It's Macross Week, in case you didn't know, and in celebration of three decades of everyone's favorite idol-and-mecha pioneer, we're thinking, talking about, and recommending the best (and worst) in Macross.
Part of that "best" column is my very favorite Macross game, SuperDimension Fortress Macross for the PS2, a nine year-old sim that's got Ace Combat blood combined with that sugar-sweet Macross flavor. It's unique among Macross games, including the more recent Ace Frontier and hybrid titles, and in that, is more my jam.
Longtime readers may notice we reviewed this very game back when Macross was the ripe young age of twenty-seven, but given the significance of this anniversary, we're going to reprint the review, with permission (from ourselves)!
Enjoy these words, and Remember Love with us, won't you?
SuperDimension Fortress Macross (PlayStation 2)
Developer: Sega AM2
Release: October 23, 2003
Macross is without a doubt, one of the premier mecha properties, standing straight alongside the greatGundam behemoth. Thus it's not particularly surprising that one would try to wring a video game out of the franchise.
Sadly, the big problem with making Macross games work is what makes the Macross mecha unique, namely its hyper-fast transformation. Every dogfight in the world of the variable fighter is a deadly, frenetically-paced dance, with fast-moving mecha buzzing left and right, letting off streams of bullets, swarms of missiles leaving lengthy contrails and gratuitous explosions.
Worse still for the game designer, Macross combatants transition modes over and over, from Fighter to Gerwalk to Battroid, all in the blink of an eye.
Somehow Sega's AM-2 division (responsible for such classics as Space Harrier and Afterburner) were up to the challenge, crafting perhaps the truest approximation of Macross combat put to code yet.
SuperDimension Fortress Macross boasts two single-player campaigns, both casting the player as a faceless member of Skull Squadron, coordinating with bridge officer Emma Granger. Yes, that's a Harry Potter reference.
The choice of campaign was cleverly disguised as the player's pick of duty posting. Picking the aircraft carrier Prometheus sent the campaign on a path following the the TV series' plot. Choosing the ARMD-01 space warship traced the events of the Do You Remember Love movie. Character appearances, missions and even the mecha types changed based on that.
Rather than simply throwing the player a barrage of functions, the game assigned each mode a speciality. Battroids could track enemies with their guns, Gerwalks would strafe side to side, and Fighters could launch missiles...lots of missiles. With that a pilot could fight, adapting to any situation.
More than mechanics though, perhaps one of the greatest thrills of SDF Macross is the feeling of participation. Despite being a cipher without personality, the player eventually came into command of Purple Squadron (or Apollo Squadron in the DYRL campaign), and took part in many key battles of both the series and the movie.
Be it shooting down torpedoes while the Macross lines up to perform the Daedalus Attack (y'know, the one where you punch a dude with an aircraft carrier and let all the planes on said carrier shoot their missileswhile still inside the dude), or running a patrol while footage of the first Miss Macross pageant plays in a PIP window, or fighting a losing duel against Miliya Fallyna (seconds before Max saves your sorry ass) a great feeling of "Yeah, I'm playing the show" permeates the affair.
And of course, fighting the final battle with '80s cheese J-pop songs running in the background (either "Shao Pai Long" or "Do You Remember") is priceless.
No game is without its faults, of course, and SDF Macross' faults become obvious once everythingMacross-related is stripped out. The game looks ancient. Namco's Ace Combat 4 launched two years before it, and still looks much better. As a further lesson from Ace Combat 4, the game would have been enhanced greatly by incorporating copious amounts of radio chatter. In that game it gave off a great feeling of being immersed in a larger war. It would have fit perfectly, since the player isn't technically part of the main cast, leaving a lot of space to elaborate on life in the U.N. Spacy.
All that said, SDF Macross is pretty much the best Macross game around. Even its PSP successors such asMacross Ace Frontier take lessons from it. While at this point I wouldn't ask you to pay through the nose to import it, it's certainly worth a play should you ever encounter the game out in the wild.
Now, how about some hot final battle footage?
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