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Robot Alchemic Drive Preview
game: Robot Alchemic Drive
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Oct 20th, 2002
last revision: 06:38 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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I recently had the chance to play a demo of Enix\'s big robot brawler Robot Alchemic Drive. Although it is due to be released in a just a few weeks, I just had to start spreading the word: RAD is a unique and intriguing game that proves there is still life in the mech genre.

Yeah, I know, the mech genre was never really dead, and this fall\'s slew of big robot games is proof of the vitality of the genre. But even hardcore fans have to admit that it has gotten a bit stale. RAD turns the genre on its ear by taking your point of view out of the robot and placing it firmly on the ground. You have full control of your chosen human character in the 3D environment which, as is the fashion, is being destroyed by a giant killer robot or alien from another dimension. You must guide your character through the mayhem to a rendezvous point where you will be given the controls to your mech. Then you must find a vantage point somewhere near the battle where, hopefully, your line of site will remain unobstructed. Press select at any time to take control of your robot, and again to switch back to your human character.

This point of view is brilliant. My primary complaint with all giant robot games is that it never feels like you are controlling a giant robot. The scale always seems to be muted, or simply relative to the other robot you are fighting. There is never that sense of grandeur that seems to me would be the point. But by placing you on the ground as two hulking monstrosities hurl each other through buildings, the devastation becomes overwhelming-bridges are falling, power lines are down, people are dead in the streets, and there is a very real possibility that you may be next. You better choose a safe place to stand, and even then be ready to run, because if the battle moves too close it\'s possible that the next big hit will send one of the enormous robots crashing down on top of you. There is nothing more humiliating than being squished by your own fallen mech.

The game has one more twist, however-the control set-up. Both strange and perfect, the controls act more like a remote control device than your typical video game. The shoulder buttons control your legs so that you step forward with your right leg by pressing R1, left with L1. To walk you must alternate pressing the two buttons-right, left, right, left. R2 and L2 step backward. R1+R2 turns right, L1+L2 turns left. You move your arms with the right and left analogue sticks. Tipping the right analogue stick forward results in a right jab. If you rotate the left stick 90 degrees, you get a left hook. Then you can move your torso with the directional buttons-up to arch your back, down to bend over, right and left to pivot at the waist. The button pad fires projectile weapons like lasers and bombs, and, if applicable, transforms your robot into a vehicle.

That\'s right, some of the robots can transform. There are three robots to choose from in the demo. One is light and fast and transforms into a jet. Another is bulky and slow and transforms into a tank. The last one falls right into the middle and doesn\'t transform, although it does have that cool Shogun Warriors move where it shoots its hand like a big, blunt missile. Or was that Voltron who did that? The enemies in the demo were a big lizard, a sleek battle robot, and a massive juggernaut.

The graphics are great, even at the early stage presented in the demo. Everything in the environments is destructible-if it stands you can knock it down. There is a 2-player split screen multiplayer. And, as if all of this weren\'t enough, the character designs are by none other than Toshihiro Kawamoto, of Cowboy Bebop fame.

The game isn\'t perfect-I can already tell that the story line running between battles is tedious at best, and the one female human character is of the annoying giggle-box anime variety rather than the kick-ass heroine kind-but this game is a one of a kind experience. I was truly wowed by the scale and intensity of the battles. Mech lovers, put this one on your must play list, it is guaranteed to be an interesting ride.