Friday, December 2, 2011

Macross: Eien no Love Song

Super CD-ROM

I never thought such a thing would be possible, but in Eternal Love Song, I found a strategy game that I actually really enjoy. It's reminiscent of fellow NCS/Masaya product Langrisser in matters of gameplay and presentation, but it's much, much better in so many different ways.

The strategizing here involves taking advantage of the myriad weapons (and, in some cases, various forms) at the disposal of your mecha. Each type of machine has its own strengths and weaknesses, of course, but they can all dish out serious damage if you place them prudently about the battle zone, make optimal use of their special limited-ammo armaments, and remember to take into consideration their respective attack ranges. This isn't the boring rock-paper-scissors sort of bullshit that Langrisser wallows in with its soldier-archer-horseman system (which often has pods either produce all-out massacres or find themselves unable even to scratch their opponents). Practically everything can lay a solid beating on everything else here, but you need to be discreet when deciding if the time is right to unleash a mighty missile attack or separate from your fleet and soar across the field.

Another advantage of the ELS system is that it doesn't land you in Langrisser-type situations where you have to drag troops across the map just so that they can fight the enemy breed they're "suited for." And while terrain bonuses and penalties are present here, the battlefields are wide open for the most part, so there are no ridiculous sequences a la the Langrisser scenarios that require players to squeeze their whole damn cavalry through a corridor or across a bridge that's two tiles wide. I'm sure some serious-minded strategy-game fans would say that these things make ELS too simple or easy compared to "masterpieces" like Langrisser, but I say they make it a lot more fun to play.

Of course, the Macross theme doesn't hurt, as fans of Robotech and Super Dimension Fortress: Macross will find a lot to like about Love Song's plot. The first half of the LS tale is basically a retelling of one of the anime's most significant sub-stories. It focuses on the fiery Misty, a highly skilled Meltrandi pilot who micronizes herself to mingle with and spy on the enemy Earthlings. She eventually discovers the delights of human culture and ends up falling for a micronian ace (sound familiar?). The second half has you settle some old scores from 2036, so be prepared to encounter a few longtime friends and foes if you've played through that game.

It all climaxes with a string of intense outer-space showdowns, one of which involves the launching of a "Minmay attack" (Mari Iijima's incredible "Do You Remember Love?" augments the action).

The cinemas detailing the intriguing story are pretty good, certainly superior to Langrisser's interludes, and there are lots of them (one preceding each of the twenty-nine missions in addition to opening and ending sequences). The in-game map screens are par for the strategy-games course visually, but the side-view unit-vs.-unit skirmishes (which play out automatically) feature multilayer scrolling and large ships and mecha.

Sadly, you'll need to turn off the combat sketch-scenes after a while or the missions will last way too long for even the most patient person to sit through. You'll never feel the need to turn off the outstanding audio, though. Love Song's soundtrack features its fair share of remixed Macross stuff, but most of the tunes are original, not to mention fantastic. The melodic hooks and rockin' riffs are all atmospheric and memorable.

ELS failed to change the way I view its peers; I didn't rush out to buy more strategy games after conquering it. It was so enjoyable, though, that it established itself as the only one I'll ever really need. Still, I can't help but wish there were a Southern Cross game just like it.

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