by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Tokusatsu programs are superhero shows from Japan, featuring full-body costumes, explosions, cool fight scenes, and giant robots that date back to the 70s. There have not been too many great giant monster/tokusatsu games over the years. The greatest of this franchise was probably Neo Geo’s arcade classic King of the Monsters, where players picked a giant monster and battled their way across large landscapes, fighting against other giant monster characters. Not enough fighting games have gone this direction since, allowing Override: Mech City Brawl to really stand out in this year’s crop of fighting games. Hearkening to the American Power Rangers and Japanese Super Hero Time shows, with a fun Science-Fiction plot, these huge, clunky robots have everything I need in one location. The game concept is nice and simple: You pick a giant robot, and you pick a stage. Then you and up to three others duke it out, and the last one standing wins. There are weapon pickups, special attacks, ultimate attacks, cool cosmetics, and lots of high-octane action. But before we get to the meat and potatoes of this game, I want to point something very important out.
Override: Mech City Brawl has lots of costumes for the robots to change their designs, and it’s a retail game. The deluxe edition offers a Legendary skin for every single Mech, and also comes with the Season Pass for all the extra robots that will come out later. While I’m personally not crazy about paying for extra characters, I understand that is simply the business model of fighting games now, and I accept that reality. But you know what this game does not have? No loot boxes! No microtransaction store! No battle pass to buy separately! All you need is to just buy the damn game. The entire current cast is there, and while yes, there are more mechs coming, it’s a solid cast of varied characters that come with the game already. Whether you win or lose, you unlock skins simply by playing the game. What a wonderful concept – just play the game, get the cool color/skin changes, and just enjoy the game without all the stress of being pressured into spending more money.
One of my major worries was “Will I be able to find matches online?” as that’s one of the most important things to a fighting game – being able to find real people to play with. You can play it in house with four player versus, but have you tried to get three other people to do something at the same time, at the same place? That’s just about impossible. I reviewed this on the Xbox One, and it was a great game to break in my newest console. My average wait time was about 1-2 minutes, with occasional long waits during non-peak hours (when everyone’s at school/work/et cetera). But I had no trouble finding a battle online, even if most of the people I played against were far more skilled than me. That’s not why I love this concept. It’s a well-executed idea: Giant robots pounding the nonsense out of each other. It has a few easy-to-grasp modes, from a solid tutorial, an arcade mode where you fight hordes of enemy aliens that are trying to take over the world, versus/training modes, and of course, the online play. Let’s talk about the actual gameplay first though.
Each of the robots, despite being very different in terms of design, size, reach and powers, all function the exact same. It was a little awkward to get used to these controls, and I can’t see playing it on a keyboard and mouse. This is definitely a controller game, that’s no question. Your attack buttons are on the trigger/bumper buttons (L1/2 R1/2). The L1/R1 buttons correspond to your Left/Right punch, and your L2/R2 are the kick buttons. Sometimes hitting two buttons at the same time will do a cool extra move, like a tail sweep. Your face buttons are the dash, guard, jump/jetpack and special move buttons. Holding your special move button (X) and then hitting an attack will activate one of your special abilities. Each mech has its own, and it’s important to learn their ability range and the purpose of each special. You can also pick up weapons on the map with the D-Pad, and swing them with the Left/Right punch button. These range from awesome guns to beam sabers, and they can really help turn the tide. You can’t just spam your attacks, special or otherwise though. You have a heat gauge, and running it to the end will Overheat the mech, which results in having to wait to attack again. The jump feels very good if a little floaty, but you are defenseless in the air. If you don’t time your jump kick/punch well, prepare to get punished. The damage is pretty reasonable, except for some of the really crazy grapple moves. I can’t think of a fighting game that doesn’t have incredibly strong throws though.
This adds a little more strategy and depth to the game. You have a defense shield too, but it only acts in front of you, so a more mobile mech might be able to get around you and still deal damage or knock you down. Mechs also have an Ultimate Attack, which is used by hitting both Bumper Buttons. You receive a cool, brief cutscene and then the attack goes off, and they hit hard and have a pretty incredible range for the most part. This can be annoying in training because you start with low health and when I try to dip between Left/Right punch and wind up hitting them too fast and use my ultimate instead. The actual combat feels a little clunky and slow, but that’s the way it’s supposed to feel. These are huge, slow mecha. They aren’t supposed to feel fluid and smooth! The actual attacks and attack animations are very good. The major problem with combat is the camera control. If you don’t lock on to whomever you are fighting, it’s far too easy to lose track of them, and the camera doesn’t auto-track otherwise. There are times where the camera glitches out too and you stop being able to see anything of note, and before I know it, the match is over. In cityscape stages, you can also get lost briefly behind buildings, thanks to the size of the mech and the camera angle.
The game could also use some balance, as some of the mech definitely feel stronger than the others, but that’s something that, like all other fighting games, can and should come with time and patches. I don’t feel like they should all be dead even, but there should never be matches that feel unwinnable based solely on what mech you pick. It’s not at all hard to be zoned out by ranged attacks, just long enough to be defeated or grab a nice strong weapon. Despite that, the combat is very enjoyable, and I can see this being a popular, fun party game. A few pizzas, beers/sodas, and four-player Override? Sounds like an incredible night in. I love that you can’t make yourself stronger or more powerful in the online/in-house versus modes. The cosmetics (hats, ties, skins) do not make you better; only cooler/wackier. The Arcade Mode does let you power-up your mech, with weapons, upgrades and other researchable things, but that stays in your arcade mode save file (which there are three of, so other people can try it without messing up your file). I won’t spoil the story, but it’s a fun mode where you rampage across cityscapes and open areas, demolishing aliens and other threats to the Earth. I will say the story mode can get a little repetitive, so I find myself playing a mission or two, then practicing in training/going into online matches for a real challenge.
Dai-Ren Oh – Hashin! 3.5/5 (Good)
While I don’t know if this is going to show up on the main stage of EVO anytime soon, it’s an enjoyable fighter that I hope the community embraces. It does offer tactical depth, and you can perform some combos/set-ups for big damage, but it’s no Tekken, Soulcalibur, or Street Fighter Alpha 3. That is one of the things I’ve enjoyed about Override though. It’s just trying to be its own entity: A fun brawler/couch-co-op experience. It definitely feels true to the tokusatsu background, the robots/pilot personalities are a blast, each robot feels different, and the designs are outstanding. I was sort of hoping to hear the pilots of the mecha during the PVP battles though, talking trash and yelling in victory/defeat. I like the concept of the Overheat gauge, but in a way it slows down the pace of the game if you have to spend time looking at your gauge to see if you’re about to heat up. The fights themselves can and often do go back and forth, and each new fight is a new intense experience. It may seem pretty simple on the surface, but there’s definitely a lot to learn here, from counter-attacks, matchups, and more. Even if you don’t go deep-diving for pro fighting game tech, there’s a lot of fun to be had simply smashing buildings and mech to pieces.
Using the training mode, I imagine you can learn what you can/can not get away with, but its place in the UI should be perhaps near the actual mech, not the top of the screen. There is plenty of challenge and enjoyment in this game, and I think hardcore fighting fans and casual party-game fighters will find Override to be fun. That’s the important part: fun. Every session was enjoyable and felt like a real, loving tribute to giant robot fights. Not since VIRTUAL ON have I enjoyed giant robot battles so much. It’s satisfying to plow through buildings, shoot lasers at other robots, and watch them topple to the ground and explode in a ridiculous, exaggerated eruption of flames. Huge robots, awesome attacks, and fun multiplayer? What more could you want? For a 30 dollar price tag, this game delivers. I think after a few updates, the balance will be more on point, and will make it even more enjoyable than it already is.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.