Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser
Release Date: June 4, 2015
Publisher (Developer): Nyu Media (ASTRO PORT)
ESRB Rating: Not Rated (Likely E for Everyone for mild cartoon violence)
I’m about to give you a full review of this game in one sentence. Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser is exactly what you think when you hear that it’s a bullet hell game based on the giant robot animes of the late 70s.
Unfortunately, Technology Tell’s Gaming Channel insists that a review follow a certain format and, if I want to keep my job, I have to follow said format. True, they only pay out in broken WiiMotes and empty wine bottles, but those bottles can fetch a nice price in recycling.
Anyway, Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser is a bullet hell game.
If you’re not familiar with bullet hell games, they are games in which you fly around, avoiding a non-stop torrent of bullets and enemies. Or, as they were called when I was a young princess, “video games”. My experience is that bullet hell games normally star a spaceship or an airplane of some sort. It surprises me that this is the first giant robot bullet hell game I’ve ever seen and played.
There are four difficulties to choose from in Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser. I’m going to be honest, I managed to beat the game on Easy, but I have yet to get further than the end of the second stage on Normal. The game is hard, is what I’m saying. However, I never got the feeling that the game was unfair. The only part of the robot that could actually get hit was the very center, which was helpfully indicated by a glowing light. That meant you had a much smaller hit box and could fly and duck around the oncoming bullets if you were skilled enough.
Another thing that Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser had going for it was four power-ups. These came in the form of helper-bots, piloted by one of four giant robot anime stereotype characters. However, calling them “power-ups” is a bit misleading. They’re not found randomly, and they don’t go away after one hit or you die. Instead, you get your choice of any of the four near the beginning of each level. Later in the level, you get the option to change to another one, but which one is based on the initial ability you chose. They also have their own health bar, which takes damage whenever you take damage. The health bar is much shorter, however, and thus you can lose the robot if you take too much damage. Once the robot is gone, it’s gone. You can’t get it back for the rest of the game.
The mini-bots are all genuinely useful, and play genuinely different. They each have different benefits and drawbacks in terms of attack power, range, and bullet spread. They also have different benefits and drawbacks in terms of special attacks. What’s more, while the differences are a matter of play style, there are situations in which one is objectively better than another. Some boss enemies will almost require you to attack straight on, and the bot that fires scatter shot is a drawback. Or vice versa. Honestly, the fact that each one alters the game in such a drastic way is genuinely impressive, perhaps the most impressive part of Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser.
I find that the best, if not most impressive, part of Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser is its absolute commitment to its premise. It wants you to feel like you’re playing a late 70’s giant robot anime, and by the spirits, that’s what you’re playing. The title screen starts off showing you the chaos of the alien invasion, and then the menu screen shows you our five pilots, each decked out in a white body suit with an oddly high popped collar and a giant V on the chest. You know, for Vulkaiser.
Each of the characters in Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser match a traditional stereotype. There’s the grizzled old veteran with grey hair and a bushy mustache who tells you how you’re still wet behind the ears. There’s the angry woman out for vengeance because the robot aliens killed her father. There’s the shy and bubbly scientist girl who’s just so excited to be helpful. And there’s the young child who inexplicably gets to pilot a weaponized robot in spite of being twelve, and is out to prove he’s a man.
The main protagonist, I.E. you, in Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser is a blank slate. To the point that I actually thought they hadn’t dictated any information about him at all, until I realized we did see him in some of the game art. Then I was sad that he was your standard short, brown haired anime dude. I understand why they did that, but I think it would have been more entertaining if they’d put a helmet on him, and drawn him as incredibly androgynous specifically to mask what his gender was. In a game that has almost no plot and absolutely no development of the protagonist, it wouldn’t have mattered if the pilot was a male or female.
And there is no plot in Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser, even though there’s a lot of things that make it almost seem like there’s a plot. Or, more correctly, there’s a lot of necessary trope moments, and the fact that they do them so well and so obviously causes you to fill in the plot yourself. There’s an androgynous alien leader, and you fight them as a mid-level boss in each level. After each level, one of the mini-bot’s pilots (the one you beat the level with) will pop up as a drawn still and some text will indicate something they’re saying. It will be completely appropriate for their stereotype, such as the the grizzled vet telling you that you’re still wet behind the ears, or the angry woman looking for vengeance asking you what you’re fighting for. But there’s no real plot. That’s not a complaint, however. There doesn’t need to be a plot, because, as I said, you already know the plot. If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen the plot a dozen and a half times because Voltron is the greatest cartoon ever and I will fight anyone who claims otherwise.
I said earlier that the different ways the mini-bots play in Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser was perhaps the most impressive part of the game, and I stand by that. But what makes them fun is the trappings. The main “ship” is a giant robot, as I’ve said. It’s your basic humanoid robot, flying with arms straight out, firing lasers and, as a charged attack, shooting fists. The mini-bots each add their own attack and charged attack. The angry woman’s mini-bot is a drill (I don’t have to make a Gurren Lagann joke, you’re already making it). It shoots out another drill as a charged attack, and as a special attack, it’s a super massive drill. It’s super powerful, but also super short ranged.
Then the grizzled war vet pilots a missile bot. It shoots a continuous stream of missiles, and as a charged attack shoots a bigger missile. It’s special attack? Super massive stream of big missiles! It’s longer range, but doesn’t spread very much. Young kid pilots a thunder-bot, which spreads decently well and charges up to shoot a big, wide laser beam. It’s special attack, which rocks the screen with thunder, does almost no damage. Lastly, the shy, nerdy scientist flies a needle-bot, which spreads all across the screen but doesn’t do much damage, does a little more damage with a more concentrated spread when charged, and simply causes an explosion for a special attack.
The mini-bots in Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser are completely ridiculous, and also 100% accurate to the premise. Plus, every time you combine with one, you get a splash screen of the combined robots, and the name of the robot in impact font. Yes, I would sit at my computer yelling “DRILL KAISER, GO!”, and no, I’m not apologizing.
Let me lay it out for you in no uncertain terms. Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser is fun. It’s not a deep, intense game. It’s not going to tell you a heartbreaking story. It’s not trying to be artistic. The graphics are certainly good, and the sound track is amazing in how spot-on it is for it’s premise, but it’s not an art piece in the way Toren was.
It’s just a fun game. It’s a simple, short bullet hell game that sticks to its premise like super glue. It’s not sadistic, or at least the two difficulties I tried aren’t sadistic. It may get sadistic on the harder difficulties, I’m too much of a pansy to have tried them. But the fact that it’s easy to play, and reminds me in every way of the kinds of animes I absolutely adored as a child, made me fall in love with this game. And at the low price of $4.99, if any of this appealed to you in theory, it’s not like you’ll be breaking the bank to buy it.
A review copy was provided for this review.