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Review – Tilly's Zoids

Tilly's Zoids

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Review

Story

Silver Zero's story is short and not very deep, but it's something different for Zoids to not be worrying about war, worldwide doom, or tournaments, and it's fun. Sure, Saga used "save the world" over and over later on, but Silver Zero did it first, and on a smaller scale. Allstar, if he'd been a bum, could just have gone home and left Party's home to the BF's mercy without Zi being screwed.

Speaking of Allstar, despite being mostly stock shounen hero, he lacks a lot of the "I'm so cool!" bluster that can make that archetype grating. He might be stubborn and excitable, but he's humble enough, doing his hero things because they need doing and not for the glory. Party is silly and curious, and wonderfully lacking in the "shy about feelings" stereotype. She happily declares things "awesome ♥" and gloms Allstar on multiple occasions...before telling him flat out she likes him. Solid isn't brooding so much as stuck playing the serious straightman—Legacy fans may remember his having to interrupt Party and Allstar's sillier tangents ("I wasn't lost, that was Allstar!").

The random villagers and such change a little too. One of my favorites is the girl who first yells "I hate Zoids, go away!", but changes her mind after you save her town. There's also the couple who get together after the plot is over (the guy sings a little song about his now-girlfriend with hearts in), the guy camping out with his Molga who's upset when one of the boss Zoids kidnaps it (and doesn't give it back D:), the sports battle guy who likes his random English a bit much...

In short, it's a bit of nice fun if you're already into Zoids, though it won't compete with awesome not-tiein games or anything. Judging it as one, I like.

Gameplay

I'd call gameplay mixed, by contrast. The game is fairly easy to play through, with none of the puzzles or caves being epically frustrating (other than teleport items not working inside them) and across-the-field journeys being short. The menus are simple to navigate and use once you can read them, and there's no complex weapons system to learn. Parts mostly do what they say on the tin, and you can fit as many as you have slots. There's different Zoid types too, but they're indicated by icons and amount to land critter, swimmy critter, flying critter. This is definitely a simple game, in other words, something you could give to a kid...along with Nethack, for contrast and because Nethack is awesome.

It's the fights themselves where I start to have issues. Combat is pretty and many attacks get little cutaway animations, though some of the gatling/multi-fire weapons get pesky fast (thankfully, you can turn most animation off). Problem: there's not much to it all, and there's no real ability to customize. Every Zoid uses the same pool of weapons, the same parts for its slots, etc. Aside from a Zoid's stats weapons act the same way no matter what the Zoid is, so once you figure out a few good ones, you'll be cramming them on every Zoid. The only unique differences are the special attacks, and they're horrible in terms of AP to power ratios.

One thing no other Zoids handheld games seem to have and Silver Zero does is a No Air Zoid Melee clause. Aside from special attacks, you can't do anything but shoot unless you're in an air Zoid too. Sucks to be your Liger if that Pteras just blasted off your guns. There's some consideration of terrain beyond that, but other than non-water Zoids' attacks going crap underwater, it's sadly insignificant.

The good, in bulletpoints

  • Characters I actually cared about, and a different breed of stock plot. Amazing!
  • The combat system is fairly easy to work out, even if you can't read Japanese. If you miss the text saying your Zoid's been poisoned, the scrolling English on the battle screen when you lose HP and the green icon on your status thingo are a good hint as to what item you need.
  • The graphics are decent for the era (and the doubtless low budget). The Zoid sprites, in particular, are nice, and face forward rather than stand in profile like other handheld titles. The little mini ones you get for some bosses are adorable.

little Geno Breaker

The bad, in bulletpoints

  • The combat system gets boring after a while. There's not much strategy beyond "do I shoot off his weapons now or not?" and "what type of attack works best?", and you'll get tired of the same few guns.
  • The terrain could have had a lot more impact than it did. We get amphibious Zoids, but they don't really get to shine? Aw.
  • If you don't understand Japanese, much of the character interaction and thus much of the fun goes right out the window. This is not a fault of the actual game, but important to us English speakers ;p.
  • The white text on blue can be difficult to read, leading to some kana looking too similar if you have bad eyes.

Final recommendation

If you like Zoids for the characters and either know some basic Japanese or want to learn some, you'll likely have fun with Silver Zero. If you care about the giant mecha combat most and want nothing to do with kana, you likely won't.