And I'll form... the head! - Review By BenT
Thankfully, all of the conditions for branching are revealed in Dr. Tatsumi's Techno-Dome, a special menu that gives access to all of the game's secrets. Secrets? Yes, there are tons. The Techno-Dome has sixteen separate prizes which can be unlocked, either by beating the game in certain ways or by spending hard-earned points. Prizes range from a collection of character bios, to intro movies, to several hidden characters. The necessary points can be accumulated by playing three VMU mini-games, or by slugging through the Hero Challenge (read: Survival) Mode. In my opinion, Hero Challenge is the only way to go. Tech Romancer's VMU minigames aren't too bad, but I've been soured forever on the concept since playing Time Stalkers. Having to play VMU games sucks; I'm glad Capcom provided a viable alternative. In any case, points accumulate rather slowly, so it'll be a while before you manage to unlock everything in the Techno-Dome. This can only add to the replay value for those people who insist that replay value equals having lots of stuff to unlock, and it gives the rest of us something to look forward to. Coolbeans.
The Final Attacks are usually very entertaining, if not graphically impressive. They're also a good way to make your friends hate you.
Lastly, Tech Romancer sports once heck of a cool soundscape. The music is full of fast rhythms and blaring horns, and really evokes the feel of animes past. The opening theme song also bears mention -- it's an awesome touch. Sounds effects are similarly good, with some nice robitic whirs, clicks, and stomps. However, the real star here is the voice acting, which is all Japanese, and all superb. While it's true that non-native speakers of a language are notoriously poor judges of vocal talent (the director of the original Resident Evil apparently thought that the voices in that game were good!), I do think Tech Romancer's acting is high quality. Electing to use subtitles was a wonderful decision on Capcom's part, as (typically poor) English voice acting could have turned the game into a cringe-fest.
You might be wondering why I haven't mentioned the graphics until now, and the answer is that it's because they're merely adequate. Let me qualify that. The 2D art is outstanding, beautiful, divine, you name it -- it rocks. The game's 3D, which is where you actually play, is distinctly less impressive. It seems to run at or close to 60 fps, but sometimes looks somewhat lower because the character animation is unnecessarily jerky. The backgrounds are unimpressive, too -- they're simple flat bitmaps, often with rampant dithering. Yuck. While the playfields do have a smattering of 3D objects, these are sparse, blocky, and hardly worth mentioning. While it's true that Capcom could have gone a lot further with the graphics, it's also true that I'm being nitpicky. As I mentioned, the graphics are passable; it's just too bad that Capcom didn't take them further and push the Dreamcast to the limit.
Even the versus screens look great. I could get used to this.
Another problem with Tech Romancer is that the fighting mechanics are much too simple. The special moves are often as easy as two directions and a button, and the super moves are merely two directions and two buttons. This makes the gameplay easy to learn and highly accessible, but at the same time severely limits the potential depth. After an hour of playing I was taking out mecha like a pro, and had mastered most of the fighting system's not-so-subtle nuances. Sure, the game is fun, but it's not going to stand the test of time in the same way that Soul Calibur has. In this sense, Capcom has yet to make a 3D fighter that can compete with their 2D stuff.
Finally, Tech Romancer is home to Goldibus, who just so happens to be one of the most frustrating last bosses to ever mar a fighter. You see, when Goldibus dies, he comes back for more, complete with more powerful moves. However, your robot gets nothing in the way of damage restoration. And if you manage to take him down again... hey hey hey, it's time for round two. Yep, you have to kill the sucker four consecutive times before he stays dead, all with only two bars of life. Even on the lowest difficulty Goldibus is damn hard to beat, and as you increase it he steadily moves closer and closer to impossible. Needless to say, I didn't appreciate having this 20 ton obstacle repeatedly preventing me from finishing the game.
The Final Word
Tech Romancer is a great surprise from Capcom. Its Japanese stylings and superb character design are easy on the eyes, and the simple yet addictive gameplay is a blast. While there's not a lot of depth, the wealth of unlockable secrets should keep you going for a while. If you're looking for a unique 3D fighter to add to your collection, you could do a lot worse than Tech Romancer.
Highs: Some of the best character and mecha design ever, fun fighting, great audio, lots to unlock.
Lows: Lacking animation, underwhelming graphics, overly simplistic gameplay.
Other: 1-2 Players, VMU compatible (3 blocks for system file, 128 for VMU minigames), Arcade Stick Compatible, Jump Pack Compatible.
Intro (MPEG) - The intro animation is tepid, but is saved by great art and a rocking theme song. [Big (11M)] - [Med (5.9M)] - [Small (1.3M)]
Gameplay 1 (MPEG) - Bolon versus G. Kaiser. [Big (13M)] - [Med (7M)] - [Small (1.5M)]
Gameplay 2 (MPEG) - Pulsion versus Gamda, a boss. Final Attack! [Big (8.7M)] - [Med (4.7M)] - [Small (1M)]
Gameplay 3 (MPEG) - Twinzam V versus Rafaga. [Big (11M)] - [Med (5.9M)] - [Small (1.3M)]
(out of a possible 10)
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