A Deluge of Riches: Super Robot Wars 30

When I first began playing Super Robot Wars 30, I wanted to write a review immediately, but I decided against it because I wanted to complete one run of the game to get a fuller impression. Now, nearly 200 hours of playtime later, I have the opposite problem. There’s so much in here that I feel like I have more I’ve forgotten than I’ve remembered. I’ve already given my thoughts on certain specific elements of the series, including DLC packs 1 and 2, the way the game handles the Gaogaigar storyline, and the attack aesthetics of the Ultimate Dancouga unit, but here, I just want to lay out my broader impressions.

Super Robot Wars 30 is named as such not because it’s the 30th game but because it’s to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the franchise. To that end, there are a number of callbacks to its roots, from the fact that you can use the original RX-78-2 Gundam to specific guest characters making appearances. The roster is no mere nostalgia dive, though, as it consists of plenty of series old and new—both in terms of the release date of the source material from which these mecha come from and when they first appeared in SRW in general. L-Gaim and Victory Gundam are two franchise veterans making long awaited reappearances, while J-Decker, SSSS.Gridman, and Knights & Magic make their mainline debuts here.

Having lots of series is always an overall good thing for SRW, but I got decision paralysis when thinking about which units to deploy on multiple occasions. I’d want to bring out anyone who might be plot-relevant for a stage or at least have interesting dialogue with boss characters, but that didn’t always narrow it down. I’d waffle between doing what’s beneficial strategically and what’s cool thematically, and this might have made an already long game take even longer. It’s to some degree a curse that I accept with the blessing of a robust roster.

There is so much content in SRW30 that it can be overwhelming. While many missions are optional and a lot can be played out of order, I was struck by a sense of FOMO many times. What funny stories are on this stage? How did these characters get together? As someone who wants to revel in that fanfiction-esque lore, skipping felt wrong. 

One problem with that, however, is that every so often, I’d trigger a compulsory mission, whereby the intermission screen flashed red and locked me into a specific next plot-relevant stage. I don’t mind their presence so much as that the game itself never really explains what trips them off. I specifically remember playing some EXP-farming missions (called “Fronts” in the menu), not realizing that doing so meant I didn’t get to see how the sixth member of Team Rabbits from Majestic Prince joins. 

The game feels like it was designed to be fairly lenient, as if it was assuming that SRW30 would be a lot of people’s first Super Robot Wars. This wouldn’t be surprising, given that it’s the first officially translated SRW game to show up internationally on Steam. Even at the hardest difficulty (at least originally), it was possible to upgrade and improve your units to brute force your way through. They would later add a “super expert” mode that put it closer in line to a classic SRW experience, but having a really tough game isn’t necessarily what I want or expect, and the initial absence of a hardcore mode isn’t really an issue to me. 

Rather, if there’s any major criticism I have of the gameplay, it’s the lack of stage variety. There are a number of levels that have specific win conditions, but they felt too few and far between, and even they felt like they came from a general template. On top of that, for whatever reason, SRW30 refuses to take advantage of a classic system that is literally built into the game: terrain differences. In many SRW entries, there are stages with bases or areas where units can recover HP while on top of them (usually 30%). They usually exist in missions where you have to defend an area, or perhaps they’re being used by a stubborn boss that you have to dislodge. However, not a single stage I played had any such spots, even when it would make sense both gameplay- and story-wise.

A Final Dynamic Special—usually a combination attack with Mazinger and Getter robots, would have been nice too. Given the anniversary theme of the game, I’m surprised it didn’t include one.

I think this review may come across as more negative than I actually feel about the game. I think that’s simply because the game is so long that it took me months and months to complete, and my view is tinged by a patina of fatigue. SRW30 has a lot to offer, especially from a mecha fanservice perspective, and it feels satisfying to successfully utilize your units’ strengths and mitigate their weaknesses through smart play. I just wish there were more opportunities to do that.

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