R.A.D: Robot Alchemic Drive Review (PS2)
The Japanese gaming market is huge, and Japanese gaming tastes often differ from western tastes. Where most Americans eagerly await the next block buster FPS or third person action game, Japanese gamers line up at stores to buy anime inspired RPGs, dating sims, turn based strategy games and more.
Thus, every year, many Japanese games never see release in America. Sometimes it’s because of copyright issues. Sometimes it’s just due to cultural differences and many Japanese games just wouldn’t appeal to westerners. Other times its because these Japanese games are just too weird.
Let’s all be thankful that RAD: Robot Alchemic Drive wasn’t among those games. Released by Enix of all companies in 2002 in North America, R.A.D was unlike any mech game before – or since.
Is originality enough to make this the best mech game ever?
It is the near future. After numerous failed attempts to explore space, it is discovered that no organic tissue can survive in space due to an unknown form of radiation called the Nectar Radiance.
An organization dedicated to finding a long-term solution to humanity’s survival in space, the Civilization Preservation Foundation (try saying that three times fast), is formed with the funding of Tsukioka Industries. Unfortunately, Tsukioka Industries eventually goes bankrupt after having poured all of its resources into the covert development of the Meganites, gigantic machines with seemingly no use or application. Best use of funds ever.
Its founder dies penniless, leaving his child, a junior at Senjo city high school, to take the interim position of chairman. Without warning, colossal robots teleport onto Earth’s surface, wreaking havoc and devastating many cities, with Senjo as their next target.
Given a strange remote control, the chairman is told the true purpose of the Meganites – to defend Earth against these alien robots – the Volgara.
None of this makes much sense, nor do many of the characters that claim the Volgara are the ultimate form of evolution. I could be wrong, but last I checked, robots don’t evolve.
R.A.D makes use of the basic graphics engine used n nearly every PS2 game Sandlot produced. You’ll be able to freely explore a large city with buildings you cannot enter. The city is completely destructible as well, but its probably a good idea to not destroy it as you kind of are suppose to be protecting it.
The giant robots next to the small humans and buildings give R.A.D an impressive sense of scale. The characters appear as fairly low res polygonal models, but when they speak, are represented with some nice looking anime stills, which differ as conversations change.
The game has some fairly advanced particle effects for the PS2, and explosions are handled just as well here as other Sandlot titles.
Like most Sandlot games, the majority of the music is forgettable. On the other hand, sound effects are handled well. Giant mechs make all sorts of mechanical sounds as they move, and pound the ground due to their sheer size and weight. One minor gripe of mine is that the Volgaras make the same scream as the giant ants of Earth Defense Force. This is amusing at first, but then really weird. Maybe the Volgaras are soldiers in the Ravager army?
The real star of the audio however, is the voice acting. It is simply awful – in an awesome way. The voice acting in the English version is intentionally awful, as a parody of old-school giant robot anime and movie English dubs with almost no budget.
Voice actors were told to deliberately speak their lines with the contextual abandon and wild cheesiness of the original TV shows. Even though the game obviously takes place in Japan and the game makes no effort to hide this, many primary characters use very Americanized pronunciation, while the Japanese news reporter Mika Banhara speaks with an almost offensively thick Japanese accent.
This mesh brings R.A.D to a whole new level of laughably bad audio.
You need only watch this conversation exchange to understand all that R.A.D is about. Poor Nanao.
There’s an average fighter, Vevel, a jetfighter robot, and a heavy weapons robot that’s slow but powerful. I chose Vevel, to get the most ballanced first play, so I’ll have to update this later to give my thoughts on the other two.
Third person action games are dime a dozen. A lot can be said for the unique human perspective that R.A.D offers for the giant robot battles.
Since you control the robot and your human player, you have to keep a close eye on what’s happening at all times because you can only control either the robot or the human – not both at once.
Since you can’t attack as a human, you have to stay far enough away from the battle to avoid harm, but you also need to be close enough to see what’s going on as you control your robot.
Although the game downright tells you to do so at one point, getting up on the shoulder of the robot is not such a good idea as it does put you in harms way. if your robot gets knocked down.
The gameplay boils down to controlling your giant robot around into position, then punching, blocking and launching projectiles at your enemy until you win. It’s not groundbreaking or very deep, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.
R.A.D has a very unusual control scheme that takes some getting used to. In the basic control option, you move your giant mech with the d-pad, and use each analog stick to control each arm of your mech. Depending on how you swing the sticks, your mech will block, punch, jab, or even uppercut. The fact buttons are used to fire long range weapons of various sorts.
If that’s not enough for you, there’s also an advanced control option where you must use the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons to control each leg of your mech to move it! The advantage of this mode is it frees the d-pad up for moving the torso, making it possible to evade enemy punches at the cost of more difficult movement.
Either way, you probably won’t be very good the first time you play Robot Alchemic Drive. However, over time you’ll eventually learn to actually love the controls, as it feels like the DuelShock controller really is controlling a 120-foot-tall robot, espically when using a PS3 wireless controller. It’s pretty damn cool.
Most of the frustration in R.A.D comes from the very fact that you control your giant walking robot from a third person angle that remains fixed while controlling the robot.
The catch with the frustration is that you have direct control where you put yourself to get the view of the battle.
System availability and price
Robot Alchemic Drive is exclusively for the Playstation 2. Most likely forecasting low sales, enix produced the game in limited numbers in North America, making it rather difficult to find today. Check your local area, but don’t hold your breath. It is on ebay now and then, but for inflated prices. As always, good luck. and happy hunting.
The game is rated Teen for blood and violence, but there’s really nothing at all here that wouldn’t be suitable for a child. The game’s true audience is for Japan-oholics like me that really love Japanese mech tv shows and movies. This is pretty much like Neon Genesis: the game.
Before Earth Defense Force and even Robot Alchemic Drive, Sandlot created a destructible city engine for what was to be a high budget licensed game called Tekkouki Mikazuki Trial Edition, a one stage demo game meant to promote the television series of the same name. The series bombed.
Unfortunately, the game was later cancelled, so Sandlot turned all their development programming for Tekkouki Mikazuki and created their own giant Robot/monster game: Gigantic Drive, which became in America, Robot Alchemic Drive.
Sandlot has since moved on from the PS2, but man, I would love to see a sequel to R.A.D someday. This game needs way more attention than it got.
-Excellent Mech designs and graphics. This game has aged remarkably well.
-Voice acting so incredibly laughable it’s good
-Extremely unique and a ton of fun
-Some bad looking textures
-a somewhat steep difficulty curve for the controls
-R.A.D has become exceedingly difficult to find, with inflated ebay prices offering the only ticket to this game.
-Nanao is annoying
R.A.D is an unusual game, and some would even say it’s a rather flawed game. My perspective is that this is one of the best PS2 games that somehow got a localization, and the more people that know about it the better. If you can find it, give it a shot. You’ll walk away smiling. I can only hope a sequel come out someday.
Platform: Playstation 2
Genre: Mech, but unlike any other
Release Date: November 5, 2002
Developer’s notable other works: Monster Attack, Global Defense Force, Earth Defense Force 2017, The Onechanbara series
Buy or skip: Buy