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Robotech: Crystal Dreams Preview

Publisher - Philips
Developer - Gametek
Platform - N64
Release Date - October 1998
Type - Flying/Action

Has it been long enough yet!?! Have we all not been waiting for Robotech long enough!? Apparently not as we have to wait until this summer for the Japanse version. So what do have for you today? Aside from the mock-up shots that have been around since pre-N64 launch we have some shots of the actual vehicles; texture mapped and all, as well as a video. Yes. Gametek was gracious enough to give us an 8 Meg video and a wav file of some music.

And for your reading pleasure we have a TON of new info on gameplay, missions, characters, story, and more. So, off we go into the world of Robotech: Crystal Dreams. The story was written by two Robotech fans; Lizard Harac and Doug Lanford and takes place near the end of the first part of Robotech: Macross, 9 months before the SDF-3 is scheduled to leave for Robotech Masters' homeworld. This is a point in time that has never been documented before so it gives these guys complete freedom to work their writing wonders. I don't want to reveal a whole lot about the story for two reasons. One, it just wouldn't be right! Two, the game implements Gametek's MultiBranching ChronoSync Algorith (MBCSA). In other words, the entire story develops around your actions and decisions, success and efficiency, strategy and problem-solving, all in real time. I will tell you this, you will meet several classic characters (Rick, Max, and Minmei to name a few) as well as a cast of brand new characters including Kyle Bartley (YOU), Eboliar, Vala Norri, and several others.

The action sequences are limited to space battles with no ground battles (though Gametek is hinting at a sequel that will most definitely incorporate these features). That may sound somewhat limiting but when you consider the size and scope of the missions you'll understand. At first, most people will think Robotech is akin to Wing Commander in that there are "scripted" battles. On the contrary, Robotech gives you complete control over your actions. You're free to explore the vast areas of space per mission, go head into a battle, or withdraw from a mission to join another. That's right. During some missions you will be contacted and requested to leave your current battle to help in another. It could be that you are en route to the SDF-3 and are contacted by a convoy that is under attack. You can continue on or go and help the convoy. Your decision is then processed through that MBCSA thing and the story changes. Cool!

What's more? Some battles will indefinitely move the story while others are randomly generated skirmishes. Each mission will feature it's own objectives and warrant it's own strategy. Sometimes you will be assisting a convoy and defending attacks. Other times you will have to strategically take out large Zentraedi ships and still others will pose you against vast numbers of fighters (with assistance from wingmen of course). Aside from feeling good about yourself after winning, you are awarded money that can be used at several places to buy upgrades. You see, since you're a mercenary loosly affiliated with the RDF they won't fund your resupplying (doh, I said more about the storyline!). You can also smooth-talk your way into upgrades if you impress someone with your flying/fighting skills. Of course, free stuff usually comes with some strings attached.

Well, by now I'm sure your wondering how you'll control your Veritech fighter in such free and intense situations..right? Simple. Gametek has streamlined the Veritech cockpit to include the essential features and has managed to keep the anime-look intact. There are at least two views that we know of. The cockpit view and a "tailgunner" view that will look behind you from the outside (I think it's mainly to show off the transformations, but that's just me I guess). Speaking of transformations, what kind of Robotech game would be complete without them? As any fan would expect there's guardian, fighter, and battloid modes (each with strengths and weaknesses) and their controls change as you play. Never before has a flight sim changed control methods WHILE you're still playing. This will definitely add to the feeling that you're THERE. And while your control is changing inside, outside your fighter is transforming exactly as it does in the series. Parts moving, folding, to form your individual modes. Very impressive.

Enemies are also very detailed and true to form including PODS, numerous forms of Zentraedi crafts, and the newly crafted "crystal fighters" (have you ever seen a cubic zerconia with guns? Same thing). Other structures hold true to their anime counterparts including ARMD stations, transports, Tri thrusted pods, and more. To further add to the authenticity all of the structures and crafts in this game are extremely well textured and look very solid (as opposed to loose fitting polygons resulting in "seaming" where you can see the gaps).

The music and sound effects do their part as well, offering music from the original series as well as new compositions by Barry Blum. The effects are crisp and supposedly incorporate a "3D" technology though through computer speakers I think something is lost. Originally the game was set to feature very little voice acting but has recently been refitted with over 20 minutes of dialogue for 14 characters including Minmei!

The video is a sizable download but well worth it to any Robotech fan. Gametek stresses that the footage is early, hopefully accounting for the somewhat slow character movement. But look at the detail, the smooth transformations, seamless textures and completely solid objects (not to mention the kickin' tuneage). If all this talk hasn't completey convinced you, the video will!

So, despite the fact that we haven't seen much more of the game itself we do know a helluva lot more about it and as long as we have info we can always dream, right? Until next time enjoy all this concept and render work, the video and the WAV files. Just a note about them. Most of the pictures are rather large as are the wav and quicktime files. Sorry if it's an inconveniece but it's worth the wait. Enjoy.