexcusable
 
GAMEPLAY:	5.0
+ lots of VF's to pilot w/fairly long missions
+/- there's really nothing here that differentiates this game from
    other in the flying/jet genre other than the variable form
    mechs
- poor ship handling/control
(subject to change with review with analog joystick)
 
OVERALL: 	5.5

In a nutshell, this is one of the biggest disappointments of 1997 so far. I don't believe that UNiT was capable of doing the Macross license justice at all, and it really shows in this travesty. I'm being quite harsh on this game only because Macross is one of my favorite series', and I had been highly anticipating it since my friend first told me about it long ago. I was so insulted by the lack of competence with the programming on this game that I was compelled to write a letter to Bandai of Japan. This says quite a bit, since I've never written to a company in Japan regarding their games before. As I said above, use EXTREME caution before buying this title, even if you are a huge Macross/jet game fan. Seriously, you're much better off with Raystorm/Taito, the Gundam Sidestory games on the Saturn, or wait for Ace Combat 2 for the PSX. Please email me if you have any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

-- Michael Motoda

Bandai Visual/UNiT/Big West 1997

Playstation USA

Last Updated : October 05, 1998

 

 

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