One thing's for certain: people love big robots. They've been integrated into every facet of popular culture with almost 40 years worth of TV shows, anime, novels, board games, and now even movies like Transformers that all star the gigantic hulks we all love. Video games are the ideal playground for such machines, but sadly, not enough games starring giant robots are released. When they are released, they can sometimes make a bad name for the good games in the genre (Gundam: Crossfire). While flashy action titles like Zone of the Enders and Senko no Ronde, more "realistic" titles like Chromehounds and Armored Core, and even a few RPG's like Xenogears/Xenosaga have kept us mecha fans satiated in recent years, there were a few scattered mecha games of yesteryear that gamers in the west were lucky to experience.
Two such mecha titles in particular were the work of the late, great Gunpei Yokoi (say what you will about the Virtual Boy, the man was reponsible for Super Metroid, which makes him a pseudo-deity in my book). These were Battle Clash (Space Bazooka in Japan) and its sequel, Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge, a pair of one-on-one mecha fighting games utilizing the SNES's somewhat cumbersome Super Scope. As with most of Nintendo's odd and mostly unsupported peripherals (the Power Glove, the Super Multitap), the Super Scope didn't have much going for it, but Battle Clash and Metal Combat are reason enough to warrant the peripheral's existence.
Remember that awesome movie from the early 90s, Robot Jox? Well, Battle Clash is just like that, only not quite as goofy (which is either a good thing or bad thing, depending on how you feel about unintentional comedy). The plot is simple; you (a rookie gunner) and Mike Anderson must travel the world and engage a myriad of outlandish mecha pilots (known as Chiefs) in tournament-style combat. As you move up the tournament ladder you slowly move toward your ultimate goal of meeting up with the evil Anubis, who not only runs this whole show from behind the scenes, but is also responsible for the death of Mike's father.
Battle Clash is host to a group of outlandish, freaky pilots in equally outlandish mecha (called ST's).
The typical All American Hero. Aside from aspiring to be the champion of the Battle Game, Mike is also on a quest for revenge against Anubis for the death of his father. He pilots the Falcon, which is not only his mecha, but also a character in itself which can speak to the player and give advice.
The Chief of North America. A hulking, grizzled mountain man who takes up arms in a giant gorilla-shaped mecha known as the Garam. He's hot-headed and has an over-inflated ego.
The Chief of Africa. Ikhnaton is a gluttonous, aristocratic arms dealer and oil tycoon. He pilots a chubby, heavily armored insectoid mecha known as the Scarab.
The Chief of Europe. A very creepy-looking, androgynous pilot who calls himself the "Bard of Battle". He pilots a flimsy but extremely agile humanoid mecha whom Lorca, in his vanity, named after himself.
The Chief of South America. She's the only female chief in the game. She becomes smitten with Mike after their battle and helps him out later on. Tasha pilots the Artemis, a flying ST that fires large payloads of missiles.
The Chief of Asia. A cowardly but calculating genius engineer. His ST has an anti-gravity engine that allows it to fly without the use of rocket thrusters. It also has three orbs that hover around it to deflect attacks.
The Chief of Oceania. He governs the oceans of the world and harbors secret ambitions to see Anubis defeated. His ST, Ivan, is a huge crab mecha that is covered completely in armor and is only vulnerable via its canons.
Eddie is actually not a chief. He is one of the generals of the space military, brainwashed by Anubis for his exceptional combat skills. He guards the Tower of Babel, a mass driver leading to space, with his ST, Valius, a deadly ninja mech extremely adept at evasion.
He's another general of the space military, who, due to his own inner ambitions, was corrupted by Anubis. Carlos is the most skilled human pilot in the game and develops a lasting rivalry with Mike. He patrols the Moonbase Luna in the Baron, a more advanced model of Mike's Falcon.
The current champion of the Battle Game and leader of the world nations. He's an evil tyrant who killed Mike's father to attain his rank. He fights in the Thanatos, an extremely powerful, biomechanical ST with almost supernatural powers that can transform into a nightmarish creature.
After initiating combat with one of the chiefs, your enemy will begin dashing left or right. To follow them, you'll need to aim the Super Scope toward the edge of the screen in which you wish to travel. Once you've caught up, the battle will ensue. You and your opponent begin exchanging volleys of gunfire. An amazing amount of control is given to the player despite the limited interface that the Super Scope provides. Every attack can be deflected by one of your own shots. However, your counter attack must be of equal or greater power. The power of your shots is determined by a charge meter, which fills up while you're not attacking. The bouts are really intense in that you'll constantly have to counter incoming fire while looking for openings to attack your enemies.
Attacking your enemies isn't always a straightforward affair. The first fight is largely a training session and you can just attack it where you please, but from the second fight onward, you'll need to use a lot more strategy. The ST's you'll be facing have better technology as you progress. Most ST's have very thick armor plating and can only be damaged in certain places such as joints, exhaust ports, or canon housings. One of the best features is each part of an ST's frame takes damage individually, so if you focus your attention on specific parts of its body, you can disable many of an enemy ST's abilities. For instance, if you repeatedly hit an enemy's rocket boosters, they wont be able to fly, or you can blow off its legs so that it'll be completely immobilized. You can blast off its head to lower its accuracy and you can even destroy all its mounted weapons and leave it nearly defenseless. You don't have to destroy the individual parts, of course, but it makes the battle a lot more manageable. Besides, crippling your enemy and leaving them helpless makes the battle a lot more satisfying.
As you defeat enemies, you'll also pick up special items along the way. These items include different types of bombs, shields, and an item that gives you a crosshair which allows you to have more accuracy. You can only stock 4 items at a time, however, so you have to pick and choose which ones you want to use.
Battle Clash looks and sounds a lot like F-Zero. It utilizes the same types of scaling and parallax techniques, and the overall futuristic design matches up with the sci-fi racer. In terms of sprite animation and special effects, Battle Clash is top notch for its time. The enemy sprites have lots of animations and the level of technical detail on the ST's (i.e. dents and scuff marks where an enemy ST has been shot) is higher than most other games of the time. The music, also like F-Zero's, is pretty catchy with a fast-paced rock/pop feel to it, though it was composed by Yuka Tsujiyoko of Fire Emblem fame.
Battle Clash combines a lot of great elements to produce a very well made little game. Though the Super Scope is a bit unwieldy and makes anyone holding it look ridiculous (and you thought the WiiMote made you look silly...), Battle Clash makes good use of the peripheral and dishes out good ol' fashioned arcade-style fun.
A year or so after Battle Clash, a sequel was released. Although developed by the same Japanese crew, Metal Combat was only released to the western world, as the Super Scope was a far less successful venture in Japan (which is hard to imagine considering how unsuccessful it was here). Despite being a mere afterthought for Intelligent Systems with major projects like Super Metroid and Fire Emblem looming overhead, Metal Combat manages to surpass its predecessor in every imaginable way while still offering the same great core play experience. Some time has passed since the last Battle Game which ended with the defeat of Anubis. A new threat approaches as a fleet of alien invaders enter the solar system. The story unfolds a bit like Gunbuster. Mike takes the rookie gunner (you) under his wing again and trains you to be the next generation of defense against the aliens. Another Battle Game ensues on Earth to determine who is the strongest ST pilot, because only a pilot strong enough to be the Battle Game champion can hope to lead the earth to victory in the oncoming battle. Once again, the player must take on a group of diverse and outlandish ST pilots.
Mike returns once again to pilot the Falcon along with the help of you, his trusty gunner. There's not much else to say about Mike. He's still Mike.
Rola is an Eltorian, a member of the alien race planning to invade earth. However, she's not an enemy. She occasionally pops in to help the player, and ultimately becomes the catalyst for the final battle, taking the traditional role of damsel in distress. She pilots a winged, angelic ST called the Spika, which you can't play as.
He's one of only two returning Chiefs from the first game. Guido once again goes against the player in a gorilla-like ST, only this time it's the Garam Mark II, a suped up version of Guido's ST from the first game with quite a few new tricks up its sleeve and upgraded armor.
He's Guido's sworn brother and pilot of the Siamang, an annoying monkey-like ST similar to Lorca's in the first game, with the same speed and agility, only with more lethal and unexpected attacks.
Dayan is a Mongolian warlord who was defeated by Anubis and forced to swear allegiance to him. He pilots the ST called Wong, which has an almost impenetrable defense. The battle with this ST takes place on the Great Wall of China, with the Falcon on the Chinese side and Wong on the Mongolian side.
Orusoh is the snotty, wimpy top general to Anubis's invasion army and pilot of the Griffon ST, a powerful mech suited for flight. He takes the place of Eddie from the first game, guarding the Babel Tower mass driver. Random tidbit: "Orusoh" is "Horus" with a few letters mixed around. Horus is the the counterpart to Anubis in Egyptian mythology.
Carlos returns, scarred from his intense battle with the Falcon in the previous game. He once again sides with Anubis, but this time only to exact revenge upon the Falcon. He pilots the Viscount, a far upgraded version of the Baron ST he piloted in the first game, which carries a huge beam rifle that can nearly fell the Falcon in one shot if not properly countered.
Anubis returns as well, apparently having survived the explosion of his ST in the first game. This time he seems part mechanical. His ST is still the Thanatos, more or less the same as it was before with a few new techniques.
After defeating the Anubis, the game launches into its second phase against the elite ST pilots of the Eltorian race. The first is Danpe in the ST Arachnus, which of course is a spider-like ST. Quite an annoying ST that constantly launches huge volleys of missiles. Not only that, but it also becomes nearly impossible to defeat if you destroy its thorax, which is the easiest part of its body to hit.
Zephyr is a high-class warrior with a great knowledge of technology. He created the ST Cobra, which is one of the most powerful ST's in the game. It has a huge arm cannon and a shield that can absorb your fully-charged shots.
After you defeat Zephyr, he runs off crying to his wife, Pamela. Pamela then challenges you to an ST match in her huge, hideous mech called the Groken, which is a giant squid. This ST is extremely tough and can only be attacked when it exposes itself for its coup de grace. The rest of the time you'll just spend defending onslaughts of gunfire.
This ST is the true version of Anubis, whom reveals that the previous two incarnations were merely clones. This Anubis pilots the Virvius, which is essentially the Thanatos, but a far more powerful version than the ST's his clones piloted. Like the Thanatos at the end of Battle Clash, this one can also turn into a huge, multi-headed creature.
Typhon is the leader of the Eltorians and mastermind behind the invasion. He's far more evil and diabolical than even Anubis and plans to enslave the human race like any good villain does. His ST, the Giga-Desp, has two forms, the first a small parasite-looking mecha with many orbs circling around it. The second a huge monster that captures Rola and tries to use her as a shield. Depending on how the fight goes, Mike may sacrifice himself and leave the Falcon under the player's control.
Carol is an unlockable ST pilot available via a password you receive after the you beat the game. Carol pilots the ST Tornado, which is an extremely powerful mech that can stock 10 bars of energy opposed to the Falcon's 3, and can fire each stock individually rather than spending it all in one shot. The Tornado has far less defense than the Falcon, though.
Aside from having many more characters and battles, Metal Combat introduces many new elements on top of refining the already solid, existing combat system. The fights are way more intense in this game. Even more strategy is involved, especially in the later fights where nearly every few seconds the enemy will launch an attack that can kill you instantly. You really need to be on your game and ready to deflect every major attack that comes your way. A lot more emphasis has been placed on disabling an ST by blowing off certain body parts, as some battles are virtually impossible without damaging an ST's critical points and disarming their more lethal weapons. You'll likely spend a good minute or two just punching through an ST's armor and taking out their weapons before you really get around to damaging it.
A lot more attention has been invested into the items as well. The old items are still there but some new one-time only items have been introduced, such as several types of bomb that have varying levels of damage with added status effects. The Falcon itself has also been upgraded. It can now stock 3 levels of charge energy and unleash them in a new attack called the Treble Energy Bolt, which causes massive damage if used at the right point in a battle. Some replay value has been thrown in with the addition of a second character that can be unlocked, whom pilots an ST with an entirely different set of abilities from the Falcon.
Some new modes have been added to the game as well. A training mode was included to help new players adapt to using the Super Scope, which is a required course the first play-through. More importantly, a vs. game was included where one player will use the Super Scope and control the Falcon and the other can pilot one of the enemy STs using a standard SNES controller. This mode tends to be more fun for the second player since the enemy STs have a lot more attack options, but it would be hard to conceive such a mode in any other fashion.
The graphics are even better this time around. The art is more detailed and objects in the background have more multi-layering. The mode-7 foregrounds are also a lot less grainy and pixilated than in Battle Clash. Soundwise, the game is a step above Battle Clash with much catchier music and some cool remixes of a few of the themes from the first game.
And so you have it. Two very solid mecha fighting games that mostly went under the radar due to the utilization of a very unpopular peripheral. I'm not sure what Nintendo is smoking, but this game NEEDS to come out for the Wii Virtual Console. The WiiMote would be the perfect interface device to replace the old clunky Super Scope and would allow the game to be finally recognized by a larger audience.