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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Twelve Mech Anime That Have Been AWOL From SRW For Far Too Long Part 1

Last year I started Mecha Month with a list about mech anime that have yet to been included in any games in the Super Robot Wars franchise, but I felt were not "lost causes", i.e. they could still believably happen. While iDOLM@STER Xenoglossia did technically appear in the mobile game spin-off SRW X-Ω ("Cross-Omega"), it was only for a month as a way to help promote the franchise in general, so I didn't update the list to reflect that as it was such a "blink & you'll miss it" inclusion. Anyway, while I do anticipate what series will be making their debuts with each new SRW game that's announced, I'm also just as excited about what series will be returning, all the more so if it's something that hasn't been seen in a while. It was cool to see Aura Battler Dunbine be included in SRW BX, the first time in over a decade since Compact 3, for example. That being said, there are plenty of mech anime that had made appearances in SRW in past, but haven't been seen in a good long while. Therefore, let me list off twelve series that have been AWOL from the franchise & more than deserve a new appearance.

That being said, I do have four criteria for inclusion:
-It's last appearance was at least 10 years ago, because there are enough with that restriction.
-It has to have already been in at least two SRW games. There are enough single-appearance examples to make another list, to be honest.
-I'm not counting appearances in spin-off games, like Scramble Commander, Super Robot Gakuen, or X-Ω. Sorry, but I'm being picky about this & only counting the traditional, turn-based strategy games. This means no RahXephon, since that only was only in MX, & SC 2nd is a spin-off.
-Finally, I have some stuff I'm excluding, even though they meet the above criteria. These are, specifically, Tosho Daimos, Daiku Maryu Gaiking, & Brave Raideen, and I'm excluding them outright because they all starred Akira Kamiya, who is not only very expensive to hire but also only getting older; let the man retire in peace & with a working voice. Also, Gaiking & Raideen at least have more recent re-imaginings to utilize, the former of which has already been used in K & L. This restriction really applies to most 70s mech anime in general, quite honestly.


Giant Robo - The Day the Earth Stood Still
We're doing this in reverse order, which means the longest hiatus comes first, and it's one that's dear to many mecha fans. The late Mitsuteru Yokoyama is generally considered the man who created the giant robot genre in general with Tetsujin 28, yet his work has rarely been included in the SRW franchise. In fact, none of the man's giants would appear until 1999's Super Robot Wars 64 on the Nintendo 64, which featured the debuts of both 1981-1982's Rokushin Gattai God Mars & 1992-1998's Giant Robo - The Day the Earth Stood Still. While God Mars would make a few more appearances via 2003's SRW D & the Z Series starting with 2011's SRW Z2: Hakai-hen, with the 80s version of Tetsujin 28 debuting in 2012's Z2: Saisei-hen, Giant Robo only had a single other appearance after its debut. That would be 2000's Super Robot Wars Alpha on the PlayStation, which was the first part of the franchise's second main series, following the "Classic Series", & the first game to feature fully animated attack scenes. With a hiatus that's going on 17 years, why hasn't this beloved cult classic of an OVA series been brought back to SRW?

Well, one often stated reason was, unfortunately, the death of Yokoyama himself. On April 15, 2004, a fire broke out in his home, & his entire body was covered by severe burns; he passed away at the hospital later that night at the age of 69. Like many iconic creators, the rights for Yokoyama's work ended up in the control of his estate, and it also became very expensive to license out his works for a good while. This directly affected SRW Alpha 3 in 2005, with franchise producer Takenobu Terada admitting that Giant Robo was originally planned for inclusion, as the plan was to bring back series (like Gunbuster & Evangelion) that were in the original Alpha game but missed out on Alpha Gaiden & Alpha 2; granted, Dunbine was also not brought back, but at least that has returned to the franchise in general. Terada did mention that licensing was the main reason as to why the Yasuhiro Imagawa-directed OVA series was kept out of the partial reunion, with Gundam SEED being brought in to replace it & make its own SRW debut. Still, the return of God Mars & long-awaited debut of Tetsujin 28 (in some form) in 2011 has shown that price may not be a factor anymore when it comes to Yokoyama's works, so it's still a bit of a mystery as to why Giant Robo has yet to return; hell, even 40th Anniversary series GR -Giant Robo- from 2007 hasn't been given a try. The OVA series has even been given a remastered Blu-Ray release in Japan a couple of years ago, not to mention Imagawa reimagining his work via manga in the 00s, so it's not like it's being held at bay by something.

Chances of Return?: I'd say that the chances are there, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for it, to be honest. Still, Aura Battler Dubine had a similar (though not quite as long) hiatus before coming back to SRW, so "never say never", I'd say.

Sorry, not every screen shot will look awesome. Form before fashion.

Mobile Suit Victory Gundam
Ever since the original Super Robot Wars game on the Game Boy back in 1991, there's been a single mech anime series that has been in literally every single game in the franchise, and that's Gundam; there have been games without a Mazinger or Getter Robo. Even the only game in the franchise to not feature any real robot anime, 2009's SRW Neo on the Wii, still had G Gundam to represent Sunrise's iconic robot series. Still, there has been one notable entry that only had a literal handful of entries for a few years before never being seen in SRW again, and that's 1993-1994's Victory Gundam. The last entry in the Universal Century canon to be directed by franchise creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, Victory is also one of the most infamous entries, with a heavy kill count & a far-future aesthetic that really distanced itself from the prior UC shows. While the show (alongside G Gundam) technically made it's series debut with 1995's Super Robot Wars 2G (a Game Boy remake of the 1991 Famicom game), it wouldn't see proper integration until 1996's Shin Super Robot Wars on the PlayStation, followed by inclusion in Alpha & Alpha Gaiden in 2000 & 2001, respectively. Finally, Victory Gundam would see one last inclusion in Super Robot Wars D for the Game Boy Advance in 2003, where it's story would see heavy focus, before disappearing form the franchise completely. It hasn't even been included in oddball entries like Operation Extend or Super Robot Gakuen. What happened that has resulted in a hiatus that's coming on 14 years?

I guess one explanation would be Victory's very existence, i.e. it's the fact that it's so unlike the other UC Gundam works. To properly adapt the story would require killing off a lot of potential playable pilots & Mobile Suits as it progresses, though I guess there could be some options for keeping some alive. In the first two Alpha games, Uso Ewin & his friends were more or less just there & not contributing much to the story, which is likely why they didn't get to come back for Alpha 3. SRW D, on the other hand, had a much darker story, which allowed for Victory's plot to be utilized in a more proper fashion, but D wound up becoming a bit of a black sheep for the franchise (partially due to its busted armor stats, which made super robots more or less pointless). Also, there is just so much in the Gundam franchise to take from in general, but for the most part there are two general universes that are utilized the most in SRW: Universal Century (specifically from Zeta to Char's Counterattack) & Cosmic Era (a.k.a. SEED & SEED Destiny). Then consider that newer shows (00, Unicorn, AGE, etc.) are also a guarantee for inclusion, & Victory Gundam has kind of been pushed out of contention simply due to the sheer size of the machine it's a part of. Granted, I do think that Victory might be able to work with the currently-running Iron Blooded Orphans when the time comes, but don't expect that latest Gundam series to be included for another year or two, at the very least.

Chances of Return?: Honestly, I would put Victory Gundam's chances of returning to SRW as pretty low, about as much as that of the original One Year War story being utilized... And even that story has been used more recently due to its inclusion in SRW GC/XO! Still, much ado was made about Gundam ZZ & Crossbone Gundam making their returns for next year's SRW V on PS4 & Vita, so maybe Victory will be the next Gundam to make that triumphant return. It would really require the right mix of other mech anime to do it well, though.


Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos
Let's face facts, people... Most mech anime, especially those from the 70s to the 90s, are technically made for younger audiences of varying ages & with the intent to sell toys &/or model kits. One of the most obvious examples of this from the 80s was Machine Robo, which saw two anime adaptations during that decade (plus one in the 00s). The first series, 1986-1987's Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos, was more than successful in its own right, and wound up garnering enough of a nostalgic fandom for Banpresto to deem it worth adding to the pantheon of SRW inclusion. It made its franchise debut in 2000 with Super Robot Wars Compact 2: Cosmoquake, the second part of the three-game mini-series released on the WonderSwan. The entire Compact 2 trilogy would then be compiled & remade as a single game on the PS2 in the form of 2002's Super Robot Wars Impact, which gave Machine Robo its vocalized debut for the franchise. Finally, the likes of Rom Stol & company would see inclusion as a major part of 2004's Super Robot Wars MX, a PS2 game which many feel was initially planned as a sequel to Impact (there are many good reasons for this consensus). Since MX, though, Machine Robo has been incommunicado with SRW, even though the toy line it promoted belongs to Bandai, which also owns Banpresto. Considering that Production Reed, formerly Ashi Pro, is a regular supporter of the franchise, with Dancougar in particular being an often inclusion, why hasn't Machine Robo become another common sight?

Personally, until only last year I was always pretty mixed on how I felt about Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos. The characters were instantly memorable, & MX in part was able to really showcase those characters well without the rougher story "getting in the way". But last year I decided to cover the three DVDs CPM released for the show as Volume 4 of Demo Disc, and what happened was that I wound up enjoying the show more than I thought I could. While it wasn't a storytelling masterpiece by any means, there was more to it than I had initially thought; I can see why others outright hate it, though. Still, on the whole, Machine Robo's story is pretty barebones, making it a series that isn't exactly ideal to integrate into a SRW title as a major focus. Sure, Gundam, Mazinger, & Getter Robo are often included mainly for the robots & nothing more, but they have iconicity behind them as the original three series used; they're allowed that kind of carte blanche treatment. Not just that, but part of Machine Robo's appeal is in the characters, both good & evil, so one can't really just put in Rom & his buddies with the "it's post-story" explanation that some series inclusions are given; it's just not the same without Devil Satan 6 to fight. Sure, it made sense to bring back Machine Robo in MX, since that game had a strong running theme to it when it came to a number of the series used, but there really isn't any other reason to include it other than that.

Chances of Return?: While I don't really want to say "never" for any of these, I'm putting Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos down as a series that we will likely not see again in SRW anytime soon. It had its moment in the sun to be with others of its ilk, & it did so splendidly, but outside of a reprise of that reasoning I just don't see it coming back.


Gear Fighter Dendoh
Speaking of mech anime that fit a certain thematic similarity to Machine Robo, we move onto our next entry. While the Brave Series technically ended its TV run with King of the Braves GaoGaiGar, there was one show that, at least spiritually, acted as the next entry. Though officially not a part of the franchise, 2000-2001's Gear Fighter Dendoh is generally considered the spiritual successor to the Brave Series, mainly due to some of its staff. In particular, Hirokazu Hisayuki & Mitsuo Fukuda were slated to be the character designer & director for Saint of Braves Baan Gaan, but after the cancelled series' inclusion in the Brave Saga games on PS1 apparently found interest, the two were allowed to make their own mech anime, and the two decided to utilize a lot of the ideas & concepts (animal robot helpers, dual child protagonists that piloted a robot together, etc.) that were in the works for Baan Gaan. While Dendoh didn't exactly set the mech industry on fire, it has since gone on to be considered a bit of a cult classic, and was even set to be the next mech anime Media Blasters would have brought over had GaoGaiGar sold better (it made its money back, but not much else). Just a little over a year after the anime ended, Dendoh made its debut in Banpresto's crossover giant via 2002's Super Robot Wars R on the Game Boy Advance, followed by a fully-voiced inclusion in Super Robot Wars MX in 2004. Just like Machine Robo, though, after those two entries the story of Hokuto Kusanagi & Ginga Izumo's battle against the alien Galfa has yet to return to SRW. What's with the almost 13 year hiatus?

First of all, if you didn't realize it yet, one of MX's prominent themes in the series list is martial arts mecha. Bringing together Machine Robo, Gear Fighter Dendoh, Tosho Daimos, & Mobile Fighter G Gundam was most definitely a concerted effort, and it's part of what makes MX such an identifiable entry in the franchise; another obvious theme was mixing together Brave Raideen & RahXephon. Anyway, this is the first entry in this list where I really can't think of any logical or understandable reason for why a mecha series has yet to return to SRW. When all is said & done, Dendoh is an extremely well done mech anime (I highly enjoyed what I saw of it, which matches the general consensus), and there is more than enough to it that keeps it from blending into the giant crowd of mecha. In fact, there are some other potential thematic reasons to include Dendoh, aside from martial arts. Obviously, there's the idea of putting it side by side with GaoGaiGar (or even Brave Express Might Gaine, which will be in V), helping solidify its general acceptance as the spiritual successor to the Brave Series; that being said, it took SRW long enough to mix Brave with Eldoran for 2015's BX. Not just that, but the fact that Michio Fukuda directed Dendoh (& his late wife Chiaki Morosawa was a head writer on it) means that a potential SRW title could mix it with Gundam SEED, which would be interesting. Really, there is enough potential for this series to come back with.

Chances of Return?: All that being said, however, Gear Fighter Dendoh might just be a mecha series that came, burned brightly enough to make its mark on the SRW landscape, & then simply left. While it has enough of that similar feel to the likes of GaoGaiGar or Raijin-Oh, it's still just a successor in spirit, which means that it doesn't have the same cachet to it that a "real" Brave or Eldoran entry has. Without a doubt, this is one of my personal most wanted SRW returns, but I don't see it in the cards, honestly. I'd love to be proven wrong, though.

Yes, the Ideon is allowed infinite energy... Right before everything goes to hell.

Space Runaway Ideon
If you were to have told me two years ago that this mech anime would be missing from the finale of a main timeline in SRW, I would have said that you were crazy, yet here we are. The first anime to come from Yoshiyuki Tomino after the original Mobile Suit Gundam TV series saw cancellation, 1980-1981's Space Runaway Ideon is today one of the most infamous mech anime ever created, with its eventual apocalyptic ending (via 1982 movie Ideon: Be Invoked) being not just one of the most iconic anime endings of all time (not to mention often misunderstood in terms of scope), but the series in general is also one of the prime influences for Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion in the mid-90s. With such infamy behind it, it's understandable that it's only been used twice by Banpresto, but both times made perfect sense. Ideon made its SRW debut back in 1998 via Super Robot Wars F Final for the Sega Saturn, which was the finale of the original "Classic Series", which helped give the series a real sense of true gravitas & importance; of course it would only appear when everything was at its worst. Ideon wouldn't show its devastating face again until 2005, when Super Robot Wars Alpha 3: To the End of the Galaxy came out on the PS2, once again making perfect sense by bringing it in for end of the second main SRW series. Therefore, when Super Robot Wars Z3 was announced as a two-part game for 2014 & 2015 on the PS3 & Vita, it only made sense to expect Ideon to return, especially when fellow F Final debut Gunbuster was confirmed to come back (& had also been seen in Alpha 3). Unfortunately, the third main SRW series would come to an end without having to deal with the dread specter that was Ide Energy. So why was Gunbuster deemed worthy of bringing back for a third finale, yet Ideon given the shaft?

Similar to that of Dendoh's situation, I really can't surmise as to why Space Runaway Ideon was not given the finale treatment for the Z timeline. Understandably, I can only really see this series being used in the final entry of an entire series, unless the developers were to include it at the very start & slowly introduce things like the Ideon Sword or iconic Ideon Gun (not to mention All-Range Missiles), but the latter would result in a very slow advancement of the Ideon story. The only other option would be to include it in a standalone SRW game, where it could have a similar feel, if only with slightly less impact. If I had any possible guess to make, maybe it all just comes down to how utterly saddening Ideon is on the whole. Without a doubt, this series is possibly the most depressing & fatalistic of any of Tomino's "Kill-Em-All" productions. F Final allowed the Ideon to go uncontrollably berserk & destroy everything if the Ide Gauage maxed out, while Alpha 3 had an "Ideon Ending" that can be reached on a successive playthrough; upon hitting it, every pilot in the game remarks at how pointless & useless their battle is when fighting. Considering how SRW has generally been an overall positively-charged franchise, with being able to keep characters alive when they should have normally died being a common feature, Ideon is just such a massively, negatively-charged mech anime that it's very existence kind of runs opposite to what Banpresto aims to deliver.

Chances of Return?: Still, even with it not being given an invitation to the "End of Super Robot Wars Z" party, I'd safely say that Space Runaway Ideon will eventually return to SRW. It's just too iconic of a mech anime to ignore, and even though it's so diametrically opposed to the game franchise on a simple mood basis, that kind of is the point & is part of the very appeal. Whether we have to wait for who knows how long until the new timeline that V is starting will come to end, or maybe even if it winds up in a standalone game, I'm sure we'll be seeing the "Legendary God" again one day.


Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, Macross: Do You Remember Love?, & Macross Plus
We finish off the first half of this list with a long running & iconic mech franchise. Starting back in 1982 with Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, Shoji Kawamori's Macross franchise is right up there with Gundam as one of the most well known & (generally) celebrated mecha icons in Japan. While it doesn't see new entries quite as often as Tomino's giant, usually averaging to at least one major product per decade, Macross' mix of giant robots with a look at music & idol culture in Japan always makes it identifiable amongst all of the competition. Still, it didn't get added to the SRW franchise until nearly ten years after it started. While it completely missed inclusion in the Classic Series, Super Robot Wars Alpha in 2000 marked the debuts of SDF Macross, 1984 theatrical adaptation Macross: Do You Remember Love?, & 1994-1995 OVA series Macross Plus. The three would also been seen in side-story Alpha Gaiden, before mysteriously disappearing completely for 2003's Alpha 2 & then all re-appearing (alongside Macross 7) for Alpha 3. After that second main series came to an end, these three Macross productions would never appear in SRW ever again. The franchise itself would continue to be seen by way of the debut of Macross Frontier in SRW L in 2010, the return of Macross 7 (& debut of Dynamite 7) in SRW Z2 in 2011, & even the VF-30 mech from PS3 anniversary game Macross 30: Voices Across the Galaxy in SRW BX in 2015, but the none of the original debuting trio have been seen again; Macross Zero did debut in SRW SC 2nd, too, but has yet to used in a mainline entry. What's up with that?!

Personally, I think the reason for that, & all the more so for SDF Macross & DYRL?, is similar to why Victory Gundam has been essentially ignored, though with a slight change in reasoning. With Macross having so many entries to its name by now, specific focus has to be put on certain entries. Back when the Alpha Series was the main focus, SDF, Plus, & 7 were all that really existed (everyone ignores Macross II), so they were given focus. In 2008, though, Macross Frontier debuted & became a very notable success, so Banpresto decided to put the attention towards that entry, with 7 being brought back to accompany it later. Why Macross 7, you ask? Well, I think that it's status as a cult favorite is one reason, even inside of the Macross universe itself, but another reason would likely be because the main characters of the series, rock band Fire Bomber, are almost exclusively used as support-only units, making them markedly different &, therefore, appealing to use. Also, similar to the exceptions I listed at the very beginning, SDF & DYRL? both heavily feature Akira Kamiya as Roy Focker, which probably also makes them less likely to be used; this would also affect Macross Zero, as Roy is a major character in that OVA series. Not just that, but with Macross Delta, the newest entry in the franchise, having just ended a couple of months ago in Japan, I wouldn't be surprised if that winds up overtaking Frontier as the entry that gets the majority of focus in SRW in a few years.

Chances of Return?: Some are postulating that the lack of any Macross in next year's Super Robot Wars V might be due to the fact that it will be the fist mainline SRW game to receive an English translation due to the Asian region release it will be receiving after the initial Japanese release. Fans are bringing this up mainly because of Harmony Gold, the American rights holder of SDF Macross that is infamously holding up any other Macross product from ever seeing an official English release (though the Frontier movies do include English subs on the Japanese DVDs & BDs). We only managed to get Plus & II due to HG being in a near-death state during the 90s, so it couldn't focus on enforcing its supposed legal authority. Regardless, I think the chances of SDF Macross & Do You Remember Love? ever returning to SRW are low, mainly for the reasons I brought up a paragraph above, but I think there could always be a chance for Macross Plus to come back. It's an isolated entry in the franchise (making it easy to include in any way), is generally beloved, & has some kick-ass music that fans would love to hear redone once again in the usual SRW style.
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This brings us to the end of Part 1 of this look at mech anime that have had way to long of hiatuses from Super Robot Wars. Check back later this month for Part 2, where we see what hasn't been seen since the likes of SRW J, GC, XO, & even W!

5 comments:

  1. I think out of the ones mentioned, I miss machine robo,dendoh and ideon the most.

    Sure machine robo was in that mobile one but that isn't good enough. it'd be cool if machine robo got to merge with braves in some form.
    I also wouldn't mind seeing battle hackers or rescue since those haven't been used yet.

    Gear fighter dendoh like you said could work with another braves series, and that'd be a treat.

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    1. I highly doubt that Machine Robo Battle Hackers or Rescue will ever be used, as neither became anywhere near as well known as Revenge of Chronos. Reina Stol was actually an iconic female lead character for her time, which definitely helped keep the first Machine Robo in people's minds.

      Personally, my most wanted picks from this half would be Dendoh, Giant Robo, & Ideon.

      Delete
  2. Victory Gundam did appear in Cross Omega actually.

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    Replies
    1. Upon double checking, it seems like Victory was in that game, but since X-Omega is a spin-off, it doesn't change the inclusion of Victory Gundam in the list, since I'm only counting mainline games. I did remove it from the paragraph, though.

      Thanks for the update.

      Delete
  3. Let's face facts, Rom Stol needs to be in every game :(

    ReplyDelete