Ahoy! Apologies for the lack of posts recently. In between IGDA Scotland stuff, being ill and… other stuff things got away from me. Also with an upcoming busy period I’m looking to transition this to once a week to see how it pans out. Anyway, today we look at a Neo Geo Pocket Color game as previously threatened: Sacnoth’s mech strategy RPG Faselei!
Mecha games aren’t entirely uncommon out of Japan. The influence of the likes of Mazinger, Macross, and Gundam to name a few clearly imprinted on game developers in the ’80s and ’90s. While the more obvious approach was to incorporate these elements into action games, devs also looked to create large scale battles in the Strategy genre. A number of licenses were put to use, Gundam games appeared everywhere, or the crossover Super Robot Wars to make mecha fans dreams come true. Original IPs popped up as well, such as Square Enix’s long-lived Front Mission series.
Front Mission 1
Even SNK’s portable fighting game machine also found itself with a little mecha SRPG. Faselei! doesn’t just stick out due to its platform, but also withit’s interpretation of the SRPG formula. You move units on a map, get in range of an enemy, then take it out with your weapon of choice. Outside of battle you can buy new equipment to upgrade your unit, speak to allies for additional plot, buy items… so far, so the same.
The difference lies in how battles play out, and how you set up for them. The closest analogue is akin to programming. Players input a number of actions, up to 5 to start with, from an equipped palette. Once players have filled up their command stack, the actions of every unit on screen plays out in real time. Here’s an example from the first mission/tutorial:
Video Source: Toneman. It’s pretty old…
Got that? Another factor of the “everyone moves at once” aspect is things may not play out as planned. That enemy you were hoping to gun down after one step might just have shifted out of range, though you can estimate where things may move. So prediction plays an important role on top of the usual grid based tactics. Not to mention the fact that different weapons have different ranges, abilities and other considerations to think about.
Of course, you’re initially limited to the number of weapons you can actually use either due to how many your mech can equip or how many assigned weapon chips you have. And equipped chips is where the fun comes in. Do you want to trade off reloading for an additional weapon? What if you can strafe left but not right? There’s a fair amount of choice beyond “buy better gear”, and scope for optionally shifting the difficulty for what is a fairly short, easy game. Turning right three times is the same as turning left, so maybe there’s room for a laser!
Yoinked from HG101. Compare that with the options in the video.
The game’s short release cycle, hardware of choice and general rarity is a possible reason as to why it hasn’t directly influenced others in the genre, but the rise of programming games such as Human Resource Machine have a passing resemblence. Frozen Synapse shares the “everyone moves at once” concept, but otherwise is its own thing. And to sign off, here’s a last forward thinking Faselei! had. Enjoy…
Bonus points for deciphering the lyrics.
 Some of these even made it out of Japan! One fairly well known SNES example, Cybernator, is part of the Assault Suits series. You can read more on their development here: http://shmuplations.com/assaultsuitsvalken/
 Super Robot Wars is exactly what it says and features the mentioned licenses and a whole load more, including original models, as time passed. So far only games from the Original Generation line have officially made it out of Japan, probably de to IP issues.
 Front Mission also has a spotty international release history. The 1st English release was actually the 3rd title on the PS1, followed by the 4th on the PS2 then a remake of the 1st game on the DS. We also got the PS3 spin off title Front Mission Evolved which wasn’t really received well, though it wasn’t the 1st action title in the series. Front Mission Gun Hazard on the SFC is similar to Cybernator but broader in scope and far better than its successor, with a few high profile names working on it
 If you want their take on the game, head over here: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/faselei/faselei.htm
 Ho boy. So if you remember the NGPC’s short commercial run then you’ll know the shelf life of the handheld was less than some Christmas wares. Faselei! had an extra hurdle in being launched just as the console was being pulled from market in Europe, and cancelled all together in the US. While said US copies filtered through in later years via multi-game, cart only blister packs to liquidate stock the game is still pretty rare, with a print run quoted at around 10,000 (across both of these regions at least). Naturally, complete English copies are even fewer in number and demand a hefty price tag.
 Programming games have seen a nice uptick recently. Zachtronics produce a number of titles around differing themes but can be pretty heavy. Human Resource Machine is a nice intro to basic programming concepts, so check it out: http://store.steampowered.com/app/375820/