A brilliant joy-ride through the recent anime series with plenty of nods to the franchise’s legacy, providing a thrilling space-action title whether you’re already a fan or not.
Macross; Super Robot Wars
|Physical English||No – JP only|
World-building & Story
The Macross universe has been long established across a number of different films and TV series – Delta takes place 8 years after the previous anime entry Frontier except in a remote part of the Starwind sector named the Brisingr Globular Cluster. This zone has been infected by a phenomenon known as ‘var syndrome’ that causes people to lose their minds and turn into a violent horde – the plot follows the mercenary group Chaos as they investigate the outbreak and discover the far-reaching consequences.
At its core, Macross Delta is a story of war – the var syndrome is leveraged by the Windermerean empire who are seeking revenge for a bomb dropped on their kingdom seven years ago by the New United Government. The anime and the game do an effective job of showing both sides of the conflict, with neither faction being morally clean and having justifiable reasons for their actions which is explored fairly well here.
Given the dual perspective, a number of different characters are presented with varying personalities and roles – who you’ll come across throughout Delta Scramble via the self-insert main character you choose upon booting up. The main protagonist is Hayate Immelman, an aloof pilot who stumbles in to the conflict only to find a strange kinship with Frejya Wion, a Windermerean and member of Walküre – an idol group with the power to soothe those infected with var by singing. Various other cast members weave in and out of the plot – skilled pilot Messer; the mysterious leader of Walküre Mikumo and the powerful wind singer of the Windermerean empire Prince Heinz, each of whom has a defined purpose.
If that all seems a little overwhelming – it can be. Some anime tie-ins like Mahouka tell a plot unrelated to the series while others such as World Trigger re-tell the events of the anime – Macross Delta Scramble falls somewhere in the middle, allowing you to re-live a number of key battles and skirmishes seen in the series but often removed from the events themselves. This means it doesn’t have the storytelling depth to make it a worthwhile standalone product, nor is it overly compelling for series veterans.
What the game does do is better explore things from the Windermerean perspective by giving you a separate set of missions seeing things from their point of view, which isn’t brilliant but at least somewhat expands on the anime which skimmed over this. It’s a shame that all story development is done through stills accompanied with text and via tiny screens in the top left corner during battles (which you’ll struggle to keep up with due to all the fighting happening), meaning that if you’re unfamiliar with the source material you’ll struggle to pick things up (the lack of visual novel conversation scenes is a big disappointment).
Still, if you’re willing to invest in it there’s an interesting world to discover here full of history and lore. The in-game recreations of areas such as the blue-sea laden Ragna and space battle over Barrett City are gorgeous, effectively capturing the feel of the anime and ensuring Delta Scramble achieves what it sets out to do.
Presentation & Sound
Artdink have had mixed technical success with their Vita development but Macross Delta Scramble is undoubtedly one of their highlights – the world here makes for a gorgeous backdrop as you soar through the skies and it all runs incredibly smoothly too.
The crafts you’ll pilot and the combat between them is excellent – a series staple is the ability to shift between fighter mode, which gives you an Ace Combat-style jet; mech mode, which gives you a Gundam-style robot and Gerwalker, which is somewhere between the two. Changing between these is instant and the animations are all great, highlighted by some extra effects such as boost vapours when moving quickly.
When you encounter enemies, you can expect the screen to light up with gunfire and rockets as Delta Scramble certainly doesn’t hold back with things going on – cluster rockets are a common attack as are a variety of laser rifles. This creates an incredibly lively feel to the combat and it’s helped by the fact that there’s no slowdown whatsoever (at least that I encountered), making fighting not just a pretty show.
Environments suffer from a common anime game pitfall which is that you’ll see the same few areas over and over, but what is here is universally beautiful and a joy to explore. You’ll soar across glistening blue lakes and weave in between the buildings of a destroyed city, all while Walküre put on a veritable light show performance to help strengthen the members of Chaos – there’s also space battles between gigantic ships, meaning there is variety here, just not as much as I’d have liked.
If there’s one thing I’d have to criticise about the presentation, it’s the user interface. There’s a lot of information crammed on Vita’s small screen which is made worse when Walküre start performing – meaning things can feel cluttered and difficult to read at times. Thankfully, navigation menus are a lot clearer and are helpfully colour-coded, making things slightly easier for importers such as myself.
Music has always been central to the Macross experience and while Delta doesn’t feature the best songs it has ever produced, there’s plenty here to enjoy. Voice acting is also decently emotive, while the sound effects of missile lock-ons and laser shots fit well with the game’s futuristic tones.
Gameplay & Content
Effectively weaving mech shooting clearly inspired by the Gundam franchise with aerial combat akin to Namco’s Ace Combat series, Macross Delta Scramble is a joy to play thanks to its constant fast-paced action. A couple of minor issues arise due to repetitive content and a sometimes easy difficulty, but overall the package is a solid one.
The game is divided into three sets of missions – Chaos, Windermere and ‘extra’, the latter being a mix of objectives from both Delta and the older Macross series. In general you’re given free reign to tackle them in any order you like which is a nice level of freedom and means you can get away from particularly annoying challenges to do something else if you’d like.
Before diving into each mission, you’re presented with the hangar which allows you to customise the squad you’re taking into battle. Your first order of business is picking a craft – a small selection is available upon booting up but by completing missions you’ll unlock credits which can be used to unlock new variants, of which there are a tonne available and each has different weapons and statistics (making it fun to purchase and experiment with all of them).
You’ll also be able to pick an AI buddy who accompanies you into battle (as well as their craft), but far more important is your five-member support squad. These provide various stat boosts in battle while the primary member allows you to activate their skill on command which is usually something like increased damage or unlimited ammo and can really help turn the tide of a fight, so choosing carefully is essential.
With preparation out of the way it’s into battle and Macross Delta Scramble leaves a brilliant first impression – dumping you in a large open area and allowing you free reign to walk, jump or fly wherever you’d like. Movement is easily the game’s strongest asset- you switch between the three modes (mech, gerwalk and jet) at the touch of a button which feels intuitive, meaning soaring through the skies to your next destination is a fantastic rush.
Combat is equally thrilling – each craft has a standard chaingun and two secondary weapons that run the gambit from railgun-esque lasers to the more common homing missiles which swarm the skies on the way to their targets. Delta Scramble uses an automatic lock-on targeting system and the Vita’s second analogue stick is used for flicking between targets (and free aiming the rest of the time), which can get a little finicky at times but generally gets the job done.
The main issue I had with Macross is that the Chaos and Windermere campaigns had a rather skewed difficulty – they’re hard early on as you don’t have access to some of the better support characters and crafts, but rapidly become a little too easy as you overpower enemies quickly without much in the way of resistance. I didn’t find my strategy evolving much beyond ‘unload homing missiles from gerwalk mode at close range’ except for fighting ace pilots who pose a little bit more of a challenge, but even then you’ve always got your special attacks to fall back on meaning it never feels like you’re really in danger.
With that said, the extra missions were a lot more enjoyable – these put you into ‘what if’ scenarios based on characters spanning back through the franchise’s history and work really well. Aside from the extra challenge they bring (the ace pilots in these sections are surprisingly difficult to hit due to their affinity for dodging), there’s something wholly brilliant if you’re a fan of the series to be soaring through the sky while Lynn Minmay blasts out ‘Do you remember love?’.
The game does ensure that a variety of objectives are thrown at you – sometimes you’ll be defending a target, other times you’ll simply by fighting off waves of enemies that appear. My favourite moments were the space battles, where you take down enemy frigates and command ships by picking off the outside turrets as you go to give you a clearer run to the main target – they were thrilling and more than a little reminiscent of Star Wars Battlefront II.
Despite my criticisms of some of the minor elements of the campaigns, I did really enjoy the combat in Macross Delta Scramble – there’s nothing similar on Vita that provides such a thrill of chasing down an enemy craft during an aerial dogfight then unloading a full clip of ammo into them before transforming into a jet and blasting away to engage in the next battle. It’s fast-paced and fun, it just could have done with a little more of a challenge throughout the missions.
Once you’re done with battle you’re awarded with xp and credits (to use in the aforementioned shop to buy ships, support characters and other items) and your affection will raise with the cast who accompanied you (which unsurprisingly leads to some swimsuit bonuses with Walküre). You’re also given tuning points which you can spend on your craft to fine-tune its statistics to your liking (i.e. stronger weapons or more defence), which is a nice bit of customisation.
There’s plenty to do here too – each campaign will take around 4-5 hours and you’re encouraged to return later to grab ‘S’ ranks and grind your relationship with the characters, so you’ll get your money’s worth if the gameplay grabs you.
Macross Delta Scramble contains one major piece of post-launch DLC that was actually released for free – the ‘second half of the anime’ pack. See, the game only included the first half of the story and the second part was put up on PSN a while after launch (presumably to encourage users to return to the game).
The problem with this is that it was made available as free DLC rather than a free update – meaning to access it you need to have a Japanese or Asian PSN account, making it off-limits for the majority of importers like myself. It’s a real shame too, because I’m led to believe that the missions include a much greater challenge than the standard campaigns. There’s also a paid DLC pack that includes a number of extra missions and challenges based on older Macross series, which again I wasn’t able to try out.
The game itself has plenty of content and I didn’t feel ripped off for a second while playing, but it is disappointing to know it’s not a complete package and a sea of extra content is locked off like this by a bone-headed decision not to put it as a free update like other Bandai-Namco titles such as Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment did.
Ease of Understanding
There’s nothing remotely tricky to get to grips with in Marcross Delta Scramble – controls are explained through a series of tutorials which have button prompts on screen and a decent number of the menus also include English text. For anything else, Google Translate should get you through – there’s very little story exposition here anyway and a big focus on action gameplay which makes it a very easy import title.
If you are struggling at all, there’s an incredibly helpful import guide here that will help you get to grips with the basics of the gameplay systems – I used it for reference every now and again and found it invaluable.
A soaring aerial combat adventure with a thrilling sense of speed, Macross Delta Scramble delivers some bite-sized missions that fit perfectly on Vita and look gorgeous to boot. While the main campaign lacks a little bit in challenge and holds it back from greatness, the extra missions provide a fantastic rush meaning that if you’re looking for an action-focused import that’s very easy to get to grips with, this is definitely one to check out.