A classic game of wicks, but well thought out and measured, and one of the few that has reached us in the West in recent years.
It is particularly striking that the “wick” is considered a genre in itself, because a priori one might think that robots are not something so totally and absolutely specific as to evoke concrete sensations. Beyond the philias of who writes to you, the truth is that within the video games the concept of the wick is related to a special saga, Super Robot Wars, a Bandai Namco franchise with dozens of titles behind and that – predictably – It has never proliferated so much in the West as in Japan. In this sense, Hardcore Mecha’s inspirations are visible and more than obvious, but they are still a refreshing tad in a context in which most games of the genre do not even consider crossing the borders.
Following the wake of Super Robot Wars means several things: the most striking, perhaps, has to do with aesthetics. The giant robots that we handle and those we face still seem threatening when they scale up, and the game strives to remind us of them by putting them against humans and buildings, but out of context their designs are more adorable than imposing. Not only because of the anime style, fat lines and bright colors and well-cared movements, but because of the chibi design that makes them stubborn and have short arms and generate the odd comic situation when they wield the largest weapons.
It also means that we are talking about games that place great emphasis on their history, which they transmit to us through dialogues in the novel visual style. It is true that we could simply focus on the playable if we wanted to and skip the kinematics, but the level design is quite linked to the story we are told, and from the very beginning we realize that it is not the way in which Hardcore Mecha wants to be played. The story is a bit stereotypical, quite self-referential, and has its ups and downs, but in general it can go on without problems and brings some interest to the universe in general in which we are moving.
Maybe Hardcore Mecha does not have characters of iconic franchises of the genre to constantly reference, as Bandai does, but everything he loses in winks to other universes gains in playability. The combat, which is what we had come to, after all, takes a little while to settle but, as soon as we get used to its mobility, it works like a shot in each and every one of the scenarios. I guess getting on a fuse should always be like that, a little weird at first and strangely empowering afterwards. The game is divided into eighteen missions, and in each of them – with some very rare exception – we have a level of lateral scrolling that we will have to clean from enemies. We will have a button to use a main weapon, a secondary weapon, a button for melee and, most importantly, aquite powerful boost that is the best measured element of the game and that will allow us to fly as we please on the screen for a limited time.
The boost is the cornerstone of the game because, at both the levels where we have AI support and those that don’t, we will face a lot of enemies at the same time, so mobility will be practically the only way We will have to resist the attacks. It is in these moments, in the most tense levels and in some bosses, when the game plays a bit with the shoot ’em up and the bullet hell , when we find the most pleasant sections: those in which we really feel that we are fighting life or death, and that are our own abilities and not the power of the robot that we handle what has made us get out of the mess.
During the missions, we will collect money, objects and pieces from other robots, and that is why we will end up desperately seeking the interludes between mission and mission. Because that is where we can get in front of very extensive customization menus and decide what weapons, what improvements, what objects and what modifications we are going to equip our very cute killing machine. It is here, too, where things get complicated, because as we begin to flirt with the different construction options offered to us we also realize that an alignment of objects with which we are not comfortable can completely annoy a mission Whole, while using the possibilities we have with expertise can pave the way for us a lot. On this front, as in the others, Hardcore Mecha does not invent anything,
The exception, perhaps, are the moments in which the title ventures a little beyond what it knows how to do and puts us, between combat and combat, phases of stealth or ships not too well measured and that, if it is true that neither are they extraordinarily long or difficult to finish, they break the rhythm of the game somewhat, especially because we cannot help thinking that we could be spending that time playing at any of its much better resolved levels. It compensates a little, yes, that when we finish the campaign we can face, with all of the law, an extra way that allows us to customize our robots even more and face hordes and that is much more addictive than it seems at first view.
Even so, it is a slight sin for a game that falls within an extraordinarily specific niche, but that knows how to develop perfectly within it. You rarely see one, especially among independent developments, titles so focused and with the intentions as clear as this Hardcore Mecha, that without the intention of reinventing the wheel understands how to extract the essence of its genre and interpret it in its own way.