Name: Tech Romancer (超鋼戦紀キカイオー, Choukousenki: Kikaioh, "Super Steel Battle Story: Kikaioh" in Japan)
Format: Arcade (Sony ZN-2) and Dreamcast
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom (Arcade, Japan and US Dreamcast), Virgin (Europe Dreamcast)
Release Dates:
1998 (Arcade)
1/13/2000 (Japan Dreamcast)
6/14/2000 (US Dreamcast)
7/7/2000 (Europe Dreamcast)
1/18/2001 (Japan Dreamcast for Matching Service)
ESRB: Teen

Like giant robots? 80's anime? Huge explosions? Laser beams and giant rocks? Yeah, me too.

Capcom combined every cliche robot you can find, lumped them into a quirky yet fast-paced fighting game and delivered it piping hot to arcades and video game stores. Unfortunately, I believe everyone was still eating their helpings of Tekken at the time, polishing of a little more Hyper Street Fighter Alpha 43, or choking on the most recent Mortal Kombat iteration. This game, while obscure and under-rated, is great fun. It isn't particularly deep or complex but if you like anime, it is terrific. When you boot up the Dreamcast version, the opening starts with the 4 second countdown for all those fans readying their VCRs (if you've seen Japanese TV, you know what I'm talking about.) The title screen blazes up followed by a nifty sprite-based intro with opening credits and theme song to get you psyched up for some robot smashing fun.

Robot Roll Call:
The PCs:

  • G. Kaiser (AKA Kikaioh): Think Voltron (or Mazinger Z if you're old enough) except as one robot. He even has a blazing sword.
  • FX-004S Dixen: It's got the energy fields, swarming missiles, and plasma blade thingy. It's got Gundam all over it.
  • Pulsion: Ultraman but a little cooler (not too hard, really.)
  • Bolon: A "patchwork" robot assembled from random machinery piloted by a transforming magical girl.
  • Variable Fighter Refaga: It screams "Macross!" (from its hunched-over Guardian mode.)
  • Diana 17: There has to be a female robot in here somewhere. Really, the game needs one.
  • Twinzam V: Brother and sister team up their fighter jets to form Twinzam! (The implications are staggering.)
  • Gourai: The bad guy must pilot a robot shaped like a samurai. It's a law in Japan.
  • Wise Duck: Tore up a Mad Cat and sauntered out of the Battletech universe to kick some ass.
The Bosses:
  • Quverl: Some sort of giant alien controlled by a young woman/robot/alien.
  • Gamda: A giant walking pyramid/garden, controlled by a bishounen pharaoh.
  • Goldibus: He/she is wearing a giant evil suit of armor. After being defeated, he will transform into Super Goldibus. You must beat him 4 times in a row, he only has to beat you twice. Life isn't fair.
Story:

Each robot follows its own story line that branches based on menu choices and game play. Dialogue is delivered in cut scenes with Japanese voiceovers. Some endings are good, some are bad, and a few are just down right depressing. The stories range from cliche: Young Junpei must pilot G. Kaiser to save the world, along the way he finds out his father who was thought murdered is working with the enemy!; To strange: Pollon has a crush on Junpei and will duke it out with any one who might come between them, the final boss being her mother, of course; To even more cliche: War has broken out and only the battle armor Dixen is powerful enough to turn the tide. Multiple endings for most characters allow for a lot of replay value.

Gameplay:

The game uses 4 buttons and a joystick. The Dreamcast version uses more in order to provide shortcuts for commands requiring multiple buttons being pressed simultaneously. The joystick allows you to move in 8 directions on the playing field. One button guards, one jumps, and two are for attacks. The attacks are as varied as the robots themselves so don't expect a simple fast/strong dichotomy. Most have two different attacks for the first button based on distance from opponent and one robot has a third attack replacing the jump button. All strikes do a combination of red damage (standard) and yellow damage (concussive). The yellow damage will wear off slowly but if your damage meter maxes out due to either type, you drop.

All of the playable robots have an armor gauge that is reduced whenever a melee strike is blocked. When the armor runs out, your guard is broken, you take more damage than before whether you block or not. Blocking has its place, but sometimes dodging is necessary.

Due to the freedom of movement, all special and super moves are done through combinations of taps forwards or back (no quarter- or half-circles) and the pressing of one or more buttons. Everyone has at least 4 "special" moves and 2 "super" moves (requiring super meter as usual) in addition to a short but useful list of standard moves. After you have downed your enemy once (assuming a two-point match), you will gain access to your Final Attack (all four buttons at once) when your opponent is low on health. You only have one shot at it so make it count.

Standard combat occurs over the course of 99 seconds on a limitless playing field scattered with buildings to crush and high-tension wires to smash. Occasionally one will release an item when broken. Some are weapon items to use and some are health or armor refills. Once in a while, a "hero" item shows up. Using this item is equivalent to your pilot going berserk (as if he just found out you killed his father) or perhaps learning the true power of their mech. Some robots go into flying mode with infinite super meter, some change all their attacks, and others merely power up their normal attacks. No matter who it is, they get significantly more dangerous.

Extras:

When you beat "Hero" mode (fight every character) or play a VMU mini game, you earn "G" which can be used to unlock various features, including a picture gallery, a music test, and an original animated intro featuring all of the robots. You can unlock a few hidden characters, in particular, Jin Saotome (of Marvel vs. Capcom and Cyberbots fame) piloting Bloodia II.

Closing:

All in all this is a good game. Before the Dreamcast officially hit EOL, this title could be had for only US$20. Given all of the replay from the storylines and unlockable features, that equates to a very high entertainment to cost ratio. Be warned though, the fighting system does take some getting used to, so be willing to practice a bit.

Sources: gamefaqs.com, capcom.co.jp, capcom.com, playing the game
If anybody has the lyrics for the opening or ending themes please /msg me

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