Robot/Mech games have always had a following. However, since the release of Konami's Zone of Enders for the Playstation 2, the genre has gained more and more popularity. Thanks to that newfound following, Enix is bringing a new mech game to the North American market. Robot Alchemic Drive is a unique take on the mech genre, providing a fresh control scheme that may well revolutionize the way we play mech games.
Robot Alchemical Drive has one very significant difference from other games like it. Instead of controlling your robot from the inside as a pilot, similar to games like Front Mission and Zone of Enders, your pilot commands the robot from a remote control perspective. In fact, you will take control of both your 'pilot' and his robot in different parts of the game, and this relationship is what sets it apart from other games. Your controlling character is viewed from a 3rd person perspective, and has his own controls. The left analog stick is used for movement, the X button is used to jump, and when pressed and held, can make your pilot levitate for a certain amount of time. While in the air, a meter next to your health bar will slowly decrease, measuring the amount of time you can remain in the air. However, pressing the Select button will take you into a quasi first person view, changing control from your pilot to the robot. When controlling your robot, you are limited to a field of view similar to the natural view of your pilot. Therefore, your robot can get lost behind a building or other obstruction, requiring you to switch back to the 3rd person view and reposition your character. This constant switching is vital to success in playing, and it offers a certain frantic dynamic that is not found in most mech games.
Controlling your robot in the game is fairly unique. When in control of the robot, you can move his arms with the analog sticks. The left and right analog sticks will control the robots left and right arms, respectively. You can use the sticks together to execute various attack combos, by thrusting or sweeping them in a circular motion at the right time. The legs are controlled by the L1 and R1 buttons. Pressing them alternately will make your robot walk, while pressing them together will make the robot crouch. When crouching you can release them simultaneously to execute a jump, which can be used to attack a helpless enemy lying on the ground. In addition, some robots in the game come armed with a secondary form that you can switch between by pressing the Square button. Your robots are also armed with standard projectile weapons such as lasers and missiles, which can be fired by pressing the Triangle and Circle buttons.
There are a total of 3 robots in the game, and each has their own unique attributes. Languiole is the fastest of the trio, but also the weakest. However, you can use his increased speed as an advantage over slower opponents. Vavel is what is known as the 'median' or default robot, in that both his speed and strength are rather average. The third robot, Gllang, is by far the strongest of the three, but is also much slower, so he must use his extra power to defeat his foes. Gllang also has an alternate form, in the shape of a tank that comes equipped with all sorts of anti-mech artillery.
It is easy to see that Robot Alchemic Drive is a fairly unique game when it comes to mechs. Created by the now defunct Human Team (responsible for the Japanese Playstation's Remote Control Dandy), Robot Alchemic Drive promises to deliver a very fresh experience to North American gamers. The fact that most character designs were done by Toshihiro Kawamoto (Cowboy Bebop) doesn't hurt either. Robot Alchemical Drive is currently on schedule for a mid November release.
7/9/2002 Ryan Hartmann