Forget for a second what anime series such as Evangelion and Escaflowne have taught you; mechs aren't nimble little creatures that can perform jumping kicks and deft moves at a blink of an eye. Oh no, not in the real world anyways. If mechs ever do become a reality on our planet, the very first models will probably resemble the ones that are featured in Enix's latest title, Robot Alchemic Drive.
Robot Alchemic Drive puts the player in the role of a young boy or girl… who have the power the control a giant 50-foot mecha (called Meganites). While it may seem like your typical coming of age story from some wacky anime, it works really well in the game. Instead of being in the cockpit of the robot, you are actually controlling it via remote control. What's interesting about this concept is that when you do control your Meganite, the camera is actually located where the controller is, which can lead to some confusing viewpoints. However, it's a unique experience when compared to other similar games, because you now have to be aware of not only your mech's position, but your character as well. Switching between controlling the Meganite and your character is as simple as pressing the Select button, which allows you to move your character freely so you can get a better vantage point of the ongoing battle. You can even climb on top of your mech for an up close and personal view of the fight! Interestingly enough, if your enemy happens to land an attack on you when you are standing on top of your Meganite, you'll not-so-gracefully fall back down to the ground.
While the control scheme for RAD seems overly complex, it's a system that will take some time to learn, but will give you a good sense of satisfaction when it's all said and done. The L1/L2 and R1/R2 triggers on the PS2 pad control your mech's feet, with L1/R1 controlling your mech's forward movement and the L2/R2 controlling backward movement. Attacking is similar to moving about the city, with the use of the left and right analog sticks to control how your mech attacks its opponent. There are also a bunch of special moves in the game, including the classic Gekiganger-style punch that we all know and love. What's also impressive are that the environments that you do battle in are completely destructible as well. You can punch someone through a building, send them careening down a highway with a giant throw, or just piledrive them on a set of train tracks. Either way, there's plenty of destruction to be had when you're duking it out with an enemy mech. Your character also possesses the ability to jump great distances in order to scale larger buildings for a better view of your Meganite. Throughout the game you'll also be to upgrade your Meganite with new weapons, armor and abilities, as well as having the ability to transform your mech from the standard robot form into other forms, such as tanks and jets. In all, Enix estimates that there might be around 40 hours of fun to be had when it's all said and done.
Graphically RAD is very nice, with lots of colour and tons of stuff happening on the screen at once. However while I can't say more than that, I will say this much: the mech designs themselves were created by Toshihiro Kawamoto, who some of you may know as the man behind the characters of the acclaimed anime series Cowboy Bebop.
Due out in November, Robot Alchemic Drive looks to be a great niche title for mech lovers everywhere, and with its unique take on the genre, it might convince even gamers who aren't mech fans (do these even exist?!) to take a look at it.