I’ve never been very into the giant mecha thing and my enjoyment of the genre is mostly limited to the deconstructivist, apocalyptic, existential angsting (no, really) that is Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, if you want your giant robots with less clinical depression, Judeo-Christian symbology or Freudian themes, then doublesix’s Strike Suit Zero might be more to your taste. Actually, you can probably still keep the big Freudian weapons.
Instead of crippling self-doubt, the protagonist of Strike Suit Zero comes equipped with a massive transforming space ship that fires lasers and missiles, both of which are much better tools for permanently addressing a multitude of life’s challenges. In the extremely glossy preview that doublesix’s Creative Director Jim Mummery took me through, this transmogrifying technobeast took on vessels that made Battlestar Galactica look like Sputnik.
Mecha fans may find themselves suitably lubricated to learn that the ship design comes courtesy of Junji Okubo, who has contributed giant robots to Steel Battalion, as well as the animes Appleseed: Ex Machina and Viper’s Creed. According to Jim, this means Strike Suit Zero has “Very functional mecha. The hinges are all in the right place. It’s not like a Michael Bay Transformer, where three tonnes of metal comes out of nowhere. It does actually functionally work.” I’ll take his word for it.
A massive transforming space ship is exactly what you’d need if you only had three hours to save the earth (after all, Flash Gordon would be useless), and the pilot of this craft will fight their way through those three hours of actual gameplay. However, a single journey through Strike Suit Zero will take players down just one of many potential branches that are part of a wider plot shrub. Depending on whether they succeed or fail at any of the game’s various missions, new and different opportunities present themselves. Should the basic Strike Suit prove unsatisfactory, there are snappier, deadlier models to unlock.
The build I saw only had a handful of ships and fighters to show off, but it was already a pretty affair. There was a clear Homeworld and X-Wing influence on display, with languid, bloated capital ships boasting all sorts of bristling components that could be shot off as you zig-zagged between them. Meanwhile, searing beam weapons leapt from vessel to vessel, tearing through the cold vacuum of a very empty space that Jim assured me would soon be populated by even more enormous ships, structures and space stations. He describes combat as a combination of first-person ducking and weaving with traditional dogfighting, as your ship transforms from fighter to robot and back again.
It remains to be seen quite how complex and exciting the combat gets, but there’s talk of being forced to make plot-critical decisions in the heat of battle, of wrestling with enemy aces and of ridiculous, suicidal odds. In fact, depending on which plot thread you follow, you may still get to enjoy some mecha-angst when you find you didn’t quite save the planet, but instead doomed it to a slow death.
Strike Suit Zero is slated for a summer 2012 release.