The Game: In the year 2199, Earth is beseiged by radioactive planet bombs launched by the Gamilons. When two junior officers happen upon alien wreckage on Mars, including a message intended for Earth with details of new propulsion and weapon systems, and the promise of a device which could restore Earth to its former beauty, the wheel is set in motion for mankind’s final desperate gambit for survival. The WWII battleship Yamato is repaired and made spaceworthy with the new technology, and Captain Okita hand-picks a dedicated young crew to fly the ship to the planet Iscandar – the source of the message – and back. That’s where you step in for Okita – using a rotating ring of character heads, you can give characters such as Susumu Kodai, Yuki Mori and Daisuke Shima their orders, get their advice, and engage in combat with the Gamilons in space and on the surfaces of various planets. (Bandai, 2000)
Memories: Oh, how I wanted to love this game. An epic adventure game based on Space Battleship Yamato? Count me in.
Sadly, this isn’t an epic adventure game. It’s two-thirds CGI movie, and one-third plodding turn-based combat game.
The game is loaded down with un-abortable, un-bypassable CGI movies. Now, don’t get me wrong, they’re gorgeous in places – almost enough to make you root for the Disney-optioned live-action Star Blazers flick that’s said to be in development – but you have to manually thumb through pages and pages of on-screen dialogue between the characters, and you’re sitting there watching about 15-20 minutes of backstory before you ever get to anything even vaguely resembling an interactive game. (It’s doubly frustrating if you can’t read Japanese, too.)
Even once you finally get into the game, it’s frequently broken up by long stretches of movie, and you can’t just go to the bathroom and come back – it’ll stop the first time someone’s dialogue is bigger than the window in which it’s displayed, and wait for you.
The game itself is very interesting, basically a sped-up-almost-to-real-time turn-based combat game, but wading through the movies for a few brief minutes of action, only to be rewarded with more movies, is intolerable. And the tragedy of it is, the game is actually fun, and reeks of authenticity – the characters, the hardware, the displays and the music add up to a tidal wave of Yamato nostalgia. The scene of the great ship rising from her now-parched ocean grave is almost enough to bring tears to my eyes, to say nothing of finally hitting space and getting to command the Yamato and her crew. And it might have the same effect on you. But only if you’re willing to sit through a lot of cutscenes to get there.